Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich
On the timely heels of the Games for Change conference (which was covered so well by Beth and Marc) comes an article from the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab on the ethics of captology, the design of computerized persuasive technologies.

They lay out some principles to follow in designing these technologies:

The equivalency principle suggests that if something is unethical in the context of traditional persuasion, it is also likely to be unethical in the context of persuasive technology. This applies to motivations, methods and outcomes.

The reciprocal principle suggests that the creators of a persuasive technology should never try to persuade a user of something they themselves would not consent to be persuaded of. They must also regard users' privacy with as much respect as they regard their own .

The big brother principle suggests that any persuasive technology which relays personal information about a user to a third party must be closely scrutinized for privacy concerns. This distinguishes between "big brother" technologies, which share information, and "little sister" technologies, which do not. A big brother might be a web site that transmits your purchasing history to a telemarketing firm, while a little sister might be a motivational scale that keeps your weight private while encouraging you to reach your weight loss goal.

The disclosure principle suggests that the creators of a persuasive technology should disclose their motivations, methods and intended outcomes. This allows users to assume their share of the responsibility for these outcomes, and reduces their vulnerability to persuasion that they might not otherwise notice.

In addition, the reasonably predictable principle reemphasizes that the creators of a persuasive technology must assume responsibility for all reasonably predictable outcomes of its use.

The article then applies these principles to case studies of the Amazon Gold Box, the Real Care Baby, the "Relate for Teens" software program and the US Army's online shooter game that's used for recruitment. For those thinking about using interactive technology to bring about health or social change, this article is must reading.
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Last week I attended a meeting at which Bill Ryerson, the founder of the Population Media Center (PMC), discussed his organization's entertainment education work in the developing world. PMC, along with other organizations like Population Communications International (PCI) and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, creates soap operas in developing countries (excuse me, "serial dramas") that are designed to bring about positive changes within those societies. Topics that are covered include health issues like HIV and family planning, as well as social issues like adult education, the role of women in society and child trafficking.

PMC follows the Sabido Method, named for Mexican television producer Miguel Sabido, to develop the plotlines and structure of their programs. Back in the 1970s, Sabido brought together several behavioral, communication and learning theories to identify how to encourage positive behavior change via entertainment education. Most notably, social learning theory guides the development of characters who serve as positive and negative role models and illustrate the rewards and "punishments" that come from their behavioral choices.

Transitional characters -- who are designed to be the characters the audience members most identify with -- waver between the old ways of life and new behaviors. They do not immediately adopt the new behaviors, and may even try and fail before succeeding, but as the audience watches these characters go through this transition they can learn how to do so in their own lives.

Unlike American soap operas, which run indefinitely, these Sabido-style serial dramas generally run on television or radio for six months to a couple of years before reaching the conclusion of the storylines. In fact, in order to give the audience members sufficient time to form emotional bonds with the characters, they may provide 50 episodes of pure entertainment before introducing the social issues.

Bill Ryerson noted that entertainment programs are so effective in getting people's attention and bringing about change because of their emotional content. Emotion enhances memory (just think of how well you can remember what you were doing on 9/11/01 vs. 9/10/01). When people have an emotional response, they remember the situation to which they were responding. And the emotional bonds that the audience develops with the characters heighten their reactions to the messages in the program.

A recent New Yorker article discusses this approach as it was being taught at a PCI training in Mexico:
Dramas produced according to the "Sabido method"--his formula for mapping out the characters' fates-have aired in a hundred countries, from Peru to Kenya and China. Some are large-scale television productions that cost up to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars per episode, with funding from U.S. AID or the United Nations, and some are seventy-five-dollar radio serials made by a local N.G.O. In 1992, a radio soap opera with a built-in AIDS-prevention message was produced in Tanzania with P.C.I.'s help. One region was cut off from the broadcast, and, after two years, researchers found that there were significant differences in condom use between that area and the rest of the country. Other studies have had similar results. Nevertheless, given the soap's reputation as the poor woman's recreational drug, the P.C.I. staff felt obliged to spend the first day of the workshop persuading health-care personnel to take the form seriously.

