Positive Spin on Change – Social Marketing

This post is a verbatim-transcript of an article written by Maureen Eppen and published in The West Australian newspaper on 18th November, 2017.


Social marketing is emerging as a way for marketing professionals to use their skills and experience for the greater good.

Marketing for Change Managing Director Luke van der Beeke said work in this field provided opportunities to apply traditional marketing concepts and other approaches to deliver positive outcomes for society as a whole.  Social marketing was not to be confused with social media marketing.

“Commercial marketing is used to influence people’s purchasing decisions to make a profit – it exists to make money for a select few and build shareholder value,” Mr van der Beeke said.

Social marketing is different. It also seeks to build value – but social value, not shareholder value.

“Its main purpose is to deliver positive outcomes for individuals and society. We use the same tools and techniques, but the end-game is completely different.

“For social marketers, there’s nothing wrong with making a profit, but not when it comes at the cost of an individual’s or community’s health or wellbeing.”

Mr van der Beeke said this form of marketing was still relatively new in Australia, but there was a growing network of people “marketing for good”.

Social marketers used “behaviour change programs” to help achieve positive change.

“Behaviour change programs are used to address all sorts of issues, including public health, environment and social challenges,” he said.

“At their core, most problems facing the world today are predicated on people’s attitudes and behaviours.

“For example, violence against women is a behaviour carried out by men, and an area I’m doing quite a bit of work in at the moment.”

Driving, physical inactivity, recycling, human trafficking, crime, substance abuse, retirement savings, handwashing and climate change were all examples of areas in which social marketing and behaviour change programs could benefit society.

“Social marketing isn’t a silver bullet, but it can be a highly effective means of tackling the many social, health, economic and cultural challenges we currently face,” he said.

“Over the past 10 years there’s been a marked shift towards small government and the need for people to take more personal responsibility.

“In my view, if we want people to take more responsibility for their health, financial security and so on, we need to equip and empower them to do so – telling them they need to do something isn’t enough.

“We’ve also seen disciplines like behavioural economics come to the fore, as governments seek to nudge people towards better choices.

“While it’s making a significant contribution to the social good, it needs to be counterbalanced by policy and programs that are informed by the needs and wants of citizens.

“There’s quite a bit of evidence that policies and programs that fail to do so can be ineffective and may even result in unintended consequences.”

Here in Perth, Marketing for Change had advised local government on how to use behaviour insights to increase timely payment of rates, increase bush fire preparedness, pet registration and micro-chipping.

“I’m also currently working with Koolkuna, a women’s shelter in Midland, on a Department of Social Services funded family violence prevention project,” he said.


Luke’s advice for people considering a career in social marketing
  • Join the Australian Association of Social Marketing and plug in to its Australian and international networks of social marketing academics, practitioners, resources and webinars.
  • Find a social marketer and meet with them over coffee. AASM is a good place to start and social marketers are generally very open to support those new to the field.
  • Read widely. Social marketing draws on many disciplines.
  • Marketing would be the most relevant degree, but communications, behavioural science or economics, or psychology would also be good options.
  • Don’t consider social marketing if your intent is to make lots of money. Social marketers are a bit like non-profit marketers – we do the job because we’re passionate about it.
His top tips for embracing the principles of social marketing
  • Listen to what others are saying and seek to understand what sits behind their words.
  • Have empathy. We’re too quick to blame and label others for what we perceive to be poor choices.
  • Seek out people doing things more innovatively or better than you, and learn from them.
  • Avoid labels, stereotypes and assumptions.
  • Don’t assume you know why people think and behave as they do. Everyone’s lived experience is different.
Social Marketing

The article as it appeared in the Weekend West.

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