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December 1, 2010

Marketing Karma

by Howard Fox Chartered Marketer

Most of us marketers spend our working lives attempting to get
consumers to do something – usually to actually buy our products. 
But there is a whole (often overlooked) category of marketing 
where the intention is to get someone to stop doing something. 
Or perhaps even more dauntingly, getting someone to do 
something, which is not only onerous but has no direct benefit 
to themselves.
Intrigued?  ‘Social marketing’ (not to be confused with the currently much more trendy ‘social media’) is, according to Wikipedia “the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals for a social good”. Think ‘LoveLife’ – stop having unsafe sex; National Blood Services -donate blood; Don’t drink and drive.
This marketing specialisation was highlighted by my good friend John Arnesen (LinkedIn profile:http://goo.gl/F3Wqe), Director of Advocacy at SAQA – who is writing his doctorial thesis on the subject. As he points out, in many instances, social marketing promotes the ultimate intangible. Take SARS increasingly successful campaign to encourage tax compliance: there is no physical product, just a concept of ‘doing the right thing’. There is no specific benefit to the taxpayer; after all complying is likely to cost more than tax dodging (until they get caught!) 
The fundamental question is – what can marketers in a more commercial realm learn from our Social Marketing colleagues?
First off, do we perhaps believe our consumers are rather more cynically self serving and parochial than they really are? Are we missing opportunities to influence behaviour based on the social good? Certain banks’ ‘affinity cards’ appear to be a successful case study. Donating a small amount to a suitable charity / affinity group is likely to have greater impact than passing such a (small) reward back to the consumer. That is because they feel good no matter how small the donation, whereas, they may feel a little under rewarded if they received it themselves.
Secondly, let’s not forget the power of peer pressure. There is, in my opinion, increasing pressure (especially among younger consumers,) to ‘do the right thing’ with regards to environmental protection and ethical business practices such as those espoused by Fairtrade. Not only can brands no longer be seen doing the “wrong thing”, but there is distinct competitive advantage in doing more of ‘the right thing’. More importantly for marketers, friends don’t let friends buy ‘wrong’.
Thirdly, have we as marketers, in our desire to finely segment markets, lost the importance of the greater community? Pepper and Rogers’ seminal 90’s book ‘One to One Future’ (SBN-13: 978-0385485661) espoused the idea of market segments of one. Groupon (www.groupon.com) and of course Facebook (you really do have to see ‘Social Network’ it’s a case study on reputation management!), prove the greater power of the collective.
So the fundamental point is that Social Marketing again highlights the fact that we as marketers really do operate in consumers’ heads. And that gives us far greater influence than we may realise: A recent Scientific America report found that women who thought they were wearing fake designer items (they weren’t – both control groups were wearing identical original brands!) were more likely to cheat, lie and generally despise humanity.  Fundamentally there is marketing Karma.
The Marketing Fundamentalist

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