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Social Marketing Concepts and Principles Professor Jeff French

Social Marketing has two defining features: 1. A driving concern with developing robust understanding and insight into the customer/ patient/ citizen 2. A clear focus on achieving and sustaining specific measurable behaviours associated with promoting a social good.

Social marketing is : ‘The systematic application of marketing ,alongside other concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals, for a social good.’ French Blair Stevens 2007, Big Pocket
Book of social Marketing NSMC. London

Customer focus All social marketing is based on a robust understanding of the target audience it is trying to help; this understanding is developed from observational data, demographic and epidemiological data together with market and consumer research. Consumer research is used to identify audience characteristics and needs, and key stakeholder intelligence and understanding. A range of different research analyses, synthesis and data fusion approaches are used to develop a robust and rounded understanding of people’s motivations, needs, wants, and the enabling factors that exist and the barriers they face in adopting targeted behaviors.

Strategic and Operational Social Marketing To date, the most common way social marketing has been used and applied is operationally, as a specific process to achieve a behavior change with a particular audience in relation to a specific topic. However, it is increasingly recognised by DH (Ambitions for Health Strategy 2008) that social marketing, can and should be applied at the policy level. For example rather than assuming a mass media campaign is required, it is helpful to use a social marketing approach to inform policy formulation and strategy development. Strategic social marketing seeks to examine all of the potential interventional options and assess them based on what customer insight indicates would be most beneficial and effective in terms of a programme of action. Social marketing’s ‘customer triangle’ The Social marketing ‘customer triangle’ was developed by French and Blair-Stevens in 2006 as a diagrammatic way to highlight the key features of social marketing. In many respects, it has been used to ‘market’ social marketing across government. Rather than simply listing the features, the triangle provides a pictorial guide to social marketing’s three key concepts and three key principles.

Professor Jeff French PhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.Ed Jeff.French@strategic-social–


Insight, Exchange / Choice Architecture Competition

Intervention Mix


The customer triangle model of social marketing

The three concepts and three principles: Social Marketing concepts and principles are not of themselves a process or recipe for success; rather they are the ingredients necessary for successful social programs that seek to influence behavior. It is important that they are not confused with ‘process planning models’ i.e. how to plan and deliver or do social marketing. There are specific process planning models for this purpose (see the STELA Model and the TTP Model). Instead, the concepts and principles are essentially the key elements that indicate if a programme is applying a social marketing approach. It is also important to recognise that these concepts and principles are not a random or arbitrary collection; rather they are derived from an evidence and experiential base about what works and what does not in the development and delivery of public sector programmes designed to deliver measurable change in behavior.

Concept 1: Insight Driven Social marketing is based on the development of a deep ‘insight’ into people’s lives, with a clear focus on what will and will not move, motivate or enable people to change in any given situation. Insight drills down from a wide understanding of the customer (customer orientation) to focus on identifying key factors and issues relevant to influencing particular a behaviour. The approach is focused on identifying and developing ‘actionable insights’ based on all available relevant data to make considered judgments about what will help, these insights are subsequently tested through pilots and refined or rejected according to their utility.

Professor Jeff French PhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.Ed Jeff.French@strategic-social–

Concept 2: Exchange and Choice architecture Consists of understanding and developing interventions that make it more likely that people will adopt a particular behaviour. This core concept involves developing one of three approaches or a combination of them: 1. A compelling positive ‘exchange’ proposition based on customer analysis, about what a person will perceive as a value that outweighs the cost of change, i.e. an incentive based approach 2. The development of a system, service or product that assists or ‘nudges’ a person voluntarily towards a socially beneficial behaviour. 3. The development of a system, service or product that requires a person to behave in a particular way or face a negative consequence i.e. a disincentive. Concept 3: Competition A robust competition analysis is a key principle of social marketing programmes. Competition analysis examines both internal and external competition and seeks to address these forces. ● Internal competition (e.g. psychological factors, pleasure, desire, risk taking, and addition) ● External competition (e.g. wider influences and influencers competing for the audience’s attention, time, and behaviour, promoting and reinforcing alternative or counter behaviours) Strategies are then developed to minimize the potential impact of competition. Principle 1 : Behavioural goals Social marketing has a clear focus for achieving impact on people’s behaviour, and is based on the setting out of SMART behavioural goals. A broad behavioural analysis is undertaken to develop a rounded picture of the current behavioral patterns and trends, making sure to examine both, the ‘problem behaviour’; and the ‘desired behaviour’. Interventions are then developed to focus on specific behaviours (going beyond just focusing on addressing information, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs). Interventions seek to address four key behavioural issues not just the ‘behavior change’: 1 Formulation and establishment of the behaviour—understanding what helps trigger and establish the behaviour in the first place (making sure to look at both the problem and the desired behaviour) 2 Maintenance and reinforcement of the behaviour—understanding and sustain the behaviour over time (again making sure to look at both the problem and the desired behaviour) 3 Behavioural change, understanding what will move and motivate or assist people to make changes and what barriers need to be addressed 4 Behavioural controls—understanding where voluntary approaches may not work and where ethical criteria can justify the use of requirements or controls to influence the behaviour in the given context

Professor Jeff French PhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.Ed Jeff.French@strategic-social–

Social marketing is also distinguished by its explicit embrace of theory. Theory drawn from many disciplines to inform and steer the development of programmes. Theory is used to inform and guide development, with theoretical assumptions being tested as part of the developmental process. An open integrated theory approach is applied to systematically examine which form of theory offers the greatest utility in a given context, while avoiding the tendency to simply apply the same ‘preferred’ theory to every situation and context. Principle 2: Segmentation Social Marketing applies a segmentation approach, going beyond demographic and where relevant epidemiological and service uptake data by adding data about people beliefs, attitudes, understanding and behaviours. Target audiences are segmented using this data into sub sets that share common beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Interventions are directly tailored to specific audience segments rather than relying on ‘blanket’ ‘spray and pray’ approaches. Principle 3: Methods mix Social marketing examines and uses an appropriate mix of methods to achieve the goals of the programme: A range of different approaches are examined and used to establish the most effective, efficient and cost effective mix of methods : ● Educate—to enable and empower ● Support—to serve and practically assist ● Design—to alter environment ● Control—to require, regulate, and enforce ● Inform—to communicate facts and attitudes ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Social Marketing planning models need to be applied alongside the concepts and principles set out above.The STELA model is one such planning process.




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Professor Jeff French PhD, MBA, MSc, Dip HE, BA, Cert.Ed Jeff.French@strategic-social–