Last week I came across this fundraising box at Subway.
The sign promised that in exchange for helping I would feel good. My inner philanthropist thought why not! So I donated the coin contents of my purse and instantly received a good, warm fuzzy feeling. Given that before making my way to the counter I had no intention of making a donation anytime soon, this campaign demonstrates the power of an appropriate value proposition to encourage voluntary behaviour.
Exchange in social marketing is often non-monetary and typically involves something else the target audience wants for performing the behaviour; where the benefit is most often personal and psychological in nature, such as a good feeling, social recognition or praise. People always want to know what’s in it for them. Therefore appealing to an individual’s self-interest, through a direct and timely exchange, is in every social marketer’s best interest – particularly when encouraging voluntary behaviour change.
So how can you appeal to an individual’s self-interest? One way is by increasing the perceived value of what they receive in return. Social marketing programs should attempt to manage social issues by ensuring the benefits (or perceived benefits) outweigh the costs associated with the advocated change – increasing the likelihood of voluntary adoption.
Whilst the concept that giving to others can make you feel good about yourself is not revolutionary, it is often overlooked or forgotten; replaced with classic campaigns involving images of in-need individuals designed to elicit sadness and guilt. The ACT for Kids’ feel-good campaign is a perfect example of where a direct and timely benefit is offered in exchange for a voluntary behaviour, in this case a donation.
Another great example of an effective self-interest value proposition is from Kotler and Lee’s text ‘Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviours for Good’ (3rd edition). An environmental social marketing campaign, aimed at reducing pollution affecting an estuary famous for harvesting blue crabs, reframed the issue as a culinary, not an environmental, problem. The appeal to the target audiences’ stomachs (self-interest) rather than their environmental consciousness (societal benefit), provided a direct and timely exchange for changing pollutant garden care behaviours to more environmentally friendly behaviours and, consequently, was more effective than previous initiatives to change behaviour.
Whist the underlying objective is distinguishable between social and commercial sector marketing, an understanding of exchange principles is fundamental to both. Recycling may decrease pollution, reducing energy consumption may help the environment and giving up your leisure time to volunteer may help those in need. But ultimately, everyone’s focus is on themselves, so providing a good answer to the question of ‘What’s in it for me?’ is extremely important to behaviour change campaign success.