Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich

Social media has changed the face of healthcare communications.  No longer is online health and medical information coming only in a one-way direction from "official and approved" gatekeeper institutions to consumers.  Technology and new online tools are facilitating the sharing of information between health providers and consumers, consumers and consumers, and providers and providers (got that?).  This creates a new set of concerns about the accuracy of information being shared and privacy issues, but it also offers new opportunities to reach people in ways that was not possible before the advent of blogs, social networking sites, podcasts, wikis, message boards, videocasts and other peer-to-peer services.

Dmitriy Kruglyak of the Medical Blog Network and the upcoming Healthcare Blogging Summit has coordinated a large scale collaborative initiative to propagate a vision for how internet communication can change and improve the healthcare system.  This HealthTrain Manifesto (based on the model of the seminal Cluetrain Manifesto) seeks to begin a conversation within the healthcare industry on how to best take advantage of the new opportunities these tools represent and how to minimize any potentially negative effects of this "open healthcare" approach.

Some of the key questions to be explored, from the Manifesto, include:
How will consumers find and act upon health information? How will professionals incorporate the latest scientific advances into their practice? How will healthcare institutions respond to increasing demands for transparency? How will the entire healthcare delivery and financing system be transformed by grassroots action?
The purpose of the Manifesto is perhaps best summed up here:
This Manifesto proposes principles under which open media could become a force of positive change in public health and healthcare system. It steers clear of issues that may favor any stakeholder group over another, aside from promoting greater empowerment of individual healthcare consumers and professionals. The goal of this effort is not to offer specific prescriptions for improving healthcare, as different people and groups have different ideas. The objective is to propose general principles under which open expression and discussion can force system change for the better. This is work in progress that will benefit from constructive criticism.
The Manifesto lays out 18 Theses, or principles, that will eventually be used to develop standards to guide the application of open health media.  The document goes into more depth on each one, but briefly they are:
  1. Openness
  2. Empowerment
  3. Conversation
  4. Empathy
  5. Trust
  6. Critical Thinking
  7. Guidance
  8. Control
  9. Credentials
  10. Transparency
  11. Privacy
  12. Anonymity
  13. Scientific Validity
  14. Conflicts of Interest
  15. Sponsorship
  16. Promotion
  17. Controversy
  18. Civility and Respect
I participated in the pre-public drafting of the document, and there is now a long list of other supporters of this initative, including bloggers and prominent healthcare industry people.  Now that the HealthTrain Manifesto is out in the public domain, we hope that the conversation among all stakeholders will move forward on how we can best promote individual and public health via these new technologies.

The implications of the "open healthcare" movement for social marketing are clear. We -- the producers and disseminators of health information -- are no longer able to function solely under what Fard Johnmar calls the Command and Control marketing paradigm.  We can put our messages out there, but what is actually done with them once in the hands of our audience is not under our control.  We must begin to figure out new ways to engage a community of people interested in a particular issue, and empower them to make the information relevant and connected to their lives.  We cannot rely on a 30-second TV spot to reach and impress the growing numbers of people who routinely use social media as part of their lifestyle and create content themselves.

Download and read the HealthTrain Manifesto (pdf).  If you have a blog, write about it there.  Leave comments on the central Manifesto page.  Add your endorsement to the list.  Let's figure out this brave new world together because the HealthTrain is speeding down the track and picking up steam.

photo credit: Christian Carollo

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When I was a kid, I wanted to be the Bionic Woman.  Jaime Sommers to me embodied everything a woman should be - smart, competent, strong, compassionate.  I never missed a week, collected Bionic Woman trading cards and had an autographed picture of Lindsay Wagner on my wall.

While this show was not specifically a kids' show, parents back then did not need to worry too much about  prime time showing inappropriate content (the raciest thing I remember was Charlie's Angels in bikinis or people kissing on the Love Boat).  Today there's not much on TV or in the movies I would let my kids watch -- even those made for kids -- because the characters are often modeling inappropriate behavior.

Watching television and the movies is one of the ways that children (and adults too) learn about their world and what the expectations are for their social behavior.  This is why the content of entertainment programming is so important.  Aside from issues of snarky, jaded children and hypersexualized preteens, children's TV and movies have more fundamental problems in how they portray girls and boys, which I recently learned.

Last week I attended a meeting at which Crystal Allene Cook from the organization See Jane presented their research on how males and females are portrayed in children's media.  See Jane is a project founded by actress Geena Davis, who realized that girls were not seen on the screen as much as boys, and that boys and girls were shown in very different ways. 

In a separate conversation, Crystal related the story of when Geena was working on the movie Stuart Little, one of the scenes was a perfect example of the discrepancy.  In the scene in which Stuart is in a boat race on a pond, on one side were the boys, who were given the remote controls for the boats in the race.  On the other side were the girls, who were cheering them on.  Geena (or it could have been someone else - I don't remember) noticed this and suggested that by giving some of the girls the remote controls as well and having some boys cheering, the scene would be much improved.  It's just a small change, but it subtly affects the message about who is expected to be active vs. passive.