"If they sense that the program is 'educational,' they'll be gone in a second," Enriqueta Valdez Curiel, a P.C.I. consultant, said at a conference session. Let's say you want to make a show urging pregnant women to visit midwives. You write a story about Martha the midwife and the busy day she spends ministering to women in labor. That, Curiel said, is a public-service announcement. But give Martha a husband who wants her to quit her job, a daughter who accidentally becomes pregnant, or a village healer who attacks her-"Give her conflict and obstacles, lots of giros," or twists of fate-and you have a soap opera.

"These are characters who constantly find obstacles to overcome, but they keep on trying," Curiel said.

...In a typical soap opera, the heroine is subjected to an unfaithful husband, abduction, amnesia. She bears her fate bravely, but, to the dismay of feminist cultural critics, she waits for romance to redeem her and, too often, drifts back into a doomed marriage. In a Sabido soap, "you can't just punish, punish, punish the good ones," Curiel said, "or people will feel powerless to change."

But you can't get rid of the love stories, either. The trick is to get a health message across while still producing a soap opera that anyone would want to watch--to integrate escapism and didacticism. Prenatal nutrition and oral-rehydration therapy are not the usual stuff of soap operas. But poverty has its own built-in giros: frustrated men, vulnerable women and children, and a very thin margin between stability and crisis. Developing nations are rich in melodrama, if one chooses to see them that way. In most of Mexico, for example, it's all but impossible for women to get legal abortions, which makes for countless instructive story lines involving unwanted pregnancies, hasty marriages, and adultery.
As Bill said, "No one wants to go home and listen to an AIDS soap opera." That's why for each country PMC works in, they do formative research with the target audience to find out what their key issues are. When they are working with the country's Ministry of Health or other governmental agency, they make sure that all the values in the program are in synch with that government's policies (i.e., related to AIDS prevention or family planning). They then create a "values grid" that leads to the definition of the characters. They figure out what types of values statements a character might make (e.g., "There's no point in using contraception because it's up to God to decide how many children I should have." Or "Taking care of my family is the most important thing to me."). They put together the characters with their values sets, and figure out how the characters will relate to each other. Only then do they determine the program's plot. This process is quite intensive, and it takes them about 3 weeks to train writers in the Sabido method.

So far, the Sabido method has only been used to develop programs outside of the United States (Read this article for more on PMC's successes in applying this method in other countries.). In these countries, there are often only one or two local television or radio stations, and so it is possible to reach a critical mass of people with the program and create social change on a large scale.

The U.S. poses a challenge because of its complex and fragmented media market -- there are not a lot of shared media experiences anymore like "Roots" or "Who shot J.R.?" though "American Idol" might come close. On the upside, this fragmented market means that it is possible to reach specific niches and demographics in different ways.

Although American soap operas generally only run during the daytime and may be around for decades, the telenovelas popular throughout the Spanish-speaking world (and running with much success on American Spanish-language networks like Univision and Telemundo) are broadcast during prime time and are of time-limited duration. A new American telenovela developed by an actress with a master's in public health, "Nuestro Barrio" ("Our Neighborhood"), just finished its first season, running on cable stations in North Carolina. The series is geared toward new Spanish-speaking immigrants, and weaves in educational themes like fair housing and financial issues along with the more traditional plots of love and betrayal. While it does not appear that the creators are specifically following the Sabido method, the concepts they are using seem to be similar.

And why not work with existing American (and other countries') soap operas? They certainly already have the audience's emotional involvement with the characters who may be old friends going back 20 years or more. In fact, this approach has been used with great success, and PCI has sponsored "Soap Summits" that bring together writers and producers of the soaps and public health experts.

