Tag Archives: Social Marketing

East Coast Roadshow Redux: ANU Public Seminar, October 15, 2009

The last public seminar from the East Coast Roadshow Tour: ANU, School of Marketing Management and International Business, OCtober 15

Evidence based intervention has become the touchstone phrase for social marketing, public health and policy development in Australia in the recent years. The recent release of the Australia: The healthiest country by 2020 report by National Preventative Health Taskforce is based on delivering an evidence based social change platform through education, legislation and social marketing interventions. Whilst the increasing political centrality of the major political parties is suggesting “evidence based intervention” sits as a politically neutral position in pursuit of a common “social good”, the experience of the New Zealand social marketers suggests that a change of government can quickly change what constitutes the “evidence” in an “evidence based intervention”.

The presentation discusses how social marketing as theory, academia and practice sits within the broader social change agenda in Australia. Based on data collected through personal interviews with Australian social marketers, outcomes of the International Non Profit and Social Marketing conference, and from observations of events unfolding in the application of social marketing in the political, government and non-profit spheres, this paper outlines the areas for future debate and research in the application of commercial marketing theory in social change.

Slideshare of the presentation available on the day.

East Coast Roadshow: Sponsored by UWA

University of Western Australia Crest.
Image via Wikipedia

I’d like to take this moment to thank third official sponsor of the East Coast Roadshow (ft. Perth) – the Marketing group with the UWA Business School, and the University of Western Australia for picking up the tab for my flight to Perth.  When the tour first came about, it was an Eastern Seaboard affair until UWA Business School invited me over to speak  about Social Marketing at a staff seminar.

Many thanks to UWA, the Business School and the Marketing group, and Dave Webb and Sharon Purchase for making this happen. It’s been a great experience coming over to the West Coast to extend the research project to see the amazing work done by the Western Australian social marketing researchers.

Thanks again.

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Social Marketing: Defend the Spend

Recent decisions by the UK government for serious investment in social change have brought up the spectre of spending money in bulk with the predictable results of another round of “Government spends X amount in wasteful spending of X amount” style commentary by the media..  It’s a traditional story, one steeped in time, mystery, and journalism macro-templates[1] As well as the problem of media misunderstanding social marketing (which is why definitions are important), there’s also a tendency of media outlets to criticise government spending because it’s government spending which is assumed to be wasted money largely because it’s spent by government.

Social marketing academics and practitioners need to get into the habit of defending the spend on social marketing interventions as a matter of routine behaviour.  In the UK, the crisis is on the expenditure of £30 million pounds on a social marketing campaign.  £30 million sounds like a lot of money, until you start doing breakdowns and explanations.  Then when you realise how little that amount means when you’re looking at what it’s being asked to do, and you’re looking at the size of the market it’s supposed to address (at which point, the average journalist should start sensing a story about government underfunding of vital services if you’re doing the job really well, because, well, look at the figures), you start to realise how small the investment actually is against the desired outcomes (it’s never helped by the fact social marketers keep succeeding on ill-funded campaigns. Improbably high ROI just encourages less spending next time).

Here’s how to explain £30 million in other terms.

  • The British population is just a shade under 61 million people.  Spending 30 million is fifty pence per head of population.  Once.
    • One off spent of less than a copy of The Telegraph per person in the UK.
    • Once.
    • For three years of work.
    • You can’t get a packet of crisps for 50p
  • Sports Analogies
    • 3/4 of a good English football captain for that price.
    • Roughly a single year of team salaries in the UK Rugby union Guinness Premiership. Teams there have a £2.25 million salary cap per team for 12 teams.
  • Looking at the actual figures, for £30 million, you get three years of operation
    • £10 million pounds a year pays for 64 operations
    • 64 operational areas operating at £156,250 per unit per year.
    • Spending £156,250 per region, per year on intervention to reduce long term drains on health funds through postponed death, general illness reduction, and the cost of lost labour during epidemics is socially profitable use of government funds.

There’s also the cost of inaction versus the cost of action. Death has a buy-in rate, and a series of calculated prices based on age, earnings over time and other formula.   Break those out to show the cost of non-investment.

  • Investment against Death: Using some research from Massey and Ackerman (2003) I managed to source a cost per life (aka cost of death) calculation from 2003 that puts a financial value on the loss of  human life at USD$780,000 which translates roughly to £475,000 (+/- 5% for market fluctuation) for the cost of a premature death based on the foregone future earnings of a child who dies from asthma or cancer.
    • Save 63 children from premature asthma death, and you break even.  64 or more lives is profit.
    • 64 lives over 3 years amongst 64 agencies.
    • One less death per region every three years and the program’s recovering its own costs in lifetime yield.

Of course, never forget the “Think of the children” defence. Sure, it’s a rogue’s solution to the problem, but every now and then, it’s good to go rogue.

  • The less reasonable approach is to point out that £156250 is an investment in improving the life expectancy of English children, so why does the British media oppose measures to prevent children from health problems?
    • Why do The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Star support the premature deaths of children? Do they want children to die of preventable death and suffer from preventable disease? I ask you Minister, when did our media turn against this great nation and the future of our children?[2]

Currently, when challenged on expenditure, the usual reaction is to announce sweeping cuts to the budget that are stealth introduced by project overruns, and other accounting tricks.  That’s not the optimum solution, and it’s not a way to treat the general public. When challenged on the budgets, step up and defend the spend to the aggressor party. Talk to them, talk with them, and explain the alternatives, and ask them if they had the choice, would they choose differently?