I am not someone who jumps on the bandwagon about how us poor women have it so hard and that we haven't gotten ahead because the Man is keeping us down.  So I have to say that initially when I found out about this project, I almost dismissed it as more of the same whining.  But when I heard the statistics and read the research, I was convinced that this is a serious problem.  It's critical that girls see themselves as more than big-eyed Disney princesses and that boys know that it's accepted and expected that they will be nonviolent and socially engaged.

The study, conducted by USC's Annenberg School for Communication, included the 101 top-grossing G-rated films released between 1990 and 2004 and analyzed 4,249 speaking characters appearing across all the films in the sample. Among the key findings released so far are: 
  • There are three male characters for every one female character.
  • Only 28 percent of the speaking characters (both real and animated) are female.
  • Fewer than one in five (17 percent) of the characters in crowd scenes are female.
  • Male characters are only half as likely (34.6%) as females (66.3%) to be parents.
  • Only 34.6% of male characters of color are parents, while 53.1% of white male characters are parents.
  • 62% of male characters of color are shown as physically aggressive  or violent while 37.6% of white males are portrayed that way.
Crystal is working from within the entertainment industry to try to raise awareness of this issue and offers what should be relatively easy solutions to this problem.  So far she has been receiving positive interest.  It seems that when most of the writers, producers and directors are male, they focus on what they know -- boys -- without even realizing this bias.  For example, in the Animation Guild, which hosted a forum featuring See Jane's recent research, only 10.8% of the writers are female, 8% of the producers, 14.9% of the directors, and so on down the job description line. Now that the issue has been raised, hopefully this will lead to more awareness and a conscious effort on the part of the writers and others to include female characters -- rather than the one girl in the story who has to be all things to all people.

See Jane's research is available in these pdf reports:
And another report will be coming soon on body image and hypersexuality.

We need Jaime Sommers!  We need lots of her.

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links for 2006-10-29
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links for 2006-10-26
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I love science fiction. Given a choice between any other type of book (especially touchy-feely chick lit) and a sci-fi book, I will choose the sci-fi almost every time.

Lately I've been thinking about how two sci-fi books I've read presaged the existence of blogging and its culture. The first, and one of my favorite books of all time, is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, written in 1985. Quick synopsis: Genius children are bred and enter military training at a young age to save the Earth from another invasion by the Buggers, an alien civilization that has been fought off twice but threatens to return. Ender Wiggin is the best and brightest student at the Battle School, and believed to be the last hope for humanity.

Ender's older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are also hyperintelligent but were not deemed suitable as military commanders. They take it upon themselves to foment political change and eventually unite the world's governments under Peter's rule.

How do they bring about this change? Basically, by blogging on the "nets," though in 1985 when this book was written, blog was still just a typo for blob. Here's how they started:
Her main identity on the nets was Demosthenes -- Peter chose the name. He called himself Locke. They were obvious pseudonyms, but that was part of the plan. "With any luck, they'll start trying to guess who we are."

"If we get famous enough, the government can always get access and find out who we really are."

"When that happens, we'll be too entrenched to suffer much loss. People might be shocked that Demosthenes and Locke are two kids, but they'll already be used to listening to us."

They began composing debates for their characters. Valentine would prepare an opening statement, and Peter would invent a throwaway name to answer her. His answer would be intelligent and the debate would be lively, lots of clever invective and good political rhetoric...Then they would enter the debate into the network, separated by a reasonable amount of time, as if they were actually making them up on the spot. Sometimes a few other netters would interpose comments, but Peter and Val would usually ignore them or change their own comments only slightly to accommodate what had been said.

Peter took careful note of all their most memorable phrases and then did searches from time to time to find those phrases cropping up in other places. Not all of them did, but most of them were repeated here and there, and some of them even showed up in the major debates on the prestige nets. "We're being read," Peter said. "The ideas are seeping out."

"The phrases, anyway."

"That's just the measure. Look, we're having some influence. Nobody quotes us by name, yet, but they're discussing the points we raise. We're helping set the agenda."
Sound familiar? I remember when I first read this book about 10 years ago, I thought it seemed pretty unrealistic that someone could just start anonymously writing and posting their thoughts on the internet, and that people would pay so much attention to it when there are so many other posts by so many other people getting in the way. Card turned out to be prescient.

