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Social Marketing: Changing the Habits of Society

Posted by Tim Berney

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changing-habits-210x210Note: This is not a blog about social media, aka social media marketing. It’s a big boy blog for people that don’t throw around marketing terms that they don’t understand.

I’ve got the hardest job in marketing. Ok, not just me, my entire firm. We happen to have several clients whose objective is to change the habits of society. That is, get them to do something different than they normally do without hardly thinking about it. Officially, this is a practice termed Social Marketing. Unofficially, it’s the most difficult and rewarding marketing discipline there is. As hard as it is to get people to shop at JC Penney (JCP- whatever), try getting someone to stop smoking. Or take shorter showers. Stop doing laundry in the evening. Eat more vegetables. How about getting up off the couch and taking a walk around the block? Pizza! Pizza!? Easy! Easy!

Social marketing brings attention to a social issue, changes attitudes associated with that issue, changes behavior, and ultimately alters social norms. Heavy lifting. The biggest challenge is that the behaviors that social marketing almost always seeks to change are those that people don’t give much thought to. People want pizza- you just have to get them to choose your brand over another. People don’t really want to give up their Virginia Slim Light 120 Menthols. That’s why we have to really stand out with our messages, creative execution, and tactics (5320 link). Tall, dark, handsome and rich tells the lady how sophisticated she looks with that stick in her mouth. Somehow, we have to undo that. With a few hundred million less in budget.

As hard as this work is, it’s about the most rewarding work we can do in this industry. Yes, I want the Coke account. But, I’ll settle for a few thousand kids giving up video games after school.

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