And if they would, get them to explain and defend their spend to you. It’ll change how they see the world when they’re trying explain why spending £475,000 to save £156,250 is a sensible idea.


Massey R, and Ackerman, F (2003) Cost of preventable childhood illness: the price we pay for pollution, GDAE Working Paper No. 03-09.


[1] No disrespect to our colleagues in the MSM. Remember, everyone loves the cookies but few people stop to remember the work of the cookie cutter.

[2] If in doubt, fall back on the children. It’s what the moral crusaders do all the time, and it really annoys them when they’re facing their own arguments.  Name one newspaper editor who’s made a stock in trade of shout “Won’t somebody think of the adults?”.

Social Marketing: Why definitions matter

From How-do via @chiefmaven….

The NHS North West’s drive to improve the health of the region’s population through a sustained social marketing campaign is seemingly coming under attack from numerous London-based newspapers – newspapers that seem to have misinterpreted what social marketing actually means.

Two things leap out of the How-do article. First, it’s great to see that site (and the  article) understand what social marketing means, even if the first few commentators completely miss the point. Social media marketing is not social marketing.  This is where the NHS and the National Social Marketing Centre need to put some time, people and money into bringing the journalists, editors and sub editors into the loop as to what we do (offer behaviour options), how we do it (marketing techniques) and why we’re doing it (free choice, democratic principles, cost-benefit,  ROI).

Social marketing is a new technique to the world of government, newspapers, journalists and the general public.  As one of society’s teams of change agents, we’ve got a responsibility to explain ourselves to our critics, and to do it without making them feel stupid for not understanding in the first place.  This is a role that I see the Global Social Marketing Network being able to perform in many different circumstances – particularly if we adopt a common front of engaging the critics in public debate and private 1 to 1 meetings where we give them the chance to ask questions, get answers, and we take the opportunity to hear out their criticisms, concerns and fears. We need to talk with our critics, understand them, and see if there’s a common ground, a fair point, or a misunderstanding that’s dividing where we stand (pro-social marketing) and where they stand (anti-social marketing).

I’d also like to draw attention to Comment#5 on the article.

….The one thing more annoying than being pounded with advertising telling me what to think (and tries to ‘change my behavioural patterns – a stunningly Orwellian phrase if ever I heard one) is being pounded with adverts from health fascists that I’m paying for.

FWIW, I agree with Comment #5 – I can’t stand the health fascists either.  Hello, I’m caffeine addicted, obese  (thanks for the constant reminder WiiSports) male with a propensity for fast food (Thanks Nandos).  Can’t stand the people who want to ban their way to social compliance rather than work with the audience for social change (Just say no to people who cheat to win by bringing in laws when they can’t win clean in the marketplace).

Because I don’t like the health fascist model, I’m an advocate for social marketing, and for doing social marketing properly.

When done properly without cheating, social marketing provides a free market approach to social change.  Simply put, we’re going to outbid the (negative) behaviour by putting a better offer on the table, nightstand, drive through window or bar.  That’s how we do it in marketing – market research, product development, and blindsiding the competitor with a better offer at a better price in a more convenient format.  Just like Coke, Pepsi, Microsoft or any of the other commercial marketing players.

We’ll see your best offer  in the marketplace, and we’ll make a counter offer to beat that so you’ll prefer our option over the other choice.  Safe sex is a question of confidence the morning after, feeling good about feeling safe, and feeling certainty rather than lingering doubt.  Health food needs to be able to sell on the flavour (raw and the cooked), effectiveness (snack pack without the waste), efficiency (easy to eat, ready to access) to make a decent counter offer to the drive through McDonalds burger.   Until there’s a drive through F&V window, and McDonald’s production values of fast, cheap and accessible, healthy isn’t making an offer than equals or betters the competition.

Social marketing and social marketers have to win clean in the marketplace, play straight up against our rivals, and take the social momentum from them with better options, better products, more choice and better outcomes.  After all, that’s how we do it, capitalism style to create the problem, and that’s how we need to do it, capitalism style, to solve the problem.

Of course, this only works when you want change rather than compliance.  That’s another story though.

Happy Birthday Social Marketing

Social Marketing Pocket Guide
Image by Dr Stephen Dann via Flickr

It was thirty eight years ago today,
Kotler and Zaltman taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years,
Kotler and Zaltman’s Social Marketing Club Band(with the usual apologies to the Beatles)

July 6 is the official birthday of social marketing. (with many many thanks to Mike Newton-Ward for the reminder)

Given the whole East Coast Roadshow is based around visiting Australian Social Marketing academics to share our experience, on behalf of the Tour Party, social marketers of the Kotler kind, and all of us in the social change through marketing methods business, thank you Kotler, thank you Zaltman and thank you to all the social marketers out there in industry, government and academia.

Happy nnmmmphth1 birthday Social Marketing.

Now drink moderately, eat sensibly and go get some exercise :)

1 Social marketing is two years and six days older than me.

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