More recently (perhaps a couple of years ago), I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (who is now more than a little familiar with blogging). The plot is not so important for my point, but the story basically revolves around people in the 22nd century who live at Walt Disney World, which is no longer owned by Disney and is more of an open source project. In a post-scarcity economy, where people are immortal and have everything they need, the currency is not dollars, but something called Whuffie. Whuffie is essentially the respect and esteem that other people hold you in; you get more Whuffie when you do good things for other people and contribute to society postively, and you lose Whuffie when you treat others poorly or screw up in some way. Using digital implants in their eyes, people can track how much Whuffie they and other people have accumulated.
This was a good fight, one we could have a thousand times without resolving. I'd get him to concede that Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money; in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn't starve; contrariwise if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented -- your personal capital with your friends and neighbors -- you more accurately gauged your success.
This book came out in 2003, so blogs were already in existence, but I don't think that blogs were mentioned anywhere in the book. So how does this concept relate to blogging?

Most bloggers do not get paid for their posts. Why do we do it? To establish ourselves as industry thought leaders, to gain influence for our ideas, to get noticed. Yes, with the ultimate hope that it will lead to paying gigs or positions of power, but in the short term we get paid with Whuffie. When one blogger links to another, that is a form of Whuffie. As our Technorati or Alexa rank rises, that's blog Whuffie. A blogger is only as good as her peers and audience think she is, and if she does not continue to perform, the Whuffie will eventually sink. I guess for most bloggers who don't have ads on their blogs, it comes down to ego boosts, because we can't actually buy anything with the blog Whuffie, but at some point for the best bloggers, the prestige translates into monetary compensation.

Does anyone have any good sci-fi books to recommend?

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If you've been wondering what's all the fuss those young folks are makin' about YouTube and what-all they're doin' over there (beyond the commercials, music videos and wacky stunts), watch this video: YOUTUBERS. It's a powerful demonstration of the range of human emotion and communication (both silly and dead serious) you can find in videoblogs. It's heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, and provides a voyeuristic glimpse into what used to be private. The YouTube Generation is reaching out to bring us into their lives -- will we listen to what they are saying, and what will we do once we are there?

(via CGM)
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I received a happy surprise in the mail this week. My new blog friend Roger von Oech, about whom I wrote recently, sent me his new product - the Ball of Whacks. It's a rhombic triacontahedron (try saying that 5 times fast!) made up of 30 individual blocks held together with magnets. It can be taken apart and rearranged in an infinite number of ways.

I've spent the past few days playing with it, enjoying feeling the heft of the ball, the decisive click of the magnets and the satisfaction of making symmetrical designs that use up all of the pieces (yes, I'm very left-brained even when trying to be creative!). While I'm not someone who needs to have her hands occupied while thinking, I find that the process of arranging and rearranging the pieces does put me into a more relaxed and open state of mind. For those who have to doodle, fidget with a pen or toss a ball around while they think, this would be perfect.

The ball comes with a small book that provides ideas for how to use it to boost your creativity, and some background on how Roger came up with the idea to create the ball. There are studies that have shown the link between stimulating your motor function and stimulating your brain activity. And it keeps the kids busy too.

You can find information on ordering the ball here. Thanks again, Roger!

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The big top is back up at Spare Change to welcome the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants as it winds its way across the blogosphere each week. We feature seven of the best blog posts by and/or for nonprofit consultants, and the theme this week is "marketing for nonprofits."

Nancy Schwartz at Getting Attention shares what the University of Minnesota is doing with its Brand Ambassadors program that you could use to harness the enthusiasm of your biggest fans.

Ken Goldstein at the Nonprofit Consultant Blog calls attention to the possible problem of "donor poachers" who compile lists of potential donors from other organizations' online annual reports.

Leila Johnson at Data-Scribe describes how to apply scientific concepts from chemistry in your marketing to make the process more efficient.

Joe Waters at Selfish Giving ponders how to market your brand without being perceived as too slick, with some lessons from Burger King.

Kate Zimmermann at SearchViews presents her thoughts on Bono's (RED) campaign from a social network marketing and SEO perspective.

Jeff Brooks at Donor Power Blog provides some reasons to consider using other research methods besides focus groups in your marketing research.

David Maister contributes a post and its comments with excellent advice for nonprofit consultants that addresses how much up-front work at no charge is reasonable for a potential client before a contract is signed.

And the bonus host post from yours truly is about whether the use of potentially stigmatizing messages in social marketing campaigns is acceptable and/or effective.

Thanks to all of this week's participants. Next week the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants will be hosted by Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology, with an open call for submissions. If you want to submit a post to be considered for next week, send an email to npc.carnival AT yahoo DOT com with your name, your blog’s name and the URL of the post (not your blog homepage).

