Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich

This week's edition of the Tip Jar comes to you live from the Las Vegas Strip, where I am participating in the Healthcare Blogging Summit. I haven't been to Las Vegas in about 15 or 20 years, and it sure has changed. What hasn't changed is the choking clouds of smoke on the casino floors, which is definitely not endearing this city to me. I do, however, love love love the Bellagio fountains.
  • When we are thinking about how to segment our target audience, we often break them out by demographics and psychographics (how people think about things related to our issue). Forrester adds another dimension to consider -- technographics, or how a population interacts with technology. Charlene Li writes about the social technographics ladder, which divides the population into a number of groups: Creators (13%), Critics (19%), Collectors (15%), Joiners (19%), Spectators (33%) and Inactives (52%). Understanding how most of your audience uses technology will help you determine how to best engage them.
  • It's not a very sexy issue, and not many celebrities have been speaking out about it, but as Tony Blair recently announced, traffic injuries are the second leading cause of death for young men, after AIDS. Blair is calling for a global conference on the issue of road crashes, which cause 1.2 million deaths each year. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we should not ignore the mundane, readily preventable causes of death and injury. We have a long way to go in addressing the behavioral and environmental factors that increase the risk of being hurt or killed in a car.
  • Sometimes it is the most obvious things that are overlooked in trying to come up with solutions to problems. In Stockholm, schools that banned sugary foods and drinks reduced the numbers of overweight children by six percentage points in four years -- from 22% to 16% -- while the control group actually rose. It should not take a nutritionist to figure out that reducing access to high-calorie foods will result in reduced weight gain. Schools do not have an obligation to provide their students with junk food -- in fact, it is the opposite. I hope more schools will take this report to heart.
  • Guy Kawasaki shares an interview he did with Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the researcher who conducted the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. For those of you who never took an introductory psych class, this was a study which randomly assigned students participating in the research to the roles of either prisoner or prison guard. While it was supposed to run a two-week course, it was terminated after only six days because of the cruel and inhumane way the guards were treating the prisoners. In the interview, they explore how situational factors can influence people's behaviors without them being aware that they are devolving. It's very interesting both as a cautionary moral tale and for its implications for social marketing.
  • Phalligator explores some of the ways we could use a new tool called Wiffiti for health communications. It is essentially a dynamic billboard that people can send text messages to for viewing by anyone. It could be embedded in a website or enlarged as a public billboard, used at events or in educational settings.
  • Via Trent Stamp, I discovered the Gender Genie -- a computer algorithm that guesses whether you are male or female based on the way you write. Though it was accurate for Trent, for four out of five of the blog posts I submitted, it said I write like a man. Oh well, at least I throw like a girl.
  • Finally, Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen blog is always a source of inspiration and insightful tips on how to improve my presentation skills. This week he went old school with a post on using flip charts to get your point across. We don't always have to be high tech to be effective in our communication. Make sure you watch comedian Demetri Martin's presentation of his "findings" to prepare for the next time you have to report on some data.
That's it from here. More on the Healthcare Blogging Summit to come later...

Photo Credit: Sneaky G
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I put together a resource list related to the Next Generation Social Marketing Seminar I did in DC last month and thought I'd share it with you. The first part of the presentation included an overview of the social media revolution, with examples of how these tools are being used around health and social issues. I've uploaded the PowerPoint slides to SlideShare, and you can view the slideshow above. The second half of the training was more hands-on, where we applied and practiced using social media like blogs, tagging and RSS.

The presentation is built around the general categories of social media activities. Somehow when I was brainstorming the categories, they all ended up starting with the letter C, so of course they have to be called "The Ten Cs of Social Media." I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with this conceit.
So, what can you do with social media?
  • Communicate
  • Connect
  • Collaborate/Co-Create
  • Collect/Categorize
  • Collective Wisdom
  • Customization
  • Conversation
  • Community
And in social marketing, these can all lead to the Big C - CHANGE.
If you look at the slideshow, you'll see how I categorized different social media tools under each heading, with social marketing examples of each. Of course, most tools could fit under more than one category, but for the purposes of the presentation, I divided them out in a way that makes sense.

Here is a list of resources that were mentioned during the seminar or linked to the presentation (but is by no means a comprehensive list of what's out there):

My lists of social marketing-related blogs and bookmarks:
Resources for getting up to speed on details of Web 2.0 for nonprofits/social marketers:
RSS Readers:
Blogging + examples:
Video/Photo Sharing:
Social Networks:
Collective Wisdom:
Virtual Worlds/Avatars:
Comment/Meme Trackers:
This is just a "get you started" list. For more details on how to jump in and join the party, you can explore the resources at the top of the list. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

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For some reason, in the past couple of weeks I have received a flood of emails from people asking how I started working in social marketing and how they, too, can get started in this exciting career. (Cue low-budget daytime TV commercial: "Do you want to train to be a social marketer, or just look like one? Come to the Barbizon School of Social Marketing!")

