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.

The Role of Marketing in Change Programs

This post comprises an excerpt from an article I wrote called, The Role of Marketing in Public Health Change Programs, first published in the Australian Review of Public Affairs in 2011.
It is the “goal of societal wellbeing that distinguishes social marketing from all other marketing applications and defines what is and what is not social marketing.
This excerpt presents my overview of marketing prior to my developing a framework for social marketing in public health.

Marketing is characterised by features such as a consumer orientation, segmentation and targeting, competitor analyses, extensive research with customers and potential customers to ensure that offerings are believable, relevant and motivating, and marketing plans for the ‘4Ps’ of the marketing mix: Product; Place (distribution); Promotion; and Price. Research and negotiations are also undertaken with intermediaries such as retailers, and with stakeholders such as unions and government, to ensure that making the product attractive, available and affordable will be facilitated by distributors and not hampered by structural and regulatory restrictions.

In all these areas, the notion of an exchange process between the ‘buyer’ (target) and the ‘seller’ (marketer) forms a platform of operation. A necessary (but not sufficient) condition for a successful exchange is that marketers offer people something they value in exchange for them purchasing, stocking or recommending the product or adopting the desired behaviour, whether they be end consumers, intermediaries or legislators. ‘What’s in it for me?’ is a key driver in determining appropriate incentives for the various target groups in campaigns.

Social marketing is just one ‘branch’ of marketing, where the branches reflect the area of application, for example sports marketing, business to business or industrial marketing, not-for-profit marketing, religious marketing, political marketing, and so on. However, the key point of difference to all other branches of marketing, is that the social marketer’s goal relates to the wellbeing of the community, whereas for all others, the marketer’s goal relates to the wellbeing of the marketer (that is, sales and profits; members and donations; political representation; etcetera). If the wellbeing of the community is not the goal, then it isn’t social marketing.

Marketing draws on a number of disciplines for developing, planning and implementing marketing activities, but primarily psychology (for example, consumer decision making; attitudes, values); communication (especially for persuasion); economics (for example, utilities, price elasticity); and sociology (for example, behaviour of groups and organisations; diffusion).

Social marketing extends marketing’s borrowings from psychology (for example, mental health and happiness), sociology (for example, war and conflict, social movements) and economics (for example, globalisation effects), and further draws on disciplines and concepts that are related to community wellbeing, such as public health and health promotion, criminology, social policy and social welfare, and environmental sustainability.

However, regardless of these elaborations, and regardless of whether we are targeting individual consumers or those in power to make regulatory changes, the primary paradigm is that of marketing.

Just like any marketing campaign, a social marketing campaign works when it’s based on good research, good planning, relevant attitudinal and behavioural models of change, when all elements of the marketing mix are integrated, and when the sociocultural, legislative and structural environments facilitate (or at least don’t inhibit) target audience members from responding to the campaign. A well-planned social marketing campaign stimulates people’s motivations to respond, removes barriers to responding, provides them with the opportunity to respond, and, where relevant, the skills and means to respond.

Where social marketing campaigns have failed, it is not because the marketing paradigm has been inappropriate, but rather, the application has been inadequate or incomplete. Some critics of social marketing campaigns have claimed that marketing’s focus on the individual largely ignores the social, economic and environmental factors that influence individual health behaviours. While some social marketing campaigns deserve this criticism, this is not an inherent characteristic of marketing.  One of the fundamental aspects of marketing—and hence social marketing—is an awareness of the total environment in which the organisation operates and how this environment influences or can itself be influenced to enhance the marketing activities of the company or health agency (Andreasen 2006; Buchanan, Reddy & Hossain 1994; Hastings & Haywood 1994).

Social marketing campaigns have been developed and implemented across a broad variety of areas, beginning largely in developing countries and dealing with issues such as rat control and other hygiene/sanitation areas, vaccination, family planning, agricultural methods and attitudes towards women (Manoff 1985). Applications in developed countries include a variety of areas although the majority and most visible have been and continue to be in lifestyle factors related to health and injury prevention (that is, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, nutrition and road safety), with lesser applications in other areas impacting on health and wellbeing such as ‘problem’ gambling, racism, child abuse and intimate partner violence, and growing interest in applications to energy conservation, recycling and climate control issues (Donovan & Henley 2010).

The paper then develops a social marketing framework based on the principles of marketing, the public health approach and the Ottawa Charter for health promotion.


