Understanding Social Marketing and its Imperatives for Nigeria
Social Marketing in the Evolution of Marketing
Writing in a 2006 publication of the strategy firm, McKinsey & Company, entitled Profiting from Proliferation, the trio of David Court, Thomas French and Trond Knudsen had this to say about Marketing: “the scope of today’s marketing challenge is breathtaking, and proliferation is the reason. Recent advances in Technology, Information, Communications and Distribution have created an explosion of new customer segments, sales and service channels, media, marketing approaches, products and brands […]. Marketers -even the most sophisticated- are struggling to keep up”.
While the growth of Marketing itself remains a continuum and new marketing approaches continue to evolve, the foundations of Social Marketing date back to some sixty years ago when the psychologist C. G. Wiebe, in a paper entitled Merchandising Commodities and Citizenship on Television, asked the now famous question: “Can Brotherhood be sold like Soap?” Wiebe had proposed that organizations which sell intangible social objects (such as goodwill, respect for the environment, or community development) would be more successful, if they sold their social objects the way marketers sold cars and mouthwash.
What is Social Marketing?
First we must not, as is often done, confuse “Social Marketing” with “Social Media Marketing”, which is the use or optimization of online social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, etc to create communities and promote conversations for Marketing purposes. Or with “Cause Marketing’’ which refers to collaboration between commercial corporations or brands and not-for-profit organizations to promote mutually-beneficial interests (e.g. “10% of the price you pay for our widget goes to The Orphan Foundation”).
The term “Social Marketing” was first coined by Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman in 1971, in their “Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change” which was published in the Journal of Marketing, to refer to the application of marketing to the solution of social and health problems. According to the argument, if Marketing has been remarkably successful in encouraging people to buy products such as Coca Cola and Nike trainers, it can as well encourage people to adopt behaviors which enhance their own – and their fellow citizens’- lives.
Like generic Marketing, Social Marketing in itself is not a theory but, rather, a ‘borrower’ of other bodies of knowledge such as Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology and Communications theory, in order to understand how to change the behavior of people.
A major point of divergence of Social Marketing from other fields of Marketing is with respect to the objectives of the marketer. Social marketing seeks to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target consumer and the general society. While the goal of generic marketing is to ultimately achieve shareholder objectives, the social marketer seeks to meet society’s
desire to improve its citizens’ quality of life. Ready instances of Social Marketing at work can be found in international health programmes in developing countries, such as for Contraceptives and Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) and in developed countries, for driving behavioral change in drug abuse, heart disease and organ donation. Social Marketing, therefore, is the use of Marketing for behavioral and social change. It is all about learning what people want, rather than persuading them to buy what we produce.
This is why research becomes a key aspect of Social Marketing. In social marketing, the consumer is assumed to be an active participant in the change process. The social marketer builds a long term relationship with target consumers and seeks their input throughout the life cycle of a programme by embarking on formative, process and evaluative research. In other words, Social Marketers ask “what is wrong with us? What don’t we understand about our target audience?”, rather than “what is wrong with these people, why won’t they understand?” In Social Marketing, the facilitation of “exchange” (remember that word in one of the age-old definitions of Marketing?) is done through the voluntary behaviour of people. In order to engender this voluntary behaviour and consummate the exchange, Social Marketers really have to strive to offer target consumers what they want.
Beyond the 4Ps of Marketing
The 4Ps of Marketing, otherwise known as the Marketing Mix, also form the basis of any Social Marketing strategy. However, beyond the 4Ps of Marketing, Social Marketing also lays claim to some other 4Ps (i.e. totaling 8Ps in all). This is illustrated by a Social Marketer, Nedra K. Weinreich.
Product: This may range from a tangible/physical offering such as contraceptives, to services such as medical examinations to detect breast cancer early enough, or to intangible ‘products’ such as practices or ideas (e.g. Oral Rehydration Therapy, Breastfeeding, Non-Circumcision of Female children, Environmental Protection, etc). In order for the target market to adopt the ‘product’, s/he must first realize that s/he has a problem and that the ‘product’ offering is the right solution. Research determines the consumer’s perception of the problem and the ‘product’ and the importance of that problem in the consumer’s list of priorities.