I came to social marketing through an interest in health communication and using the mass media to promote healthy behaviors. Out of college, I had worked developing content at a health promotion software company (which was way ahead of its time in exploring ways to provide health information via videotex and proto-internet portals like Prodigy) and heading up a traffic safety program at a county health department, before going to grad school. While getting my master's degree in public health, I happened to hear mention of something called "social marketing," though nobody really talked about it in any of my classes. I landed an internship with Porter Novelli in Washington DC, working on some of their social marketing projects like Five a Day and USAID-funded international programs. And I knew I'd found my calling.

I focused on social marketing throughout my studies, working on building up related research and evaluation skills and marketing/communications knowledge. After graduating, I went back to DC, which was (and still is) the epicenter of social marketing. I worked for a while for a Federal contractor doing marketing for an HHS agency's clearinghouse, but did not have much opportunity to address behavior change-related issues. I eventually decided to become a consultant and pursue the kind of social marketing work I wanted to do. In 1995, I started Weinreich Communications and was selected to coordinate a social marketing project to prevent unintended pregnancies among young women in six states, funded by the Public Health Service. And many clients and projects later, here I am.

From what I have seen, just about everyone who has been working in social marketing for a while has taken a different route to arrive where they are (though newer social marketers have slightly more straightforward paths available now). Traditionally, there have been two main tracks that feed into the field of social marketing -- either from the public health side or via the commercial marketing sector. Becoming more common nowadays also are people with a nonprofit marketing or activist background, particularly coming from the environmental advocacy arena.

Social marketers work in many different settings, including (but definitely not limited to):
  • Public relations/marketing agencies with some social marketing-related contracts, such as Porter Novelli or Ogilvy, or agencies specifically focused on social marketing
  • International development organizations, usually funded by USAID or foundations, such as PSI or the Academy for Educational Development
  • Government agencies at the Federal, state and local levels, including departments focusing on health, the environment, energy and safety
  • Nonprofit organizations at the international, national and local levels
  • Schools and universities
More and more often, you will see jobs with titles like "social marketing coordinator" or "director of social marketing," which was not very common even five years ago. You might also need to look for a position which is not necessarily focused on social marketing, but in which you can bring its principles and practices in your interventions. So, health educators, project directors, communication managers, and account executives may use social marketing as one tool in their professional belt, or might be able to shape their jobs to focus more on that aspect of the work.

In terms of academic preparation, there are now two schools that have graduate programs focusing on social marketing -- George Washington University and the University of South Florida, both from a public health angle. There are many other programs that offer at least some related coursework, either in their public health or business schools. I have compiled a list of the social marketing-related education programs I could find (please let me know if you know of others that should be added). You can also look at schools that have the following criteria (suggested by Mike Rothschild):
  • Great marketing department in a business school
  • Great public health school
  • A faculty person with a strong interest in social marketing
  • A university that has the flexibility to allow the student to work across disciplines to create what is desired
To be prepared for a career in social marketing, I suggest taking courses in:
  • Quantitative research methods/statistics
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Evaluation design
  • Behavior change theory
  • Marketing and communications
  • Mass media
  • Production/design
  • Medical anthropology/sociology/psychology
  • Social change methods
  • Program planning
Of course, a healthy dose of curiosity, creativity and common sense are necessary. And the ability to see the world through someone else's eyes and realize that we don't necessarily hold all the answers ourselves help too.

If others (social marketers and otherwise) have additional career advice for people interested in this field, please add it in the comments.

Good luck in helping us change the world - we need you!

Photo Credit: Picture from "Life and Its Marvels," 1960, uploaded by icklebird
(it shows "how blood cells of one man would stretch round the earth")

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Spare change from around the world of social marketing:
  • This week's edition of The Drum Beat from the Communication Initiative (a rich source of information and commentary on communication for development) focuses on social marketing resources. It includes books, tools, case studies and websites from a mix of US and other countries, and I was honored that they also included a reference to my book and this blog.
  • In the US our taxes were due last Tuesday. I was one of the people who waited until that evening to file my tax return electronically using Turbotax, which I've used for many years with no problem. I know, I should not have waited until the last minute to send it in but I was out of town and assumed I would just put the finishing touches on and zap it over before midnight. Turns out Turbotax's servers had a meltdown and many people who tried to file that day got a message to try again later. As the clock approached midnight across the various time zones, with people unable to get their returns into the system on time, panic erupted on the Turbotax message boards. With no helpful information from the company, many people ended up driving to the open post office across town before midnight or staying up all night trying to get it to go through. I was lucky and had my return accepted around 10:30 pm.