  • Andreasen, A.R. 2006, Social Marketing in the 21st Century, Sage, California.
  • Buchanan, D.R., Reddy, S. & Hossain, Z. 1994, ‘Social marketing: A critical appraisal’, Health Promotion International, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 49–57.
  • Donovan, R.J. & Henley, N. 2010, Social Marketing: An International Perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Gordon, R., McDermott, L., Stead, M. & Angus, K. 2006, ‘The effectiveness of social marketing interventions for health improvement: What’s the evidence?’ Public Health, vol. 120, no. 12, pp. 1133–1139.
  • Hastings G. & Haywood, A. 1994, ‘Social marketing: A critical response’, Health Promotion International , vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 59–63.
  • Manoff, R.K. 1985, Social Marketing, Praeger, New York.

Tackling The Social Determinants Of Health

Marketing for Change is now a member of the Australian Social Determinants of Health Alliance (SDOHA).

We will be represented by our Managing Director Luke van der Beeke, who from 2008 to 2011 was a member of the Europe-based International Collaboration on the Social Determinants of Health (ICSDH).

The ICSDH was established by the UK government shortly after the 2008 release of the WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health final report – Closing the Gap in a Generation.

It’s terms of reference included lobbying the European Parliament to formally recognise SDoH and adopt a Health in All Policies approach, identifying and disseminating examples of best practice interventions, and supporting development of the Marmot Review of Health Inequalities in England post 2010 entitled: Fair Society Healthy Lives.”

The SDOHA was launched in February 2013 and is a collaboration of organisations that will work with government to help reduce health inequalities in Australia.  The main goal of the SDOHA is to have the Federal, State and Territory governments of Australia commit to action and to implement the recommendations outlined in Closing the Gap in a Generation.  These include:

  1. Improving daily living conditions
  2. Tackling the unequitable distribution of power, money and resources
  3. Measuring and understanding the problem and assessing the impact of action

“We’re a new social enterprise with limited resources but this is something we all feel very strongly about,” Luke said.

“We started Marketing for Change to improve lives and affect positive social change.  Joining the Alliance is aligned with that objective.

“We’ll only play a very small role.  But as a marketing and social change business I think we bring something different to the table.”

If you want to learn more about the social determinants of health check out the video below by Canada’s The Wellesley Institute.  It’s one of the best introductory video’s we’ve seen.

If you’d like to learn more about the SDOHA visit its website.  You can read a full report on the launch of the SDOHA on the Crikey Blog.

What Successful Social Marketers Do Before Breakfast

Good social marketing takes planning and doing.

Albert Einstein once said “success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”.

In other words – ideas inspire, but execution leads to impact.  How are you moving from dreaming of social change to achieving it?

Move from Dreamer to Doer

In a recently published essay what most successful people do before breakfast, author Laura Vandekam discusses her research into the early morning habits of leaders and achievers. What she uncovers is how successful people flex their perspiration muscles at dawn’s early light to move from talking about progress to achieving it.

Build Habits

What do your mornings look like? Successful social marketers revel in their morning. At daybreak, Vandekam encourages people to focus on long-term goals versus short-term advances by focusing on one’s career, relationships and oneself during the wee morning hours. For social marketers, this means doing activities that:

Nurture your career

  • Engage your mind. Finally pick up that book you ordered that delves into social marketing theories and frameworks and give it a read. Manage your time to include time for reading and time for processing and reflecting.
  • Take action. Move from imagining ‘one day’ and work on purpose. Stop talking and start doing – even if that just means writing your thoughts on paper.
  • Add to your toolbox. To be the social marketer you need to be, you may need to learn new skills or expand current ones. Consider taking an online class.

Nurture your relationships

  • Touch base. Great social marketers surround themselves with a supportive ‘tribe’ – individuals who push, challenge, encourage and mentor them. Organise your contacts and set a goal to connect with a friend or colleagues once a week or even once a day.
  • Meet strangers. New revelations come from colliding with different worlds and new experiences. Visit another neighborhood during your morning walk or stop by a different coffee shop than the usual

Nurture yourself

  • Find clarity. You can only be the best for others when you are best for yourself. If you find yourself struggling with indecision or constant headaches, engage in yoga to relieve stress and find clarity.
  • Boost your endorphins. Along the same lines, remember that when you feel good – you look good; and when you look good – you feel good. Sometimes an endorphin lift through physical activity can be just what you need.
  • Get enough sleep. Many social marketers sacrifice sleep health by juggling competing priorities, relationships and needs. Working off of a full charge makes you more effective in many of life’s demands.

Take Off Your Floaties

Along the same lines, Walter Isaacon, who wrote Steve Jobs’ autobiography, reflected on the role of passion in a recent media panel:  “The important point is to not just follow your passion but [to do] something larger than yourself. It ain’t just about you and your damn passion”.

It’s time we take off our floaties and dive into the deep end. Let’s go!

Image Top: Courtesy Flickr user MrTopf | Featured Image: Courtesy Flickr user janaviemae