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links for 2006-10-20
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We women are awful to ourselves. A man sees an attractive woman walk by and instinctively thinks about sex. A woman sees another woman walk by and she automatically compares herself to the other, often in a negative way -- who is prettier, slimmer, has nicer hair, has better fashion sense? We can usually find something "wrong" with the other woman to make ourselves feel better -- she has a little roll of skin hanging over the top of her low-cut pants, her teeth are crooked, her roots are showing. This negative self-comparison is especially true when looking at pictures of celebrities or models, but it's harder to find the compensating imperfections in the professional photos (that's why the National Enquirer and other checkout line tabloids are so popular - they show you what the celebs look like when they are being "real people" without makeup and airbrushes).

And this is why I'm fascinated by the latest entry in the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, a short time-lapse film that shows the transformation of a somewhat plain everywoman to a gorgeous billboard model through makeup and Photoshop. I've watched it several times and find it reassuring to be reminded that the manufactured images of perfect beauty that surround us are not real -- we cannot and should not compare ourselves to those pictures.

And beauty is such a cultural construct. The Dove campaign in China is quite different than in the US. Compare the women on this billboard in Shanghai (as photographed by Brian Sack of the humor site the Banterist, whose series of China travelogue posts was gut-bustingly funny and worth checking out)...

...with the American version:

Notice anything different about the Chinese "real women with real curves"? Chinese women must have a very different perception of what is beautiful and what is unattractive, assuming the campaign was coming from the same angle as the American one. But the Chinese campaign is enough to make even slim American women feel inadequate all over again.

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Next Monday, October 23rd the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants will make its temporary home here at Spare Change.  Our theme will be Marketing for Nonprofits.  If you are a blogger, please submit your best post of the past week or so that relates to the theme by this Friday night (Oct. 20) and I will compile and post the top seven submissions on Monday.  Send an email to npc.carnival AT yahoo DOT com with your name, your blog’s name and the URL of the post (not your blog homepage).

In the meantime, take a look at the most recent Carnival at Aspiration Tech with the theme of Nonprofit Management Advice.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about a community forum ("Selling Us to Ourselves: Is Social Marketing Effective HIV Prevention?) in New York that would be discussing recent HIV/AIDS prevention social marketing campaigns that have been criticized by the gay community for using stigmatizing messages and images. CHAMP, which was one of the sponsors, has now posted a report from the forum that summarizes the speaker presentations.

And last week, another forum was held in Los Angeles to discuss a new campaign by the LA Gay and Lesbian Center that states "HIV is a gay disease. Own it. End it." Richard Kearns of attended the forum and posted his notes and reactions, along with a powerful poem about the use of stigma in these recent social marketing campaigns. He calls the effects of this approach "friendly fire," which I thought was a quite apt description. While trying to shoot down the "enemy" -- AIDS -- these social marketing campaigns also cause some collateral damage by either reinforcing negative stereotypes or creating an environment that makes people not want to acknowledge that they are at risk.

By saying that HIV is a "gay disease" (75% of people with HIV in LA are gay), the campaign undoes decades of hard work to get the point across that anyone can become infected if they engage in risky behaviors. While I understand that the point is to get the gay community to re-engage and take ownership of the solution for ending AIDS, this statement in one fell swoop both implies that all gays have HIV and that everyone with HIV is gay. If this campaign were only visible to the gay community (maybe using gaydar vision?), then perhaps it would be justifiable if it were shown to be effective, to get people talking and empowered to take action. But they cannot ignore the effects of the campaign on the general population, who may form negative opinions about gays or people with HIV as a result.

Steve Simon, the LA City AIDS coordinator, spoke on the panel and said that he had received phone calls 20 to 1 complaining about the ad. He felt that "this is undermining messages we've been putting out for a long time." He was contemplating creating a series of ads to balance out the "HIV is a gay disease" theme, with messages like "HIV is a Latino disease," "... a black disease," "...a woman's disease," etc.

Les Pappas, whose company Better World Advertising created the campaigns, spoke at both forums. At the New York forum, he said this about the approach they took with the HIV (not fabulous) campaign:
Change can come in different ways. It can come from attracting people (getting them on the bandwagon), but it also comes through disturbing them or causing them discomfort (so they're challenged in some way to move to make a change). We like it when it makes us “feel good” but we don't like it when it confronts our reality, shocks us, airs our dirty laundry, or makes us think too much. But why do we think that we have to like or approve or agree with social marketing? Ultimately, what is the role of controversy? We need to leverage the scarce resources we have, and we need to get people's attention. The first hurdle is getting people's attention; then, you can gauge people and deal with other hurdles...

...Now what about campaigns that people don't like so much? What about campaigns that make people feel bad? For example, we launched the HIV (not fabulous) campaign. We had a gentleman with facial wasting, we had a gentleman in a diaper because of chronic diarrhea, and we had a gentleman with a bloated belly. People thought it was stigmatizing people with HIV, but what I can speak for is the e-mails that we received about the ads. We had a lot of people complaining, but we also had a lot of people who had no idea that HIV was so bad. Young gay men in Los Angeles woke up with this campaign—it gave them a reality check and changed their behavior in terms of protecting themselves.
Contrast this confrontational in-your-face approach with other more positive and empowering campaigns like Better World's HIV Stops with Me and We Are Part of You or Oakland's new I Am Worth It campaign (though I'm not crazy about Kenneth Cole's anti-stigma We All Have AIDS campaign -- it's too wishy-washy). Unfortunately, there is not much data to show whether the controversial approach has been effective.