    While the next day, the company said that the IRS had agreed to accept late Turbotax returns and that they would refund the filing fees of those affected, this is a perfect example of a product failing at the make-or-break time that people need it to work the most. There's no reason that they should not be able to anticipate the level of demand and have failsafe systems built in, and there were not even updates on the company's homepage with information for their irate customers. In this era of instant communications, you cannot keep your customers in the dark about something as important as this. On a related note, take a look at this graphic that visually illustrates how our taxes are used in the 2008 US budget.
  • Researchers have found that adding alcohol to fruit increases its antioxidant capacity. Way back when, I considered extending my graduate program to stay on for a doctorate; the topic I planned to investigate was how to balance messages about the research emerging at the time about health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption with the negative potential effects of increasing alcohol use. The real world ended up winning out over academia, but this study would have fit right into my topic. Strawberry daiquiri, anyone?
  • If you are interested in using social marketing in a university setting, Jim Grizzell at Cal Poly Pomona has started the Social Marketing in Higher Education Listserv. Its purpose is "to allow engagement and participation in discussion of the application of evidence- and practice-based social marketing to bring about positive health and social change and enhanced learning on campuses."
  • AP has a story on how the CDC is working with Hollywood writers on shows like 24 to ensure that health issues are portrayed accurately. Many other organizations serve as this type of resource for the entertainment industry as well. Stan Glantz of UCSF is critical of this approach in the article, saying that they would be more effective in pushing for policy changes by the industry such as an R rating for smoking, rather than working within the system. I disagree, and think that the confrontational approach would backfire and cut off access to writers and producers, who have no imperative to work with these organizations beyond their own desire to do good. Wagging our fingers in their faces only closes doors -- not beneficial for us or them.
  • Does anyone else find it ironic that anarchists in Quebec are organizing themselves around an anti-get-out-the-vote marketing campaign?
  • Via OPC Today, Hindu priests are now blessing children with drops of polio vaccine instead of the traditional holy water usually offered in Hindu temples. The local health agency has trained hundreds of priests to administer the vaccine."I was very surprised when the priest put polio drops into the mouths of several children, including my son, as god's blessings," said Sunita Devi of Bihar. "But we trust the priest as he can do us no harm." What a clever partnership.
  • Next Monday, April 30, I will be moderating a panel at the Healthcare Blogging Summit in Las Vegas. The session is on using new media to market or motivate behavior change, and the three panelists will have a lot to say, judging from our conference call this week. They are Fabio Gratton of Ignite Health, Debbie Donovan of Conceptus and Adam Pellegrini, Strategic Director Online of the American Cancer Society. I'm looking forward to this panel and the rest of the sessions at the Summit, and hope you will be able to join us there.
  • My blog has been nominated for the Blogger's Choice Awards, though I'm not sure whether this is a similar honor to being in Who's Who or being a semifinalist in one of those national poetry contests. Every marketing blog in the universe seems to be nominated, and for some reason mine was also included in the best blog design and best blog host categories, so I'm a little suspicious. But if you feel like voting for Spare Change, it will make me feel validated as a sentient being. :-)

Photo Credit: o2ma
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I'm still recounting the events of the Innovations in Social Marketing Conference from earlier this week (see Day 1, Day 2 am summaries).

The afternoon of day two continued with a bang with Craig Lefebvre shaking people up as their dominant media paradigm came crumbling to the ground. If you read his blog (or pretty much any marketing blog these days), you already know how the new media are turning consumers into participants rather than members of a passive audience waiting to receive our messages. I'm not going to repeat the presentation here, but one fact he shared that struck me is that with 60 million members as of July 2006, MySpace is the equivalent of the ninth most populous country in the world (with Rupert Murdoch as its president). By the way, best wishes to Craig on his new position as Chief Technical Officer of PSI. Just a little side gig to add to his blogging.

The conference then featured two Federal programs that are good examples of being customer-focused. Betsy Humphreys of the US National Library of Medicine talked about how Medline and other products have evolved as they get feedback from their users. Because they serve so many different types of audiences -- from physicians and researchers to individuals looking for information on their own health conditions, NLM has tried to organize information around common topics in ways that make it more accessible and simple to use.

Jill Abelson of the EPA's Energy Star program talked about some of the campaigns and partnerships they have built to promote energy efficiency in products and buildings. They have over 9,000 partners including retailers, manufacturers, utilities, home builders and others. Over 2 billion Energy Star qualified products have been sold. Brand awareness of their consumer symbol is over 65%. Working with partners like Home Depot and Sears, they create promotional campaigns that make it easy for retailers and manufacturers to incorporate their materials within their own ads.

In the Q&A, I asked Jill whether they had done any outreach to home improvement shows or home makeover shows on TV, because they seem like ideal partners. I don't think she quite understood what I was getting at, because she first responded that they do a lot of media outreach, quite successfully. But when I clarified I was not talking about public relations, but product placement within the shows, she said that she thinks it would be too costly and too much "Hollywood glitz" for 5 seconds of airtime. I have to disagree with her on both the cost and potential for increasing use of their brand. If the EPA were willing to invest a little time and money on meeting with the producers and hosts of these types of shows to make sure they understand what Energy Star is and how it could be featured within the shows, it could have huge dividends. Whether the host points out the Energy Star label on a new appliance and explains why consumers should look for it, makes an offhand remark that makes it seem that using Energy Star is just the normal and accepted practice, or the camera just pans over the label while showing a product, all of these things are easy for a show to do and cost nothing. It's not Hollywood glitz, it's reaching an audience of people who are primed to follow the advice of their favorite shows (and by the way, the going rate for 5 seconds of commercial airtime is much more than the cost of flying out to LA for a few days to meet with the staff of various shows or execs at HGTV). Just a thought.