A survey done in 1999 (admittedly a while ago, but probably not that much different for today's soap viewers) found that among regular viewers, i.e. viewers who watch soap operas at least twice a week:
  • Almost half (48%) report they learned something about diseases and how to prevent them from daytime drama storylines
  • More than one-third (34%) took some action as a result
  • Have more health concerns, and express more negative beliefs and behaviors about prevention practices than non-viewers
  • Women and blacks, who are among the groups with largest representation of regular viewers, report the highest rates of learning and action as a result of daytime drama viewing.
  • Seek out health information more than non-viewers, but have more difficulty understanding the information they read
I think the next frontier of soap operas for social marketing will be online. You can very specifically target people with the characteristics you are trying to reach. You can create different messages for different types of people. Your audience can watch the episodes at their convenience, become part of a community of fans who discuss the show, perhaps even interact with the show to see how the characters' decisions change what happens in their lives. With the rise of free on-demand video sharing sites like YouTube and Google Video, it is quite easy to make this type of program available once it has been produced. If you do a good job with it, people will share it with their friends and come back for each new episode. There is already a long list of episodic online series, though none seem to be venues for social marketing (a few are audio/video, but the rest are text- or comic-based).

I was able to find out about one relevant online series. Incendia Health Studios has created an animated dramatic serial about HIV called Live With It. So far two "webisodes" have been posted that introduce the characters, and it will be interesting to see where they go with it over time. A review of the series describes it as follows:
Live with It debuted in the fall of 2005 and follows a cast of fictional characters living with HIV/AIDS. Told in three to five minute episodic broadband videos, the unfolding serial drama follows the characters, who were inspired by real-life stories culled from blogs, online communities and other resources, as they cope with their diagnoses, confront their emotions and struggle with personal relationships. It also provides a powerful emotional experience-- one that sufferers can relate to. To attract visitors and to encourage compliance, Live With It offers HIV sufferers not only medical advice and treatment options, but also a sense of community and shared experience as well.
The series is also available via downloaded podcasts, and they have developed MySpace profiles for the characters as well.

The potential for what could be done with online serial dramas based on Sabido's methodology is vast. I think we will start seeing more of this type of programming soon. Who's with me on this?

Additional Resources:
  • Soap Operas for Social Change to Prevent HIV/AIDS: A Training Guide for Journalists and Media Personnel from the Population Media Center (PMC) - Download pdf here
  • Book: Soap Operas for Social Change: Toward a Methodology for Entertainment-Education Television by Heidi Noel Nariman - Information from the publisher here
UPDATE: Bill Ryerson provided some minor clarifications, which I incorporated above, and offered a couple of additional resources:
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While in the car today, I heard an ad on the radio for Target Pharmacy describing their new prescription system called ClearRx now in use in all their stores. I found the new features intriguing and looked for more information about it. Turns out, the ideas for the new bottle and label were designed by a School of Visual Arts student as her thesis project after her grandmother accidentally swallowed pills meant for her grandfather. According to a recent poll conducted for Target, 60 percent of prescription-drug users have taken medication incorrectly.

I think this is a great example of how the physical design of a product can be used to bring about specific desired behaviors. In this case, the design is meant to prevent potentially life-threatening medication errors by the patient. Consider the product here to be "taking prescribed medication correctly." The actual type of medicine inside the bottle is irrelevant.

Here is how Deborah Adler's (and now Target's) design is different from a standard amber-colored round prescription bottle used by nearly every other pharmacy:

(1) Easy I.D.
The name of the drug is printed on the top of the bottle, so it’s visible if kept in a drawer.

(2) Code red.
The red color of the bottle is Target’s signature— and a universal symbol for caution.

(3) Information hierarchy.
Adler divided the label into primary and secondary positions, separated by a horizontal line. The most important information (drug name, dosage, intake instructions) is placed above the line, and less important data (quantity, expiration date, doctor’s name) is positioned below.

(4) Upside down to save paper.
Klaus Rosburg, a Brooklyn-based industrial designer hired by Target, came up with an upside-down version that stands on its cap, so that the label can be wrapped around the top. Every piece of paper in the package adds up to one eight-and-a-half-by-fourteen-inch perforated sheet, which eliminates waste and makes life easier for pharmacists.

