Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich
Here are some reasons from Rohit Bhargava on why advocacy can be more effective online:
  1. Overcomes boundaries of distance & national borders
  2. Makes it easier for "observers" to participate.
  3. Gives you a destination to place all supporting content and messages to change minds.
  4. Reduces the necessity for celebrities, politicians and governments to raise issue profile.
  5. Provides less-intrusive way for people to pass on the message through email.
  6. Supports word of mouth activity and provides more venues for messages to travel virally.
  7. Allows individuals to support sensitive/political causes anonymously.
  8. Encourages "impulse" donations and makes it easier for organizations to manage donations.
I have to agree with all of these reasons. However, it's easy to forget that relying exclusively on online methods excludes large numbers of potential advocates for your cause. Here are some statistics to keep in mind from a study released in October from the Pew Internet & American Life Center:
Sixty-eight percent of American adults, or about 137 million people, use the internet, up from 63% one year ago. Thirty-two percent of American adults, or about 65 million people, do not go online, and it is not always by choice. Certain groups continue to lag in their internet adoption. For example:
  • 26% of Americans age 65 and older go online, compared with 67% of those age 50-64, 80% of those age 30-49, and 84% of those age 18-29.
  • 57% of African-Americans go online, compared with 70% of whites.
  • 29% of those who have not graduated from high school have access, compared with 61% of high school graduates and 89% of college graduates.
  • 60% of American adults who do not have a child living at home go online, compared with 83% of parents of minor children.
Using online advocacy methods only would make it impossible for most seniors and many minority or lower income populations to become involved with your campaign. For an issue that might impact these types of groups disproportionately, that would be a large potential deficit in your reach and effectiveness. Social marketers need to make sure that we don't forget the basics of community organization when newer and flashier methods tempt us to just go with what's easiest to implement.
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A new site has popped up called 8by1: Wishlist for Your World that is a Web 2.0 take on promoting social change (the name translates as "vertical infinity by anyone"). On this site, you can post your "wish for the world" that will make the world a better place. Besides just wishing, you can also provide action steps that people can take toward your goal, links for more information, and your own comments about the issue. Wishes that have been posted range from the predictable "world peace" to "more people with hybrid cars," "affordable health care," "keeping baseball in the Olympics" and "more nightspots in Vancouver."

You can invite others to share your wish and even find others in your city that you can work with to make the wishes come true (okay, maybe not the people who wished for "Britney Spears to Dump K Fed"). The site is too new to know whether it will be an actual jumping-off point for any real change, but the idea has potential.

Another similar site, but geared toward the personal level, is 43 Things. On this site, people post the things they want most for themselves -- things like "lose weight," "get married," "get organized," "learn to tap dance" and "see the Northern Lights." It's a good place to see what kinds of things people value in their lives. For each goal that someone posts, they can provide updates on their progress and others can share their own success stories on how they made that change. For example, 639 people have said that they want to "give blood." 98% of people who left comments said that it is "worth doing." People talk about their own experiences, ask for advice about the donation process and receive answers from their peers. What a great place for an organization promoting blood donation to either advertise or become part of the conversation (with full disclosure of who they are, of course).
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The LA Times reports that Bono has come up with another innovative approach to raise money for global health:

Last week in Davos, Switzerland, the U2 frontman and anti-poverty activist used the occasion of the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of the global business and political elite, to announce a remarkable new product line. The Gap, Converse, Giorgio Armani and American Express have agreed to offer products under the Red brand, with a share of the proceeds going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Red products will include shoes, T-shirts, sunglasses and credit cards — and yes, most will be red (although apparently some of the gear will be available in other colors).
Certainly it's easier for someone like Bono to convince major companies to come on board with a venture like this. But think about whether you might be able to team up with a local business or smaller-scale company to spread your message through the products they sell. Be creative and show the company how they will benefit by being part of your campaign.
As Bono asked last week: If you're trying to decide between two pairs of jeans, and buying one could help save somebody's life, while buying the other wouldn't, which would you choose?
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Seth Godin has come out with a new free e-book called Flipping the Funnel, with a version specifically for nonprofits. Here's how he describes the basic idea:
Marketing is a funnel. You put undifferentiated prospects into the top. Some of them hop out, unimpressed with what you have to offer. Others learn about you and your organization, hear from their peers, compare offerings, and eventually come out the bottom, as patrons, converts and supporters. If you’re like most marketers, you’ve been spending a lot of time trying to shovel more and more attention into the top of the funnel. After all, if you can expose your idea to enough people, you can afford to buy more attention, to run more ads, to put more people into the top. As we’ve seen, though, the amount of time and money you need to keep that funnel filled can explode your budget pretty quickly...

Here’s a different idea: What if we flip the funnel and turn it into a megaphone? What if you could figure out how to use the Internet to empower the people who like you, who respect you, who have a vested interest in your success? I call this group of people—your friends and prospects and customers who are willing to do this—your fan club. A new set of online tools makes this approach not just a possibility, but also an imperative for any organization hoping to grow. Give your fan club a megaphone and get out of the way.
Seth suggests getting your supporters involved in a way that promotes peer-to-peer communications using some of the Web 2.0 sites like, flickr and his own Squidoo.

I have also discovered a great software product, GetActive, that can facilitate this process for nonprofit membership organizations. In addition to its great advocacy tools, which I became familiar with as a member of the American Anti-Slavery Group, it offers a community module that allows your supporters to create their own webpages to reach out to their own social networks. A client of mine is going to be using this software for their outreach efforts, so we will see how well this module works in practice. The idea is right in line with what Seth is suggesting. The success of these approaches will depend upon how comfortable your supporters are with using online tools, and how easy you make it for them.
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New technologies have opened up the realm of possibility for health practitioners, as well as social marketers. Steve Rubel posts on a doctor at the Arizona Heart Institute who is using video iPods to educate his patients about their cardiovascular health and various medical procedures. Audio podcasting and vodcasting (video podcasting) offer us as social marketers some new tools we can use to reach out to our target audiences. The advantages are that people can select the topics of interest to them and listen to (or watch) them at their leisure -- at home on their computer, while they are commuting to work, while they are exercising and particularly when they are trying to engage in a behavior that might require a particular skill.