I'm going to end the conference recap here. Soon I'll write another post about the discussion we had about the future of the field of social marketing, but that's for another time.
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Monday, the second day of the Innovations in Social Marketing Conference (see Day 1 Summary), continued the focus on learning from commercial marketers how social marketers can better understand and create relationships with our customers (the people whose behavior we are trying to change).

A team from IDEO's Consumer Experience Design practice, Chris Waugh and Holly Kretschmar, led us through the human centered design process that they use to answer questions like "What's the future of community?" and "What's the future of farming in Africa?". Though they more often are in the business of designing "things" for the top companies around the world, IDEO also looks at designing spaces and processes; they are currently working with the CDC to redesign food, figuring out how to get tweens to eat more fruits and vegetables. Social marketers need to start looking more at product design rather than always heading straight for the promotion P with a communication campaign.

The process IDEO uses (which they emphasized is open source) follows four stages:
  1. Insight - observe people and look at their behavior in context, develop an empathetic understanding
  2. Strategy - synthesize what you learned to create a framework of understanding
  3. Expression - come up with ideas of how to implement the strategy
  4. Communication - define the experience as more than just the tangible product
While IDEO may use "unfocus groups" in which consumers prototype a product, like a shoe or medical device, they don't necessarily rely on the end user to entirely define the final product. I loved the Henry Ford quote from the presentation: "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." While we definitely need to listen to our target audience, we also need to use our own professional expertise and judgment to figure out how to apply their input.

Holly posed a set of questions for us to think about in applying the design mindset to social marketing, which I thought were quite apt. They were:
  1. What if we called ourselves storytellers instead of marketers?
  2. What if we thought of the people we serve as creators/designers instead of consumers?
  3. What if our brand was about helping people reach their goals? (a la 43 Things)
  4. What if a social change movement could be successful with little to no promotion?
  5. What if we embraced experiments instead of waiting until we have the perfect answer?
  6. What if the people we serve created the messages to reach them?
  7. What if we invited people at the extremes to put our messages in surprising places?
  8. What if people were clamoring to play with us?
  9. What if we understood our stakeholders as well as we understand the people we serve?
  10. What if social marketing were synonymous with 'trusted advisor?'
Chris and Holly then led an exercise in which each table was given a different set of photographs taken by various individuals showing scenes from their daily lives -- their meals, their furniture, members of the family, their commute -- and we had to piece together the clues to figure out everything we could about that person's demographics, lifestyle, aspirations, etc. (ours showed things like refried beans cooking in a pot, a mostly empty Naked orange juice gallon jug in a car, an undecorated bathroom with shaving cream, a razor and two toothbrushes).

Once we had deduced what we could about that person (young professional single man with a girlfriend who cares about convenience and sex appeal), we were given a quote from that person (ours talked about enjoying drinking with friends, taking power naps and having sex) and a design challenge (in our case, designing a hybrid car for that person). We brainstormed ideas for what that car might look like or include -- things like windows that darken automatically, kitchen-like convenience, convertible model and club-like benefits related to his lifestyle packaged with the car. We then hooked up with another table that had the same design challenge, but a different person (upscale busy mom) and found that we had designed completely different cars for each. Finally, we got to see a picture of the person we were designing for with some basic information about them, and it turned out we were pretty dead on.

I think the application of this exercise to our work is fascinating. Imagine giving 20 members of your target audience a disposable camera and having them take pictures of their world for us to then analyze for clues about what is important to them and what they are currently doing related to your issue. Or giving someone a task to do (e.g., installing a child's car seat into a car or administering some simulated medicine to a toddler - neither easy for even an educated adult) and observing the process to see where the pitfalls lie and the types of workarounds people come up with.

If we can make the product more appealing or easy to use through good design, it just may sell itself.

More from Day 2 in the next post.
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Having spent two days at the Innovations in Social Marketing Conference (with a half-day to go), I thought I would offer some of the main highlights and insights so far. There has been so much content that I will need to break this into at least a couple of posts. The theme of the conference is "It's all about the customer," and the organizers have brought in experts from the commercial marketing world to share how they maintain a customer-centric focus.

On Sunday afternoon after some introductory context, we heard from Robert Spector, who has written several books on customer service, offering lessons from Nordstrom, Starbucks and His key points were:
  • Create an inviting place in person, online and on the phone. ("Create a customer-centered experience" - all three of those brands do a great job of this.)
  • Sell the relationship: service your clients through the services you offer. ("When you are dealing with other human beings, you are in the relationship business... Make them feel like 'they understand me and what I want.'")
  • Hire nice, motivated people. ("Hire the smile, train the skill.")
  • Sustain those people through support, mentorship, recognition and praise. ("Never miss an opportunity to say 'thank you.'")
  • Advocate teamwork through internal customer service.
His main point is that we need to not just offer a product, but to create an experience for the customer. We do this through all the touchpoints at which we reach people with our brand. For social marketers, this will generally start with a website, because we usually do not have actual personal contact with the audience. Use multiple channels, make it look and feel consistent in every medium.