(5) Green is for Grandma.
Adler and Rosburg developed a system of six colored rubber rings that attach to the neck of the bottle. Family members choose their own identifying shade, so medications in a shared bathroom will never get mixed up.

(6) An info card that’s hard to lose.
A card with more detailed information on a drug (common uses, side effects) is now tucked behind the label. A separate, expanded patient-education sheet, designed by Adler, comes with three holes so it can be saved in a binder for reference.

(7) Take “daily.”
Adler avoided using the word once on the label, since it means eleven in Spanish.

(8) Clear warnings.
Adler decided that many of the existing warning symbols stuck on pill bottles don’t make much sense—the sign for “take on an empty stomach,” for instance, looked like a gas tank to her—so together with graphic designer Milton Glaser, for whom she now works, she revamped the 25 most important.

Read the full article from the link above to see how Adler gave the industry standard a makeover. We often focus on what the patient should be doing to ensure compliance with their medications, but sometimes with a few changes to the product we can remove some of the main barriers that get in the way.

Bravo to Target for being willing to look at things in a new way!
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A new social networking site for teens called YouthNoise is built around teens' desires to make a difference on social issues.
YouthNoise, a nonpartisan, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization, creates an authentic experience for young people ages 16 to 22 by featuring 100% youth-generated content. Content is organized into 15 easily navigated channels spanning War, Peace & Terrorism, Religion, the Economy, Tolerance, Life & Culture and the Arts with the ability to expand into any social issue the community chooses. User profiles are organized based on their cause and issue preference, which allows peers to easily search the network for other users with like interests.

YouthNoise was founded in 2001 by Save the Children as an online community for youth to share and convert ideas into action and improve the world around them. Since the original conception, YouthNoise spun off in 2004 and has spent the last two years evolving from an online community for youth to the internet's premiere social network for youth who want to create social change.

By featuring only user-generated content, YouthNoise has effectively created a politically neutral media outlet for youth to discuss social issues and receive news, opinions and events through a familiar channel and voice that is devoid of gatekeepers and agendas. Each channel on the network will include blogs that host debates and allow users to upload photos and text to post along with their entries. In addition, YouthNoise will feature a showcase of user created poetry, art, and photography as well as profiles of projects in progress or completed.
The site already has over 113,000 users, and right now it looks like the main area for user-generated content is in the forums section, which touches on all of the topics and has a high volume of postings. It doesn't look like the profiles can be personalized as much as a service like MySpace but it has a lot of potential.
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An excellent article from Craig Lefebvre highlights the differences between social marketing and other types of communications campaigns. Just because an organization creates a PSA about a health or social issue -- or because they have a discussion at a meeting and call it a focus group -- does not mean that they are doing social marketing.

He provides a set of questions (geared toward journal article reviewers but applicable to assessment of any description of a program):
  1. Do the authors understand and have an insight into their target audience?
  2. Are they focusing on behavior as their product (what are they encouraging a large number of people to adopt or sustain)?
  3. Do they influence or try to alter the relative balance of incentives and costs for either maintaining the current behavior or adopting a new one?
  4. Do they attempt to increase access and opportunities for the audience to try the new behavior and then sustain it?
  5. Are communication and other promotional techniques used to assure that they reach and engage the audience in ways that are relevant, attention-getting, tap into existing motivations and aspirations and have sufficient frequency to be remembered and acted on?
To these I would add some more questions:
  • Did the program staff follow a systematic process for creating their strategy? (vs. deciding from the beginning, "We need a TV PSA. Get me something by Thursday.")
  • Did they actually talk to members of the target audience to find out what their wants and needs are, or did they assume that they already know what they would say?
  • Did they pretest the materials they created with members of the target audience?
Too often social marketing is misunderstood both by people who have never used it AND by people who think they are using it. Craig's post offers a useful clarification for both groups.
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links for 2006-06-20
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This week's Carnival of Marketing is up at Marketallica.