So what do you think? Is it worth creating controversy and potentially stigmatizing some of the members of your target audience in order to attract attention to the issue? Is some collateral damage acceptable when dealing with life and death issues? Or should you stay away from those methods even if you find it works to bring about change?

I think an effective social marketing campaign needs to involve members of the target audience in the message development and pretesting to find out whether the approach will shock and awe or completely backfire. If you make people angry with your message, they will dismiss you and the campaign without paying attention to what else you might be saying. Getting their attention is good, but you also need to get them on your side.

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links for 2006-10-18
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This morning I received a hot stock tip with the title above as the subject line. Here is a representative paragraph from that e-mail:
Hip Hop superstar Sean "P.Diddy" Combs sees a huge possibility for his company in cooperation with Goldmark inc. Sean "P.Diddy" Combs tells that it is enjoyably to deal with these guys. They as anybody else know entertainment industriousness and exactly know what is required for the American spectators. He also emphasizes exclusivity of his fresh album Press Play and tells that the appearance of this album on october 17 will make an result of the blasted bomb.
Apparently Goldmark Industries "moved rapidly in taking on the already triumphant and growing star in an violent attempt to stay ahead of the game." Don't tell anyone I told you, but they "will promote that st0ck till the end of the year and the price will lift . People will buy it and they will earn big cash. Don't miss that and buy it now cause the price is low. After the 18 October the price will grow up to 1000%. Take it now!!"

Yes, there is a social marketing lesson in this amusing piece of mangled marketing. If you do not fluently speak the same language as your audience, do not rely on Babelfish or an English-Croatian dictionary to piece together your communications. Spend the money to hire a good translator who is fluent in both languages and then test your materials with people who are fluent speakers of that language to make sure the wording is both accurate and effective. Otherwise you might make an result of the blasted bomb.

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Driving home today, I caught the tail end of a broadcast by radio talk show host Michael Medved in which he was discussing the (RED) campaign. In case you missed my post on this campaign when it was announced, here's a recap based on information on their website. "(RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of DATA to raise awareness and money for The Global Fund by teaming up with the world's most iconic brands to produce (PRODUCT)RED branded products. A percentage of each (PRODUCT)RED product sold is given to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The money helps women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa." (RED) Products are sold by companies such as Motorola, American Express, the Gap, Apple and other fashionable brands.

Michael Medved's point was that this type of cause marketing is not helpful in addressing issues like AIDS or poverty in a place like Africa because it serves as a distraction from the root causes for these problems -- corrupt, repressive political systems that keep their citizens from joining the global economy. Instead of encouraging more rampant consumerism, he says, we should be working towards political solutions to bring the African countries out of poverty, which would also reduce the problem of AIDS. When the focus is moved to other approaches that don't solve that basic problem, the world feels like it has done something and does not pursue the harder, but more effective, work of transforming Africa's political and economic systems. At least, that's what I'm extrapolating from the few minutes I heard of the show, so forgive me if I've misquoted him.

I think Medved definitely has a valid point. People in many of the African countries are living under thuggish dictators who want to keep their citizens poor and ignorant so that they can remain in power. And corruption is so widespread that the economy simply does not function -- people cannot run businesses, travel or get health care without paying graft to officials at each layer of the bureaucracy (including the police). This absolutely must change before people in most African countries can improve their standard of living.

But does that mean that we can't simultaneously attack the problem from several angles at the same time? Even though these companies are making a bundle from selling the (RED) products, they are also buying and distributing anti-retroviral medicine to people who would not be getting it otherwise. And if consumers would be purchasing products from the participating companies anyways, why not buy the version that will help to save a life?

Bono seems to understand this. Here's what he says on the website:

Enter Product (RED). (RED) is a new idea we're launching to work alongside the growing ONE Campaign to Make Poverty History. Over the past year, almost 2 million Americans have joined ONE, in churches and chatrooms... on soccer pitches and movie sets... at Nascar races and rock concerts. By 2008, we're aiming to have 5 million members – that's more than the National Rifle Association. Just think for a moment of what that kind of political firepower could achieve for the poorest of the poor...

Where ONE takes on the bigger, longer-term beast of changing policy and influencing government, (RED) is, I guess, about a more instant kind of gratification. If you buy a (RED) product from GAP, Motorola, Armani, Converse or Apple, they will give up to 50% of their profit to buy AIDS drugs for mothers and children in Africa. (RED) is the consumer battalion gathering in the shopping malls. You buy the jeans, phones, iPods, shoes, sunglasses, and someone - somebody's mother, father, daughter or son - will live instead of dying in the poorest part of the world. It's a different kind of fashion statement...