On the same panel was Becky Ryan, who is director of marketing for Bel Brands USA (the company that makes Laughing Cow cheese). She focused on how they use research to get to know their target audience and thereby create a relationship with them. Bel has used Porter Novelli's Healthstyles database to learn more about their core consumer -- personified as "Diana," an upscale mom who cares about her health and successfully manages her weight -- a segment that comprises 4% of US households. Using the database, they learned more about her "passions," manifested in four quarterly advertising themes: gardening, outdoor concerts, winter fun (mainly skiing), and holiday entertaining. They also found that TV was one of the worst media to use to reach her, and so focused on magazines, coupon inserts (because she considers herself a smart shopper), and the internet. The message revolved around the slogan "indulgence has a lighter side," highlighting the great taste, low calorie count, and portion controlled wedges. It didn't hurt that the product was also featured in the South Beach Diet book.

After these presentations, we were divided into groups to discuss what we could take from these ideas and apply to our own social marketing programs. While none of these concepts were really new -- or at least shouldn't be to people who have been doing marketing (social or otherwise) -- it was good to be reminded of these core concepts and to struggle again with how to translate ideas designed for tangible products to our more challenging health and social issues. While I didn't note who said what, some of the ideas/questions/key points that resonated with me included:
  • How can we create a "third place" (ie, not home or work) where people will want to spend time?
  • "The marketer knows the customer the best." That's our job. We have to know them inside and out so that we can be the advocate for the customer.
  • "Market share is trust materialized." How can we foster that trust?
  • Relationships take time to develop, and we need to be patient to let that happen. Relationships can't be bought, but must be earned.
  • Personifying the target audience can be useful in understanding and applying data.
  • "You need to be ready for your luck" and be flexible enough to change your strategy as opportunities present themselves.
  • Could we in social marketing get away with only targeting 4% of the population? It would take demonstrating that addressing the tiny segment would make a big difference in the problem.
  • Passions/emotion/lifestyle are all key to engaging people.
  • How do we sell experiences and not just behavior change? When do we stop being "a health program" and start being part of people's lives?
In the evening, our dinner speaker was Max Schorr, the twentysomething publisher and founding editor of GOOD Magazine. After a day of listening to and interacting with carefully polished professionals, Max was a breath of fresh air with his unbridled youthful enthusiasm for making a difference in the world. With his handmade Venn diagrams illustrating his desire to be at the intersection between idealism and pragmatism, and between power and humility (among several others I can't remember right now), he reminded us of the reason we got into this profession in the first place (though, according to him, part of it just comes from the desire to get laid attract girls). I've been a subscriber to GOOD since I saw the first issue (the fourth just came out), and it's worth subscribing to for its production values alone. It's a gorgeous publication. Add to that the fact that 100% of your $20 subscription fee goes to one of 12 charities you can choose from, and you can't go wrong.

Next post will talk about Day 2 of the conference.

Photo Credit: wiseacre photo
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My deepest condolences go to the family and friends of the 32 students killed and at least 15 wounded at Virginia Tech in the worst shooting of its type in the US. This was not a tragedy -- not a result of natural forces or an accident. It was a crime, an atrocity, and an act of intentional murder. May we never see another day like this again.
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Live from Baltimore, here's last week's slightly late (or this week's slightly early) edition of the Tip Jar...
  • The Social Marketing Quarterly has undergone a complete makeover and looks simply stunning in red. The 4-color cover featuring artwork from campaigns described in each issue is a nice departure from the old black and white abstract photos. And the accompanying website provides an assortment of social marketing resources in addition to the journal abstracts and subscription information.
  • Deborah Rodriguez is a Michigan hair stylist who gave more than haircuts and highlights to Afghan women. By opening a beauty school in Kabul, she inadvertently brought about social change and independence to hundreds of women there:

    Rodriguez is quick to note that her school's 182 graduates have seen their incomes grow significantly. Education for women was banned under the Taliban, so many Afghan women are illiterate. Many are war widows, or are otherwise isolated or shunned by society, and without a source of income.

    With beauty-school skills -- which include waxing (all body hair must be removed before a wedding, by Afghan custom) -- women who had earned $40 a month are now able to make $400 to $1,000 a month.

    "It is the one and only industry in the country that women can own and operate without male influence," she said. "Women can do carpet weaving, chickens, eggs, tailoring -- but a man can interrupt that at any point."

    The beauty school is an anomaly. "Men cannot see uncovered women. They are not allowed in the building," she said. "It's a sanctuary."

