the social marketing definition


Product: Reducing paper use, especially paper towel use; secondarily, increasing interest in WWF

Promotion: A paper towel dispenser that displays an image of South America, the home of the Amazon Rainforest. As more paper towels are used, the image of South America becomes less and less green, reflecting the direct correlation between excessive paper use and deforestation.

Price-Cutting: Here’s another habit that’s especially hard to break: the overuse of paper towels. But unlike the plastic bag campaign, the message appears as, not after, someone makes a small choice that affects the environment. linksexpert As people read the message “Save paper, save the planet,” and see that the paper represents the health of the Earth, they’ll be more inclined to limit their towel use, or go for the air dryer instead.

Place: Public restrooms

Why we love it: This is a classic case of meeting your audience right where they are—the audience can take a small action right away to help the Earth!

5. It’s Not Happening Here, But It Is Happening Now

Organization: Amnesty International

Product: Illuminate human rights abuses happening across the world, and inspire the audience to assist Amnesty International in combating these abuses (by visiting their website and either making a donation, signing a petition, or both).

Promotion: Posters that painstakingly recreated and exactly matched the surroundings behind them, and depicting a human rights abuse happening within those immediate surroundings—right in front of audiences’ eyes. Abuses depicted included children forced to fight in wars, people bound, gagged, and beaten, and children living in abject poverty.

Price-Cutting: Stark awareness—Amnesty knew that the issues are easy to ignore when they aren’t happening in someone’s community, so they made it look like the abuse was unfolding right where the poster was.

Place: Bus stops, train and subway stations, phone booths, and anywhere else a large poster could hauntingly recreate the surroundings behind it.

Why we love it: This campaign brings issues to light that are often ignored because they’re half a world away. By bringing them into the audience’s own backyard, the audience identifies with these victims of human rights and is inspired to help. Plus, we appreciate the painstaking effort that went into recreating the poster’s surroundings and making it look like a glass window—I definitely thought the images were superimposed over glass, not printed on an opaque poster. And this campaign worked: Goodvertising reports that these posters increased visits to the Amnesty website by twenty times!

(Note: this campaign also included the image of the child soldier highlighted in the “visuals” section above.)

6. See how easy feeding the hungry can be?

Credit: Ads of the World

Organization: Feed SA, a charity that works to feed needy individuals in South Africa

Product: Encourage food donations to Feed SA; secondarily, encourage people to visit the Feed SA website

Promotion: Place images of hungry children holding out their hands in shopping carts, begging for food, so it looks like any food placed in the shopping cart is being given to the child. Seats of the carts displayed the slogan “See how easy feeding the hungry can be?” and the Feed SA website.

Price-Cutting: All stores where this promotion was placed had food donation bins at store exits, so people could donate to FeedSA right away. No need to go very far!

Place: Grocery stores.

Why we love it: Such a creative campaign that really tugs at your emotions—it definitely looks like food is being given to the child in need. And it meets the audience where they are able to take action against hunger, by being positioned where they can buy food. But it’s the element of readily available donation bins that really ties this campaign together, as it gives the audience an immediate way to act once they’re moved.

As Ads of the World reports in the image above, the campaign was quite inexpensive, yet very effective. “For the cost of a few decals,” Feed SA experienced “a marked increase in donations and a significant boost in website traffic.”

7. Dumb Ways to Die

Organization: Metro Trains (Melbourne, Australia)

Product: Convince young people to stay safe around trains

Promotion: An adorably gruesome and catchy song that showed various random, dumb ways to meet your demise. At the end of the song, unsafe train behaviors are listed as “the dumbest ways to die.” The video’s look and feel was intentionally the opposite of traditional safety campaigns, as lyricist John Mescall told Adweek: “What if we disguised a worthy safety message inside something that didn’t feel at all like a safety message? We thought about what the complete opposite of a serious safety message would be, and came to the conclusion it was an insanely happy and cute song.”

Price-cutting: Breaking down disinterest barriers to make the safety message something people would want to listen to!

Place: The video, as well as a website, print and digital ads, and an accompanying app

Why we love it: This 2012 campaign, run by a commercial company, is one of the most successful social marketing campaigns of all time!

It rapidly went viral—and blurred the boundaries of what is and isn’t an ad campaign.
As Adweek reports, it racked up over 30 million YouTube views in the first two weeks alone. (Today, it has over 180 million views).
People constantly shared covers of the song, and fanart of the characters, on social media.
It generated an estimated $60 million in free media coverage, according to Marstudio.
The radio spot with the song started as a paid ad, but the song became so popular that stations would play it for free.
The song even reached the iTunes top 10 in some countries!
But the real marker of a social marketing campaign is whether it’s successful in increasing the desired behavior. Has Dumb Ways to Die been successful on that front? Well, Metro Trains reported “a 21% reduction in track-related accidents” in the months following the campaign, including a “reduction of collisions or near misses with vehicles and pedestrians at level crossings” (Marstudio). And we know that the message has stuck with younger generations, which will likely have long-term positive effects on behavior around trains.

Key Takeaways
Social marketing is marketing designed to encourage social change; rather than selling a product, it sells a behavior that benefits society. Well-executed social marketing uses creativity and evokes emotions to motivate action, through visuals and catchy slogans. If you’re planning on using social marketing to solve a problem or spread awareness, be sure to clearly define the “4 Ps” of your campaign before you launch: product, price, place, and promotion!

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