...There are though still 4.3 million Africans without drugs, which is why 100% of (RED) money is going directly to the Global Fund to support the work they are doing. (RED) uses the power in your pocket to keep people alive. ONE uses the power of your voice to create a more just world where people can earn their own way out of poverty. This means tackling more than AIDS. It means fighting corruption. Insisting on good governance. Getting kids in school. Changing trade rules. Getting businesses to invest in Africa. Ali and I started a company called Edun – a fashion line that makes clothes in Africa – because so many Africans we met said what they wanted more than anything was a job.

Seems to me that these campaigns work together. Hope they work.

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David Roberts on the Gristmill blog shares what he learned from Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink) when he gave a keynote address about social change at a luncheon in Seattle:
Stripped of the anecdotes, the basic thesis of the talk was that social change has three somewhat unexpected features:

  1. It almost always happens faster and cheaper than anybody predicts. See: Berlin Wall falling.
  2. It is typically brought about not by people with great political or economic power, but by people with great social power -- "connectors," as he calls them. These are folks who are part of an unusually large number of social circles, who can bring disparate groups together.
  3. It usually happens after a seemingly intractable problem has been reframed. The example here was the spread of seatbelt use in the U.S. For a long time it was a "government meddling" issue. Then a bunch of child-restraint laws were passed, and little Johnny started asking mom why she didn't buckle up, and it became a "family responsibility" issue. In a matter of just two or three years, seatbelt use rates soared from 15% to 65%.
So, although social change can be somewhat unpredictable (see #1), we can set the stage for it and work to create the conditions in which it can happen (see #2 and 3).

Think about who your "connectors" are for your audiences and how you can hook into their networks. And see if you might be able to reframe the issue so that it connects with the core values of the people you are trying to reach. For example, the issue of school choice has been defined by its opponents (primarily teachers' unions) as an attack on public schools and teachers that subsidizes private and religious schools. But if you reframe the issue as one of social justice -- that poor children are being denied their right to a good education -- or one of government waste -- that taxpayer funds are being inefficiently used by the bloated and overbureaucratized school system -- then you might be able to mobilize new constituencies that had not previously thought about the issue in that way.

One of the commenters to the post, CyberBrook, shared some useful information on community organizing for social change. I especially liked the "M Factor" organizing template:
mission (plan)
message (what's the point?)
mainstreaming (creating cultural resonance)
money (funding and resources)
mechanics (how to)
mapping (where best to organize, where best to marginalize)
might (strength and power)
marketing (getting the message out in appropriate ways)
media (using the mass media, supporting / creating alternative media)
management (organization)
measurement / market research (feedback)
mobilization (getting people organized and involved, developing capacity and leadership)

It's like our social marketing Ps but from a community organization angle. The rest of the comments are also worth checking out.

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Continuing with the silly mood:

Proud Cystic-Fibrosis Foundation Doesnt Need Your Charity

The Onion

Proud Cystic-Fibrosis Foundation Doesn't Need Your Charity

AITKIN, MN—A Dream To Breathe Foundation reasserted its status as a "non-profit organization" and expressed embarrassment at unnecessary "handouts."

Cystic-fibrosis foundation A Dream To Breathe, which has refused to accept more than $250,000 in donations since 2001, announced Monday that it was continuing to make strides in fighting the rare respiratory disorder without any handouts from "self-righteous do-gooders."

"In the past three months alone, thousands of people from all across the country have come out and asked us to take their money, insisting that we need it more than they do," said Development Director Joan Vandercamp in an urgent plea to Americans to take their pity elsewhere. "To you and countless others, we can only say: Who do we look like? The Salvation Army?"

"When we need your help wiping this degenerative disorder that affects 30,000 Americans off the face of the earth, we'll let you know, okay?" she added.

According to Vandercamp, who described her foundation as an independent organization determined to make a difference in the lives of those with cystic fibrosis and not "some pathetic charity case," A Dream To Breathe is perfectly capable of finding a cure for the deadly genetic disease that strikes the lungs and pancreas without anyone else's aid.

"Not that it's any of your concern, but we've been raising plenty of awareness on our own, thank you very much, and we'd really like to keep it that way," said Vandercamp, who added that her foundation already had its hands full identifying the defective protein-producing gene earlier in victims of the disease without others trying to get involved. "We may not be the biggest or the most successful organization of our kind, but we have dignity, and I'll be damned if we let your patronizing donations change that."