My favorite post was from Spike Jones at Brains on Fire. He talks about the differences between a campaign and a movement:
Campaigns have a beginning and an end. Movements go on as long as kindred spirits are involved. Campaigns are part of the war vocabulary. Movements are part of the evangelist vocabulary. Campaigns are dry and emotionally detached. Movements are organic and rooted in passion. Campaigns rely on traditional mediums. Movements rely on word of mouth. Campaigns are part of the creationist theory. Movements are part of the evolutionist theory. Campaigns are you talking about yourself. Movements are others talking about you. Campaigns add to awareness. Movements add to credibility. Campaigns are “you vs. us.” Movements are “let’s do this together.”
To this I would add: Campaigns are static, but movements are dynamic. Nobody wants to have a campaign directed at them, but people want to become part of a movement that’s larger than themselves — and to invite their friends to join them. I think the truth campaign and the Invisible Children campaign are great examples of social marketing movements.

Are you trying to create a campaign or a movement?
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I just found out that my book Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide is going to be translated into Chinese through a Chinese publisher. Now that's a big market! This will join the Arabic version currently being translated by the Lebanese Ministry of Health. I would love to have a Spanish version as well (anyone out there have connections with a Latin American publisher?).

I have a favor to ask of those of you who have read and used my book. I am starting work on the next edition of the book and will be updating and adding information to it, such as a new piece on using online media in your social marketing program. If you have any feedback or suggestions on what has been most helpful from the book or what could be changed to make it better (i.e., topics, formats, etc), please either leave a comment here or e-mail me with your ideas. Thanks!
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Last night I was interviewed about social marketing by Eric Mattson of He is on a quest to do 1,000 podcasted interviews with "marketers, innovators, entrepreneurs and other interesting people" and I was number 41. Check out the other interviews while you're there.

My interview lasts about 25 minutes, and covers a lot of ground about what social marketing is, its history, examples, challenges and related resources. You can download the mp3 podcast here (and don't worry if you don't have an iPod -- you can listen on your computer directly).
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The other night I watched a movie called Murderball that was sent to me by Participant Productions, a company I have written about in the past. Both the movie and the way it has been promoted are notable.

First, the movie - wow. Picture gladiators in wheelchairs. Mad Max playing rugby. These quadriplegic rugby players do not fit the standard stereotypes of people in wheelchairs. They are anything but fragile, banging into each other and knocking over opposing players' chairs. Without helmets, no less.

The documentary follows the rivalry of the American and Canadian quad rugby teams and gives us a glimpse into the lives of some of the players. The ways that the men came to be in a wheelchair are as varied as the personalities of the men themselves -- by a car crash, childhood meningitis, bar brawl, gunshot. And that's the point. People in wheelchairs are as different from each other as anyone else and should be treated as individuals. But what brings this group of guys together is what they have done with their situation. They have as much, if not more, testosterone as every other man, and their competitiveness and desire to excel drives them to do what nobody would ever expect. They drink, curse, have sex, harshly discipline their children...this is not a romanticized view of the "brave disabled person."

And because of this, I think that even more important than mainstream audiences seeing this film is having other quadriplegic people see this film. The most touching scene in the movie was when Mark Zupan, one of the American players, went to a rehab hospital to talk to the people there who had recently become paralyzed. The visit captured the imagination of one of the patients, a young man whose main love was motorcycles, when he was able to try out a competition wheelchair. It helped him see that his enjoyment of life did not have to be over just because he was in a wheelchair, and by the end of the movie he was saving up to buy his own rugby chair. A copy of this DVD should be sent to every rehab hospital in the country to give patients a glimpse of what is possible in their new life.

So, yes, I liked the movie. But I am even more impressed with the way Participant Productions is promoting it (as they seem to do with most of their movies). They have created a campaign called "Get Into the Game" that ties in a disabilities awareness theme with a cause marketing piece. They are distributing free screening kits so that organizations or groups of friends can screen the movie and raise money for the US Paralympic team for wheelchairs for needy athletes. The kits include the DVD, discussion questions and tips for having a successful screening. They have also provided a way for people who get involved with the campaign to create a blog talking about what they did and to become part of a community that is addressing this issue. And they are bringing in bloggers (like me) who write about social change to spread the word as well.

