Social Marketing: Changing Behaviors for Good

Social marketing started in the 70’s and has been one of the most popular tools for creating positive social change ever since. The most successful campaigns are forever part of our collective vocabulary, such as “This is Your Brain on Drugs.” The simplicity of the campaigns combined with their innovative approach to long-term problems in society is what gives them so much impact and meaning.

Social marketing is not to be confused with social media marketing. Social marketing can use social media as one of its tools, and indeed most campaign these days do, but not all social media marketing is social marketing. Social marketing is defined as marketing that seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good. This kind of marketing is arguably more important today than ever before, it is being facilitated greatly by the ubiquity of social media and high rates of internet penetration.

Companies are increasingly including social marketing strategies in their communications scheme, educating the end market not only on their product but also on the social issues the company is trying to address.

For example, Patagonia focuses on the environmental friendliness of its products; at the same time educating the consumer about the processes that go into the production of their garments, encouraging them to conserve energy in all walks of life.

Social media is one of the easiest, most accessible tools companies have at their disposal to create successful social marketing campaigns. The Middle Eastern consumer increasingly insists that companies go beyond their core business operations and play a meaningful role in their communities. Social marketing provides an efficient, inexpensive and honest way to connect with that consumer.

Companies should foster their culture and their values and build on that to ensure that their communication is seen as genuine and straightforward, contributing to the fabric of society by creating positive behavior patterns.

Creating a corporate culture that is conducive of such efforts is a top-to-bottom priority, with every level of the company having to understand and work towards the same goal. For companies working in the Middle Eastern market, some of the most obvious areas for social marketing activates are energy conservation, youth unemployment or water reservation.

Changing the behaviors of end consumers is not just a pleasant thing to do; it also makes business sense. It allows social enterprise and for-purpose businesses to reach more and more consumers who are now looking for socially responsible products. Those consumers are usually more than ready to pay a premium price for a product that matches their high expectations. From the latest Nielsen report, 63% of the Middle Eastern consumers are willing to pay more for a product or a service that tackles one of the issues they feel strongly about or is environmentally friendly.

The modern consumer is online and not shy about sharing his or her experiences with their peers. For every bad review your company gets, you will need 12 positive ones to minimize the negative effects. Making sure your social marketing is trustworthy and relevant minimizes the need for damage control when it might be too late.

Tena is a social impact consultant passionate about applying her skills to help start ups in the developing world. She is the co-founder of The Sustainability Platform, Head of Media at C3-Consult and Coach for a Cause and Dubai+Acumen chapter leader. She also holds various workshops on the theory of change and social business basics. Tena’s main interests include women empowerment, economic inclusion and community development, as well as social impact measurement. She is an international board member of two South Asian NGOs and core team member of Social Enterprise Week, an annual social enterprise conference held in Dubai.

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