Read the rest at The Onion...
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No, this post doesn't really have to do with social marketing. I'm just looking for an excuse to share this adorable cartoon that I saw on Coolz0r's blog and fell in love with for some strange reason. I will just take this opportunity to thank all of you for reading and commenting on my blog so that I know I'm not just shouting into the wind. For those of you who read Spare Change regularly but do not comment, I would love to learn more about you. Leave a comment or send an email introducing yourself, tell me what kinds of things you would like me to write about, or let me know what you think about the posts I've written so far.
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In recent years, college campuses (and other community settings) have increasingly been adopting the social norms marketing approach to reducing things like binge drinking, drug use and smoking by their students. The idea behind this approach is that people will avoid unhealthy activities if they think that most other people around them are doing it too. So, if college students think it's normal for people to each drink a six-pack of beer at a party, they will be more likely to engage in unhealthy levels of drinking. By publicizing the statistics of how few students at that campus actually do drink that much alcohol in one sitting, showing that the norm is to drink moderately, the model suggests that students will be less likely to binge drink themselves.

This approach has quite a bit of documented success. According to the National Social Norms Resource Center, some examples of the effectiveness of this type of project in addressing high-risk drinking include:
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges — 32% Reduction over 4 years
  • Northern Illinois University — 44% Reduction over 9 years
  • Rowan University — 25% Reduction over 3 years
  • University of Arizona — 27% Reduction over 3 years
  • University of Missouri at Columbia — 21% Reduction over 2 years
  • Western Washington University — 20% Reduction in the first year
But what if there is actually a substantial proportion of the population that does engage in the undesirable behavior? You could still say that "a majority of West Knippenquad University students do not smoke pot," if 51% say they abstain. But is that a meaningful statement? Even if only 20% of the population uses drugs, that is still one out of five people -- not an insignificant figure. Among certain subgroups, the percentage might be much higher.

A recent study published in the Journal of Health Communication backs up these concerns. Not surprisingly, the study found that friends have a greater influence on students' drinking behavior or beliefs about drinking on campus than social norms campaigns. The social norms messages are not believable if they do not square with what students have observed in their own experience among their friends and acquaintances.
A survey of 277 college students at a northeastern university found that nearly 73 percent did not believe the norms message that most students drink "0-4" drinks when they party. Of that group, nearly 53 percent reported they typically drank five or more drinks at one sitting. To illustrate the influence of social networks, 96 percent of the 5-plus-drink group said their friends drank a similar amount and believed that "other students" on campus drank a similar amount.

"Disbelief in the campaign message may have resulted from the behavior observed by students among their friends and acquaintances, which contrasted with the 0-4 message," said co-author Ann Major, professor of communications and director of the Jimirro Center for the Study of Media Influence at Penn State. "Also, some students may discount social norms campaigns as an attempt by university administrators to control their behavior."

Perhaps the social norms approach works among those students who are on the fence about engaging in an unhealthy behavior, and just need a little reinforcement to help them do what they would be inclined to do otherwise. Other types of approaches -- social marketing, policy enforcement, or counseling -- might be necessary to reach the more diehard partiers who already have set expectations for what is appropriate.

I am also made more skeptical about this approach with the announcement of the establishment of the National Social Norms Institute at the University of Virginia with a $2.5 million grant from the Anheuser-Busch Corporation. I'm glad that many campuses have had success with social norms marketing, but I do hope that it will not be seen as the magic bullet across all subgroups -- especially for those most in need of some type of intervention.

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links for 2006-10-06
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If you have not already read Fard Johnmar's excellent e-book about how health care organizations can use social media, From Command & Control to Engage & Encourage, I highly recommend it, as I wrote about in a previous post.  If you have read it and liked it, Fard is trying to get it distributed as a ChangeThis Manifesto, which would help it reach a broader audience.  The editors of ChangeThis select the proposals they publish as manifestos based on the number of votes they receive.  Fard would appreciate it if you would cast your vote for his proposal to increase the chances that it will be selected.

While you are there, also vote for our blog friend Rohit Bhargava's proposal based on his ideas on social media optimization and check out some of the other manifestos that have been published.
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Thank you for helping Spare Change become one of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs this week. The blog entered the list at #24 and I'm pleased to be among such good company. Check out the weekly list at the Viral Garden, and while you're there, take a look around at some of Mack Collier's other posts and perhaps discover some new marketing blogs from the list. I also get to use the spiffy new logo on my site. Such excitement!

And for the new visitors coming from the Top 25 list who might be confused about how I'm using the term "social marketing," take a look at this post. Welcome!

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Whether you think it's the symbol of world peace or a corrupt thugocracy, when a major world organization like the United Nations shows up in Second Life, people take notice. Second Life Insider reports that on October 15-16, Second Life residents will be able to participate in the United Nations Millennium Campaign to Stand Up against poverty.