These are all things social marketers could do, related to any movie or TV show that positively portrays the kinds of messages we are promoting in our programs. Besides the communities of people who are affected by the issue, this would be a good opportunity to reach the fans of the show or actors in the movie to educate them and involve them in your strategies. Are there any entertainment programs or movies out there that you can tie into your own campaign?

In the spirit of raising awareness and spreading the word about this movie, I will be passing along my copy of the Murderball DVD for others to watch. So, (and here's the catch!) the next person to register for Social Marketing University will get the Murderball DVD. Don't all crowd on at once!
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links for 2006-06-15
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Toby Bloomberg (aka Diva Marketing) is collecting stories about how blogs have touched people's lives in her Blogger Stories project. She asked me to contribute my story, which has just been posted, so if you're interested in a little background on how I got into blogging you can read it there.

Around the same time she asked me for my blogger story, Rohit Bhargava told me about Ogilvy's global discussion blog about HIV/Aids on the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the disease. They want to gather as many personal stories as they can about the disease, to encourage people to keep the dialogue going and “just talk about it.” Here's more about it from Rohit's blog. Read the stories and contribute your own experiences.

And I also recently came across the March of Dimes' website, Share Your Story, in which parents of premature babies and babies in the NICU can tell their stories and get support from others going through the same thing.

This approach of gathering personal stories about an issue for raising awareness or changing attitudes -- whether it's to show the soul behind the technology or the human faces of a health problem -- plays off an essential part of what makes us human. We tell stories to each other to make connections. We learn from hearing about other people's experiences. We give and get comfort from each other. We find universal truths in the individual details.

The best marketing tells a story and makes a connection with the audience. Without that connection your issue is just another faceless subject among many. What story can you tell, and how can you make your audience care about that story?
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I am very excited to announce that I will be offering a two-day social marketing training in Los Angeles on September 18-19, 2006. The training will take place at the UCLA Conference Center on the beautiful University of California, Los Angeles campus in Westwood. The reason why I am so excited about this is that until now I have done many private workshops for various organizations and conferences, but this is the first training I am opening up to the public. That means that you can come to learn about how to use social marketing to create health or social change on your issues, whether you are ready to develop a comprehensive program now or you just want to broaden your skills for future projects.

The focus of this training is to create a social marketing strategy for your own program, as well as to provide you with the knowledge and skills to help you implement it once you return to your office. We'll cover:
  • How social marketing uses commercial marketing tools to create behavior change
  • How to think like a social marketer
  • How to segment and understand your audience
  • How to develop a strategy using the 8 Ps of the social marketing mix
  • How to follow the social marketing process to develop an effective program
  • How to use audience research techniques to build and test your strategy, including an in-depth discussion of focus groups
  • How to design effective messages and materials
  • How to work with the media to get your message out through news and entertainment programming
  • How to use cutting-edge technologies to put the new media to work for you
  • How to get the most out of your social marketing budget -- even if it's small
You will receive a copy of my book, "Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide," and other great benefits during the two days. And if you register before July 31, you will receive a $100 discount off of registration. Each additional person from your organization who registers will receive another $50 off of the registration fee -- have your whole team come together for a more productive strategy session. Students also get a huge discount.

For all the details about the training, fees and housing accommodations, see the Social Marketing University information page or go directly to the registration site.

I hope you'll join me there!
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Marketers now have their own version of Digg and Reddit called marktd - marketing news for marketers by marketers. People can add articles and blog posts about marketing issues that are then rated by other readers. The best articles will rise to the top and hopefully this will become a useful resource for the field.