    Another case of unintended consequences, but this time with positive outcomes.
I will be reporting about what happened at the Innovations in Social Marketing conference soon, but after taking the redeye last night and spending the day at the conference, I just don't have the energy tonight. I will say, though, that some of my concerns have been allayed after learning that conference organizers made a big effort this year to include more people in the conference, with an initial mailing list of over 500 people. From a show of hands, it looked like about half of the people came for the first time. More soon...

Photo Credit: crispyteriyaki
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As I was catching up with my pile of unread Wall Street Journals, I came across a couple of articles that at first glance had nothing in common.

The first (Crop Prices Soar, Pushing Up Cost of Food Globally) talks about how the recent turn toward producing environmentally friendly biofuels has driven up the price of food worldwide and may force central banks to raise interest rates in order to fight the resulting inflation.
One of the chief causes of food-price inflation is new demand for ethanol and biodiesel, which can be made from corn, palm oil, sugar and other crops. That demand has driven up the price of those commodities, leading to higher costs for producers of everything from beef to eggs to soft drinks. In some cases, producers are passing the costs along to consumers. Several years of global economic growth - led by China and India - is also raising food consumption, further fanning the inflationary pressures.
So environmentalists who think they are only doing good by using their Willie Nelson biodiesel may in fact be increasing the numbers of starving people in developing countries - certainly not what they intended.

The other article (The Backlash to Botox - which I was not able to find reprinted in full anywhere) recounts the difficulty that television casting directors are having in finding actresses who do not have Botox-frozen or surgery-enhanced faces. They just can't find women who look their age, or who are able to create appropriate facial expressions. With high definition television, these cosmetic procedures become even more apparent ("The Botox used to be less noticeable but high def has changed that," says one network president. "Now half the time the injectibles are so distracting we don't even notice the acting.") Ironically, many of these women started using Botox specifically to look better for the camera and to hide their wrinkles from the close-ups.

The common thread between the two articles, as you have probably already figured out, is that you cannot always predict all potential consequences of a particular behavior. Inevitably, someone somewhere will do exactly what you want them to do, which will somehow set off a sequence of events that leads to a bad outcome of some sort. Whether it's your campaign to get women to call for an appointment for a mammogram that overloads the local hospital's phone circuits and prevents other patients from being able to get through, or an exercise program that leads to overzealous participants with twisted ankles and shin splints, you may not be able to predict all possible outcomes.

So how do you deal with the unforeseen when you don't know what exactly you are looking for? First of all, continue to stay tuned in to your target audience (you know who they are, right?). Pay attention to what they are talking about. Listen to personal anecdotes. And continue to look downstream from the point where you are engaging them in behavior change. What are the positive things that are happening? What else are people doing related to that change? How are others outside of the target audience responding to your campaign or to the people who have adopted the behavior change? Have social norms shifted one way or the other? Have power dynamics changed, and with what effect?

While chaos theory may not be entirely appropriate to use to describe the effects of human behavior, it's certainly true that small changes can trigger other unforeseen events down the line. One person's footsteps can set off a massive avalanche. Being aware of that possibility, rather than assuming that effects of the intervention will be confined to the variables in our logic model, is the key.

Photo Credit: ariel.chico
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This weekend I'll be heading off to the Innovations in Social Marketing Conference in Baltimore. Never been to it? Missed the announcement about it? You're not alone. Since about 2000, the conference has been an invitation-only event for a hand-picked group of social marketers. While I presented a paper at the ISM conference in 1999 in Montreal, before attendance was restricted, I have not been invited back until this year (was it something I said?).

So, I have some mixed feelings about attending. I'm excited about the agenda and the chance to talk to colleagues I haven't seen in a while (and meet new ones). But it feels awfully elitist, as if I'm the geeky kid who's finally been invited to sit at the cool kids' lunch table. I understand the desire to keep the conference small (it's limited to 125 people) and ensure that participants are knowledgeable enough about social marketing to be able to engage in a high-level discourse about the field. But from the outside, it looks like the same exclusive inner circle of social marketers talking to each other all the time.

Granted, the conference does publish its proceedings in the Social Marketing Quarterly each year, but to me that has always felt like "ha, ha, see what a great conference you missed?" You will be able to purchase the issue with this year's proceedings for about $50 (though you may as well buy a full year subscription for $34 right now instead).

My purpose in laying out my perceptions of the conference is not to criticize and put down the organizers. Rather, I would love to find ways to be more inclusive and disseminate the content to those who cannot attend. I have received the green light to share information from the conference on this blog, so I will do my best to provide summaries of the sessions from my own limited perspective. Perhaps the conference organizers will also explore ways of providing webcasts or DVDs of some of the sessions so that other social marketers beyond the lucky 125 can benefit from the innovations discussed.

If you will be at the conference and would like to connect in advance, email me. Or if you see me standing by myself in the corner looking lonely, please come up and introduce yourself. I'd love to meet you. If you are in the Baltimore/DC area but not at the conference, and want to get together at some point on Sunday through Tuesday, please let me know as well.

