Social marketing has new champion

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Readers of Advertising Age will not be surprised by the assertion that the 20th century will be looked upon as a triumph for marketing and marketers. The power of the marketing discipline to shape and drive commerce is now virtually undisputed.

Many will be more surprised to learn that the century -- particularly the last 25 years -- also witnessed the growing contribution of marketing to efforts aimed at addressing important social issues.

The application of marketing concepts and techniques -- beyond advertising and promotion -- to foster socially beneficial change has created a new sub-discipline of marketing called "social marketing." It has been the driving force behind programs that have successfully helped millions of Americans control high blood pressure, wear seat belts, prevent sudden infant death syndrome, eat more fruits and vegetables and get an annual mammogram.

BATTLING AIDS

Social marketing has also been a global force. Such programs increased the sale of condoms to reduce AIDS from the Caribbean to Thailand, and marketed millions of low-cost contraceptives to significantly reduce worldwide population growth. Social marketers prevented millions of needless deaths from diarrheal dehydration, immunizable diseases and malnutrition in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

The Advertising Council has amply demonstrated the power of advertising to create awareness and attitude change on social issues -- from drunken driving to fire prevention. The council has also been tremendously effective at connecting social change advocates and public educators to creative advertising minds.

Social marketing, however, goes well beyond the promotional "p" of the marketing mix to include every other element to achieve its social change objectives. One great example was the development of a holistic marketing program -- of product, packaging, pricing and promotional programs -- to encourage "sex workers" in Caribbean countries to protect themselves and their customers from HIV infection through condom use.

Now the Social Marketing Institute has been founded to accelerate, improve and better document this rapidly growing approach to social change -- and to provide opportunities for experienced marketing professionals to contribute their talents to this exciting new field. The institute has already garnered the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has committed more than $650,000 to help it develop resources and plan for the future.

True to the "action-oriented" spirit of its marketing roots, the institute will not be simply a vehicle for documenting best practices, disseminating case histories and training practitioners. In addition, a major emphasis will be to marshal the expertise of social marketing's most accomplished veterans against some of our society's most pressing social change issues. This would be done through consultancy projects selected from among applications submitted by major non-profit organizations and foundations.

BEST MARKETING MINDS

To support these consultancies, the institute will be seeking fresh ideas, approaches and perspectives from among the best marketing minds of corporate America. We will be looking for marketing professionals who want to contribute their expertise and talents to these short-term consultancies, and for senior managers who will support lending their stars to such projects.

The institute will create unique "win-win" opportunities for senior corporate marketing executives and the marketing professionals whom they manage.

Too often, corporate volunteer opportunities do not tap the skills in which top marketers pride themselves. The Social Marketing Institute will provide just such opportunities by enabling marketing stars to be "loaned out" to help the institute for one of its consultation team assignments.

In a typical project, the institute team would be given an assignment by a major national health foundation to provide a "social marketing" assessment of a critical social issue. The marketing expert would be briefed on the issue and then apply his or her marketing expertise to create or improve a marketing program to address this issue.

Senior executives are constantly faced with the dilemma posed by having "too many" midcareer marketing stars who -- while at the top of their game -- must wait for career advancements that will present them with new challenges and opportunities for achievement.

Loaning these stars to institute consultancy projects will retain them as part of the organization while allowing them short-term opportunities to develop them-selves in new areas -- and bring home new perspectives to their next assignments.

NEW IDEAS

What will the stars get? It will stretch the way they think about marketing.

It will connect them to a new and diverse network of professional colleagues.

Most importantly, perhaps, it will give them that truly unique sense of satisfaction that comes from working very hard and giving of their very best talents for a good purpose.

And the company gets recognition for working on important social issues, potentially increased customer loyalty, and improved employee retention. And they get their star back.

Mr. Andreasen is executive director, Social Marketing Institute, Washington, and professor of marketing at Georgetown University; Mr. Gould is exec VP, Porter Novelli, Washington; Ms. Gutierrez a former Procter & Gamble Co. brand manager, is a consultant to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Prof. Andreasen can be reached at (202) 884-8376 or aandreas@aed.org.

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