Right now there are two things that need to be improved for this to succeed for me. First, they need to add a category for social marketing, because none of the categories describe the articles that I would likely be adding. I have sent an email to the site's creator, Piers Fawkes of PSFK, with this suggestion, and I'm hoping they will fix that. The other problem is that the site does not yet have critical mass to ensure both a steady stream of good content and sets of eyes to rate all the articles that are posted. In the early stages, it's likely that a lot of good material will be missed simply because not enough people are looking at each item that comes in.

via Church of the Customer blog

UPDATE: There is now a category for social marketing articles! I hope you will join me in filling that category with articles and blog posts you think are most useful for social marketers.
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From Seth's Blog: A marketing gig I don't want:
Not sure anyone does...

The FDA just approved the Gardasil vaccine, which protects women against cervical cancer and some sexually transmitted diseases. It's a breakthrough that could save thousands of lives every year.

The thing is, it costs $360 and needs to be given by injection to girls before they become sexually active--about 12 is what they're recommending. And, since it's a vaccine, there are fears about long-term effects.

So, let's try to imagine that conversation taking place across the dinner tables and examination rooms across America... The idea that parents can be reached and then persuaded to confront these issues, in our culture, is a little overwhelming.

A reminder that marketing is always about a lot more than just facts.
Actually, Seth, I do! Social marketers deal with this type of product all the time. Getting people to eat less of their favorite foods, wear a condom or get a colonoscopy -- not easy sells -- is what we do in social marketing.

We would need to figure out what the key values are of the parents (who would likely make the decision) and appeal to those things that are most important to them -- feeling like a good parent, taking care of their daughters' health, making sure that their daughter will not have reproductive problems in the future. And, God forbid, the worst thing a parent can imagine is their child getting cancer -- what wouldn't they do or pay to prevent that from happening?

Position the vaccine as preventing cervical cancer rather than focusing on anything that might suggest that their daughter would even consider becoming sexually active until she is an adult. Get the CDC to add the vaccine to their recommended immunization schedule so that doctors will provide it as a matter of course with other teen booster shots so that parents won't feel like the recommendation comes from a negative judgment of them or their daughters. Get insurance companies to cover some of the costs of the vaccination since they will have fewer cases of cervical cancer and STDs to pay for later. The fears about long-term effects may be addressed by comparing the risks of the vaccine to other similar products and showing that the benefits far outweigh the possible risks.

Seth, this is eminently doable -- though admittedly not a piece of cake. I have no doubt that the marketing department of whatever pharmaceutical company created the vaccine is already grappling with some of these issues. But if they want any help, I'm here.
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links for 2006-06-09
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My new friend Carol at planningblog is hosting the Carnival of Marketing this week. Check out her site and then submit your best marketing blog post from this week to jamesbrausch at for next week's Carnival (which will obviously be hosted at
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File this one under "Jobs we could never have envisioned two years ago":

An organization called Global Kids, Inc. in New York is looking for a Second Life Special Trainer:
The Second Life Special Trainer will join GK's Online Leadership Program (OLP) team for the summer of 2006. The OLP works with young people to develop web-based dialogues and socially conscious games that inspire youth world-wide to learn and take action about global and public affairs.

Now in its sixth year, the OLP is expanding its role within the Teen Second Life virtual world. Our summer program will build on our work in this space to develop a foreign policy and activism summer camp, in conjunction with our US in the World Summer Institute. The Special Trainer will adapt existing experiential, interactive workshops for
use in the virtual world, co-facilitate the workshops for online teens, assist the youth to develop an action plan, and document best practices.
Steve Rubel called this "virtual marketing," which seems a pretty good name for these kinds of efforts in Second Life (which I've written about before). I suspect that in the next generation of teens, when the technology improves a little more, teens' lives (and perhaps ours as well) will move in and out from actual to virtual worlds and back seamlessly. I predict that this will become a huge marketing venue and that instead of websites that people look at in the "real world," we will each have a chunk of virtual property from which to hawk our products/ideas, interacting within the virtual world as if we were actually there.

Oh, and maybe we'll have flying cars too.