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Tips and snips from around the world of social marketing...
  • The Social Marketing in Public Health conference is coming up on June 20-23 in Clearwater Beach, Florida. It's a great way to learn the basics of social marketing, for those new to the field, as well as to learn more about what others are doing in their own programs and about topics of interest to social marketers. As always, they are also offering a more intensive Field School with 5-day courses before and after the conference on topics like formative research, health message design, consumer behavior and focus groups.
  • While I so far have been pretty down on Twitter, Dan McQuillan has found some ideas for how it could be used for social change. First responders to a disaster could easily use it for text messaging each other with updates and requests. It could help in places where the internet does not yet reach or is censored by the government. It can provide a feeling of immediacy in activism efforts. Maybe it's not a complete waste of time. :-)
  • A recent study found that more than one-third of the people living in Washington DC are functionally illiterate (vs. about one-fifth nationally). I suspect that this is similar to other big cities. This fact has major implications for social marketing efforts. Don't rely on printed text to get your messages out, and make sure that your visuals support your message rather than showing what you do not want people to do. This oldie but goodie publication from the National Cancer Institute -- Clear & Simple -- gives tips for reaching low literacy audiences.
  • My alma mater, the Harvard School of Public Health, is joining other organizations in lobbying the MPAA to incorporate depictions of smoking as a factor in determining movie ratings. HSPH found that 66% of the top-50 grossing films in 2004-2005 contained depictions of smoking. I agree that showing positive characters smoking can make the practice seem more acceptable and desirable. I'm concerned, though, that there is no sense of context in how it is depicted. If a villain or unlikeable character smokes, I think that is perfectly fine. Smoking is one way that writers and filmmakers portray an aspect of a character, and I think the key is in getting them on board to change how they use that tool. I just can't see parents keeping their kids from going to a movie because it shows someone smoking.
  • If you speak Spanish, Alan Andresen just passed along the information on the social marketing listserv that there is a 2004 social marketing book written by a Mexican professor in Monterrey:

    Luis Alfonso Perez Romero, Marketing Social, Teoría y Práctica, Editorial Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004
  • Britt Bravo let me know about NetSquared's upcoming conference (May 29-30 in San Jose, CA), which will provide 20 social change nonprofits using social media with an all-expense paid invitation to the event and technical support to help them get to the next level of innovation. Voting will take place from April 9-14, and you can find a list of all the nominated projects here. One of my personal favorites is Buttons of Hope.
  • Happy Easter to my friends celebrating it today. And happy Passover to those who have been and will continue to celebrate it until Tuesday night (then let the bread eating begin!) On Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew) we commemorate going from slavery to freedom. But we cannot forget that many people are still enslaved in the world (and even in our own country) today. Please consider making a donation to the American Anti-Slavery Group today via the blue Network for Good widget on the right side of my blog (scroll down a bit to find it) or directly to free a slave in Sudan or support their other activities. We cannot truly be free if others are enslaved.
  • Speaking of fundraising widgets, congrats to Beth Kanter who received the Fantasticness Award at the Nonprofit Technology Conference. She's the hardest working gal in blog and roll, and I think she's fantastic not just for the sheer volume of content-packed blog posts she puts out, but also for her willingness to help us learn along with her as she explores the cutting edge of social media. You deserve it, Beth!
I lost my voice completely for three days after Social Marketing University, so I'm going to spare my fingers the same fate and stop here. I will be out on Monday and Tuesday for the last days of Passover and will jump back in after that.

Photo Credit: Aureus

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I thought I was the last person in the world who would willingly volunteer to be on a reality TV show. I have no desire to have my 15 minutes of fame, I'm an awful actor and prefer not to air my dirty laundry to the world (although my clean laundry actually did make it on camera -- literally). But when we put our house on the market because we are moving to a different part of the city, we were contacted by the producer of a new HGTV show (not on the air yet) to see if we were interested in participating.

The show features a mother-daughter team of realtors who offer advice on how to make the house more attractive to buyers. Since we are selling the house ourselves, we thought it would be useful and might offer some additional promotional opportunities ("as seen on TV!"). [Note to brokers reading this: Please, no missives about how we need an agent! We've done it before successfully and know what we are doing.] And besides, I figured being on a reality show would be an interesting and useful experience just for my own knowledge of the process. Sadly, they do not provide a makeover budget with which to make the changes, but they keep our own budget in mind when providing their recommendations.

The initial screening process involved a producer-type person from the show coming to our house for a video tour and interview (which the production team watched and reported that they thought my husband and I were "cute"). From there, we scheduled the one-day taping that happened on Thursday.

The crew -- a producer, cameraman, sound guy and make-up artist -- arrived at 8:30 that morning and started setting up. I had my make-up professionally done and was amazed at how I could have so much make-up on but at the same time look like I wasn't wearing any (most of my make-up application knowledge comes from reading Seventeen magazine when I was about that age). They shot all the interiors and exteriors of the house, then some goofy B-roll footage of my husband and I walking down the street together and the kids playing outside. We then did an interview with the producer where we provided all the background about the house.

