Social Marketing in the Australian Government Context

In February 2007, I presented a seminar session on “Adding Commercial Marketing Thinking to Government Marketing” at the IQPC Government Marketing 2007. The take out from the two day session was clear – social marketing in Australia is accepted, succeeding, and being aided by two key factors – community engagement and the drive for evidence based policy.

Community engagement is the cornerstone of the successful approaches profiled from audience generated media such as the Transport Accident Commission’s “Make a film, Make a difference” campaign through to the novel approach to message channels used by the NSW Food Authority’s AU$60K campaign for “Health Fish Message”. NSW Health reaching out to pregnant women through the networks of fishmongers and retail outlets to provide key information at the point of purchase (and most valuable decision making moment). The Child Support Agency’s shift from payment enforcer to support mechanism for the separated parent was perhaps the biggest shift from seeing the client as a problem to be solved to engaging the end user as part of the process.

Evidence based policy has also provided a supportive framework with market research driven interventions and community engagement increasingly enabling the government to place limited resources into more effective campaigns. Post-intervention evaluations have become a cornerstone of the Australian approach – none better than the NSW Health “Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Children” campaign which tracked significant increases in the desired behaviour, and found areas for future inventions from formal market research and real world data (eg calls to helplines).

Ultimately, if any lesson needs to be learnt by the government social marketer, it’s simple self confidence. Many presenters peppered their speeches with remarks of how they could do better, or needed greater market share or weren’t as innovative as their commercial peers, whilst at the same time explaining how they were using cutting edge internet campaigns, bleeding edge technology and novel marketing solutions to reach and persuade resistant audiences. As the commercial marketer, my speech became more of a pep rally as the core lesson to learn from commercial marketing. In my view, the need step of commercial marketing thinking to add to social marketing is realistic targets, longer term goals and a big dose of self confidence. After all, commercial marketing calls 40% a success, 80% the iPod, and 90% a good time to seek a break up of the market monopoly.

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