*Bonus points to whoever gets the reference and knows that I am not just a poor grammatician!
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Recently, Rohit Bhargava reviewed some of his favorite but little-seen posts from the past six months, including one about fear marketing, which is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. He says
Fear marketers paint the picture of what your life might be like if you don't get their product. They play into already existing fears, or paint new ones that consumers may never have considered. The end result is the consumer perception that the advertised product or service is a necessity to keep their family safe, make their life less dangerous, or avoid a situation they dread. But should we do it? Doesn't this type of marketing just add to the plague of society, fostering fear and making us a weaker people as a result? Probably - but the problem with fear marketing is that it often works.
Fear appeals are used quite often in social marketing campaigns, not always to good effect. I've seen several campaigns lately that use this technique, such as this ad from Mothers Against Drunk Driving promoting a safe graduation (via Coolz0r):

Or this flyer from New Zealand designed to go on car windshields facing the interior, urging drivers not to speed near schools (via Adfreak):

Or this domestic violence PSA from Singapore that portrays the men who hurt women as literal monsters (also via Adfreak):

Or this campaign from the Swiss Amnesty International on transparent billboards that's been making the rounds (via Houtlust):

What all of these campaigns have in common is that they try to instill the fear of what might happen if you do not support their causes. Do they succeed in getting people to take action? I'm not so sure in all cases.

Because I recently talked about this in the social marketing class I teach at UCLA, Kim Witte's model of how fear-based appeals affect behavior change is at the top of my mind as I look at these examples. When people are confronted with messages that arouse fear in them, they will take one of two courses of action to dispel those unpleasant feelings -- either taking preventive action to deal with the threat or controlling the fear through denial or avoidance of the issue.

Fear appeals can be tricky and are often ineffective in bringing about behavior change. But that's not to say that you should never use them if you find in your research that the target audience responds to that approach. Here are some suggestions for how to make your fear-based campaign more effective:
  1. Make sure the portrayed consequence of not taking action is severe, but not exaggerated. You will lose credibility if you show someone dying of an overgrown toenail, but you will also not be taken seriously if you emphasize that a bad cough is the worst consequence of getting pneumonia.
  2. Make the audience feel that the problem is relevant to them. There are many problems in the world, and many issues for which people are bombarded with appeals to help. If you can show the people in your audience that they are susceptible to contracting that particular disease or at risk for experiencing the problem, they will be much more likely to pay attention. Tell them why they should care and how the issue relates to their lives.
  3. Provide a specific action that the audience can take to prevent the portrayed consequence from happening. The worst thing a fear-based approach can do is to raise the heightened feeling of danger without giving the audience a way to prevent that outcome from occurring. This could be providing a website or toll-free number to contact for more information, or even better, specifying what action the person can take right now to address the threat. Should parents make a plan with their graduate about calling them for a ride home if their friends have been drinking? Should they contact child protective services if they suspect a parent is abusive? Should the audience write letters to their legislators urging them to pass a resolution against repressive regimes, or send money to Amnesty International so it can take action on their behalf?
  4. Ensure that the audience believes that the proposed solution is effective in preventing the consequence. They may not agree that telling a child to "just say no" is enough to help them avoid being pressured into trying drugs. Do research with members of your target audience to find out what solutions they perceive as being effective or ineffective. You may have a simple solution, but if they don't believe that your proposed action will actually work, they will not do it.
  5. Portray the solution as something that the audience can easily do. Similarly, if the audience thinks the solution is effective, but not something they themselves can do, they will not do it. Encouraging people to meet with their legislators to discuss how to fix the problem will not be seen as feasible by most individuals who are not full-time activists. Sending an e-mail or making a scripted phone call might be much more doable.
While this type of fear-based approach can be very off-putting if it portrays death or injury in a graphic way, sometimes people do need to be shown the possible outcomes to get them to take action to avoid that situation. A recent study showed that patients with high cholesterol are more likely to be motivated to stay on their medication after seeing an actual scan of their own arteries showing blockage from plaque -- kind of like the medical version of Scared Straight. You can't get more personally relevant than seeing evidence in your own body of your risk for heart disease, and taking a pill is seen as both easy and effective.

What fear appeals have you seen that have either spurred you to action or made you shudder and change the channel?
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links for 2006-06-01
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