The Millennium Campaign was launched to hold the countries of the world accountable to their commitments to the eight goals that would eradicate extreme poverty by 2015:
  1. Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
  2. Achieve Universal Primary Education
  3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  4. Reduce Child Mortality
  5. Improve Maternal Health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development
With the Stand Up campaign, they are trying to set an official Guinness World Record for "the greatest number of people ever to Stand Up Against Poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals" (I didn't realize there was a category for that! Seems like any number would set that record.). To that end, they are asking people around the world to participate -- including virtually in Second Life. SL residents can obtain a free white wrist band for their avatar and click it at the appropriate time to assume the "stand up" pose and be registered as a participant in the event.

This article sparked an interesting discussion in the comments section, with Prokovy Neva starting it off:
You do have to ask whether awareness/Internet/SL things like this are really the best use of scarce resources and the good UN name.

I can't imagine what clicking on a pixelated wristwatch in a video game like environment will actually do to alleviate real poverty of real people.

This is dangerous virtuality, in my view, like cocaine -- it makes people mistakenly believe they are really doing something, that their feeling good about having their awareness raised is something having effect in the RL [real life]. It isn't.

Tomas Hausdorff countered:
I think activities like this that raise awareness do have a significant value. No, they don't directly address the underlying problem. I don't think anyone would be confused enough to believe that clicking an object in a virtual world "solves" anything, any more than standing in front of a building waving a placard "solves" anything.

However, reading the sign, participating at a particular time...these things should make at least a percentage of the participants spend a few moments thinking about the Millenium Development Goals. And like a commercial on the subject, all it is intended to do is reach an even smaller percentage- those who might be incented to actually *do* something about the goals.

For that reason, I think this is a worthy effort.
Aimee Weber, who built the campaign in SL noted:
The magic is not in clicking an pixellated wrist band. The magic is in the numbers of citizens of nations who will know what their governments promised they would do in 2015.
Prokofy then got to the heart of what has been bothering me about this campaign from a social marketing perspective:
Awareness-raising without some specific recipes for action really gets to feel like disaster porn to me.
Symbolic gestures can be powerful in bringing about political or social change. Think of Rosa Parks sitting on the bus, the lone Chinese protester facing down the tank in Tiananmen Square, even the thousands of citizens who miss work and spend money to travel to the National Mall for various demonstrations each year. These gestures are so powerful both for what they represent and because the participants have something significant at stake -- whether it's their safety or life, or the time and money they give to show their identification with the cause.

And other symbolic protests or awareness-building events on a smaller scale can also be effective by increase an individual's empathy for -- and personal stake in -- the issue. Tomorrow's DarfurFast, in which individuals will be fasting in solidarity with the people of Darfur; numerous walkathons and runs that require a physical commitment as well as collecting donations; even Hands Across America, which seems a similar concept to the Stand Up campaign, but which collected money that was donated to local homeless and anti-hunger agencies -- all of these events are designed to raise awareness but also have a call to action associated with them. Whether it is donating money or writing to your local Congressman, these are actions that could make a difference in the issue.

My concern with the Stand Up campaign and other initiatives that have no accompanying action beyond standing up or clicking on a virtual bracelet is that they don't go anywhere. Awareness is absolutely the first step in getting someone to become involved in an issue. But a campaign cannot stop there. Awareness then needs to lead to some sort of action, otherwise you are wasting your time. If the Stand Up campaign encouraged people to do things like sending an e-mail to their country's policymakers to demand that they take action to reach the Millennium Goals, writing letters to the editor of their local newspapers, volunteering in their community's food bank to do their part to alleviate poverty -- these would be a good use of the awareness and good will the campaign generates.

But a symbolic gesture that requires little or no actual commitment or risk from the person doing it is an empty gesture. It feels good at the time, but then they feel they've done their bit and quickly forget about the issue.

Just as knowledge is necessary but not sufficient to bring about behavior change, awareness is necessary but not sufficient to bring about social or political change.

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For many of us who tend to think in a linear, structured way (especially process-oriented me), thinking creatively does not come naturally. It takes guidance and suggestions that encourage new ways of thinking or seeing an issue from another perspective. That's why I was happy to read in David Armano's Logic + Emotion blog that Roger von Oech, the author of A Whack on the Side of the Head, has started his own blog.

Back when I was starting in social marketing years ago as an intern at Porter/Novelli in DC, everyone in the company received a copy of his book, plus the accompanying Creative Whack Pack -- a deck of cards with a different creative technique on each. I've used the book and pack when I've needed some inspiration to spark my creativity.

As an example, the picture above is on a card titled "Change Its Name":
If an architect looks at an opening between two rooms and thinks "door," that's what she'll design. But if she thinks "passageway," she may design something much different like a "hallway," "air curtain," "tunnel," or perhaps a "courtyard." Different words bring in different assumptions and lead your thinking in different directions. What else can you call your idea?
If you need a little creative pick-me-up, check out Roger's blog and get whacked.

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