Place: This is how the product reaches the consumer. For tangible products, it may include storage, transport, sales teams and the retail trade, or Points of Gifting (POGs, for products given free). ‘Place’ may also refer to channels through which the consumer is furnished with information (e.g. ante-natal/post-natal clinics, workplaces, shopping malls, etc). Research must identify the habits and activities of consumers, in order to determine the best suitable options for distribution.
Promotion: This has often been known, though rightly, as ‘Behavioral Change Communications’ but has been mistakenly thought to be the whole gamut of Social Marketing. This includes, the planning and deployment of Advertising, Public Relations, Direct Marketing, Advocacy, Events, etc. Research determines the right promotional mix to create demand and sustain post-adoption behavior.
Publics: A Social Marketing programme is often directed at several external publics such as the target consumers, influencers, policymakers, gatekeepers, etc. Its internal publics include those who plan, approve and implement the programme and must therefore ‘buy into’ it.
Partnership: Usually, programmes directed towards social change require massive inputs in terms intelligence-gathering, planning, logistics, financing and implementation. Therefore, a Social Marketing programme often becomes much more effective through partnership with other organizations (Governmental, Non-Governmental, Professional Associations, etc). For instance, the Social Marketing organization may partner with the professional body of Nurses and Midwives throughout a country, in a programme targeted at making nursing mothers to adopt breastfeeding.
Policy: While social marketing programmes are meant to change individual behaviour, such change may need to be sustained on a larger, national scale and over time. Often, policy change may be required to create an enabling environment. In a Social Marketing programme targeted at Youth cigarette smokers for example, Government may be required to implement anti-public smoking regulations. Media advocacy becomes important here.
Purse Strings: Where does funding for Social Marketing programmes come from? Usually, funds are sourced from donor organizations and grants from government, international organizations and charity organizations. Pre-Activity research will determine the most-likely sources of funds at each stage.
Imperatives of Social Marketing for Nigeria
In many developing nations of the world, such as India, effective Social Marketing programmes have not only become drivers of social change, but also contributed to improvement in the standards of living of citizens.
In Nigeria, Social Marketing as a discipline of Marketing has not entirely evolved and its opportunities have not been thoroughly explored by marketing agencies (presently, no marketing firm specializes in selling Social Marketing services) and Government. On the other hand, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have often achieved some of their objectives by incorporating Social Marketing tactics. The Society for Family (SFH) for instance has executed quasi- social marketing campaigns for HIVs/STDs and contraceptives, over the years, while the Support for Malaria Programme (SUNMAP, funded by the UKaid/DFID) has borrowed from Social Marketing to make people adopt the use of Longer-Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs). Again the Nigeria Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), a project which seeks to reduce barriers to family planning services and conceived by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a thirty-nine million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has employed Social Marketing tactics towards realizing its mandate in 6 Nigerian cities.
It needs to be pointed out that most of the Social Marketing programmes of some of these organizations are often greatly tilted towards the promotional aspects of Social Marketing (i.e Behavioral Change Communications). Perhaps, the preponderance of Behavioral Change Communications in such campaigns and programmes is as a result of the visibility of ‘Promotions’ in itself, as ‘the face of Marketing to the outside world’.
With a myriad of socio-economic challenges which have bedeviled the Nigerian nation over the years and the growing shifts in people’s attitudes towards issues such as health, religion, the environment and civil society in general, a groundswell of social change in the country can be brought about through Social Marketing programmes. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) for instance will do well to partner with relevant international donor organizations in a Social Marketing campaign to encourage youths in the North to eschew terrorism in the name of Religion and those in the South to desist from ransom kidnapping, in the name of acquiring wealth. Flood-prone states such as Lagos and Oyo States can embark on Social Marketing campaigns geared towards changing people’s behaviour towards their environment, while in a well-planned Social Marketing project, the government of Akwa Ibom will have addressed the innocent slaughter of children who are being branded as ‘child witches’ by the same society which nurtured them. In addition, the Federal Government can kickstart a campaign to change the behavior of young Nigerians towards becoming more innovative, enterprising and self-reliant, rather than seeking after white-collar jobs.
Let’s put Social Marketing to work.
A 360° marketing professional, Dele Ogundahunsi consults on Marketing Strategy & Business Growth. He is CEO at The Field Marketing Company (twitter: @deneri ; skype: deneri4)