The hosts arrived around noon, and once they were dressed and make-upped, we taped the meat of the episode, which was the tour of the four pre-selected rooms where we received their advice about what to change. After having to do about five takes of the "opening the door and welcoming them into our home" sequence, we filed from room to room over and over again having to remember what order we left the last room and where our marks were to be framed correctly for the camera. As the four of us were talking, we had to be sure that our bodies were facing the camera, and as we were basically in a line shoulder-to-shoulder, there was a lot of awkward head swiveling.

While the hosts already knew what points they wanted to make based on the initial video they had seen of the home, my husband and I had no preset lines, but basically reacted to what they said. It was spontaneous the first time, but with each additional take it felt more like acting, which does not come naturally to me. Since it is TV, they tried to be outrageous and somewhat confrontational, though in a nice way. My office "looked like an office supply store had exploded in it." The wallpaper in our master bedroom made one host feel like she "was being attacked by a flower garden." And don't even ask what they said about our garage, which is our all-purpose storage space.

Before we left each room, we also had to shoot close-up reaction shots of each person (basically emoting on cue), and then "hold for tone," where we all held our breath and didn't move for a moment of silence so the sound guy could capture the ambient room sound for later use in editing. To minimize extraneous noise, we had to keep the air conditioner off (which meant more work for the make-up gal) and turn the refrigerator off as well (which they remembered to turn back on by leaving a set of car keys inside - a neat trick!).

So what did we learn? I won't bore you with their recommendations specific to our house (though I knew before we even started that they would focus on getting rid of clutter). It was more the overall concept about marketing the house. When someone comes into a home for sale, they want to be able to imagine themselves and their stuff inside. So, as much as we love the antique map print wallpaper in the dining room and the baby grand in the living room, these very personal design decisions can make it harder for a potential buyer to picture themselves at home there. We had just assumed that people would have enough imagination that they could look past the superficial, easily changed elements of the house, because that's exactly what we do when we look at houses. Apparently people like us do not comprise the bulk of the target audience, so we need to consider changing some of the features of the product to appeal more.

We had been focused on the promotional pieces of the marketing strategy -- a blog, Craigslist ads, print classifieds and more -- and assumed that the product would sell itself once the customers saw it. What we think of as quaint and homey touches, other people see as "not us." We've got a lot of work to do on building the emotional side of the brand beyond assuming that the great features of the product are sufficient.

On a social marketing side note, I spent some time before the filming thinking about how I could use this opportunity to do some healthy or prosocial product placement, given that I completely control the "set" (though not what will ultimately make it onto the show). So I put a bowl of fresh fruit on the table. We showed the kids taking part in physical activity outside. Other things are just part of our house -- lots of books, a pool fence, smoke detectors, musical instruments... Our small part in building the social norms.

The episode could air anytime between May and July, but they don't know yet. Sorry, I'm not telling you the name of the show or the airdate when I find it out. I don't mind if millions of anonymous strangers see my cluttered house, but somehow having people who "know" me seeing the intimate details of my home feels strange.

Photo Credit: dmb272

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Call it my blogging Spring Break. For my own sanity and to be able to keep up with my analog work and personal obligations, I had to take a hiatus. But I'm ready to get back into the blogging groove.

Social Marketing University, which I led last week in DC, was a great success. The participants were amazing and ended up being a wonderful resource for each other. I was able to meet several people in person whom I only knew via their blogs or through ongoing correspondence, which was a treat. We were lucky to have as guest speakers Ed Maibach, the director of George Washington University's Public Health Communication and Marketing Program, and Rachel Greenberg, a veteran social marketer who shared a case study from the National Diabetes Education Program. Each time I offer this training, I learn more about how to improve it for the future. This time, the evaluations made it clear that the participants fell into two groups -- beginning social marketers who wanted the basics on up, and established marketers who were looking for more advanced training on applying their knowledge to the unique needs of health and social issues. While I thought I had made it clear on the information page that this is a more basic introductory level training (e.g., with quotes from past participants like "This would be a GREAT intro course." and "I think it is a great training for people who are new to social marketing."), it's clear that I will need to make that more explicit and consider offering a more advanced track.

Being in Washington DC last week was wonderful and it was great to be back where I had started my social marketing career. My family was with me because we were also there for a family event the following weekend, and we had a great time in the balmy weather on Tuesday paddleboating in the Tidal Basin. We were there in the pause of the cherry blossom buds just before they exploded a couple of days later (which I sadly only had a chance to see in pictures online). There's no place like DC -- I miss feeling like I'm living in the center of the world. But I do not miss feeling like my toes are so cold that they are going to fall off, so I have to keep reminding myself why I came back to Los Angeles.

Speaking of living in Los Angeles, today I had a film crew at my house shooting a TV show (NOT "Social Marketers Gone Wild!" as Michael Gibbons suggested to me earlier). More about that in the next post.

Photo Credit: •pet
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