Of course, this method will not work with all target audiences--particularly those who are not tech savvy or who do not have a computer or mp3 player--nor all campaigns. But consider some of these possibilities for how you could enhance your program using podcasting:
  • Put together a 30-minute podcast featuring music to exercise to, along with prompts and motivational messages, for your physical activity campaign.
  • Increase the reach of your radio and television commercials by distributing them via podcasts.
  • Demonstrate with step-by-step video instructions how a newly-diagnosed diabetic should inject herself with insulin at home.
  • Provide regular tips on maintaining healthy behaviors or review health news of the week relevant to your program.
  • Reach busy professionals who commute with interviews or lectures by experts in their field.
  • Create a program that features a mix of music, peer testimonials, Q&A with an expert, and your own commercials.
  • Produce a entertainment education soap opera that has new episodes each day.
Many health-related organizations such as NIH and the Mayo Clinic are already doing these types of things to get their news and information out. Many others, such as PCI, have been producing programs like these for radio in developing countries for years.

For more on podcasting, here is the wikipedia entry and here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your own podcast.

Speaking of which, I just came across this free download from Apple:
iWorkout - iPod + iTunes
With iWorkout, your iPod is given 42 different workout routines made by an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. The iPod-based workout routines include illustrations viewable on all new iPods. All workouts can also be spoken to you on your iPod.
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Lately I've been seeing a TV commercial from Jack in the Box that I'm amazed hasn't been pulled off the air yet (yes, I'm easily amazed). For those of you in states that do not have a JITB, it's a fast food restaurant based in primarily Western states that runs funny, irreverent commercials featuring "Jack", the company CEO, who happens to have a giant clown head.

The commercial opens late at night with a long-haired college-age guy pulling up in his van in the drive-thru lane at a Jack in the Box. He sits there in a daze trying to decide what to order when the "Jack" bobble-head on his dashboard turns into a miniature version of Jack the live-action spokesman. Jack launches into a pitch for the two-for-a-dollar tacos, and the guy asks Jack how many he should order. Jack looks at him knowingly (at least as knowingly as a guy in a giant clown head can look) and says "How about thirty?" The guy, who is clearly stoned, tries to hold in his giggles and says "That's just what I was thinkin'!"

Now, I'm sure that Jack in the Box is one of the late-night venues of choice for potheads with the munchies, but this is the first mainstream commercial I've seen that so glaringly markets specifically to this target audience. With its low prices, abundant food and late night drive thrus, I guess it's a natural. Perhaps the company figured that it was so "under the radar" that nobody except for stoners themselves would recognize that the main character is not merely a stupid hungry person, but is one of them.

What really got to me is not just that the main character is portrayed as under the influence of drugs, but that he's driving in that condition, as if it's normal and acceptable. Ironically, as I was surfing around trying to find a link to the commercial (which is apparently not online), I came across a posting on a site called "Hack in the Box" that cites an article from New Scientist:
Cannabis almost doubles the risk of fatal car crashes, according to a new study, though smoking the drug is still far less risky than drunk-driving, the researchers say. Stoned drivers were almost twice as likely to be involved in a fatal car crashes than abstemious drivers, according to a study of 10,748 fatal car crashes in France between 2001 and 2003. More than half of the drivers in the study themselves died as a result of their accidents and all the subjects were tested for drug and alcohol use after crashing.
But hey, gotta sell some tacos.

UPDATE (2/23/06): You can hear me being interviewed on San Francisco's KGO radio (810 AM) about this issue in this mp3 file.

UPDATE (4/21/06): Thanks to Tad for sending me the link to the streaming version of this ad.

UPDATE (2/20/07): See post with update on protest against commercials.
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The Wall Street Journal today ran an article titled "U.K. Spends Millions Nagging Its Citizens" (unfortunately accessible to WSJ online subscribers only). The article discusses the dozens of social marketing campaigns that the U.K. government has running right now -- including pornography on the internet, drunken driving, chewing gum litter, and improper tax-benefit claims by married couples.

The government's advertising authority is the third-largest advertiser in the country, behind Procter & Gamble and Unilever. The U.S. government, in contrast, ranks 25th among U.S. advertisers. Public interest advertising here in the U.S. is much more decentralized and fragmented.

I was concerned about the implications in the article that these types of campaigns are the equivalent of "nagging." For example:
The British government spots strike some observers in the U.K. as excessively nannyish. Some question why the government is spending so much money to steer behavior on so many issues.
It sounds like perhaps they need to "market" social marketing, though the article's author does not say exactly who is reacting this way. Perhaps this initiative by the U.K. Department of Health and National Consumer Council to create a national social marketing strategy will help with addressing those issues. When done right, social marketing should never be perceived as nagging.
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I've resisted it for a long time. I swore I did not have time to do it. But here I am. When I found myself nearly every day thinking, "That would make a great topic for a blog post!", I realized that I should do the same thing I've been urging my clients to do. So I'm very happy to debut my new blog "Spare Change."

This blog will primarily cover topics related to social marketing, but it also may serve as a soapbox for other items of interest as they come up. Postings will most likely not be daily, but I will definitely try to post something at least once or twice a week. I would love to hear feedback from you -- please leave comments and feel free to suggest topics in which you are interested.
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