3 Take-Aways from the World Social Marketing Conference

By Anabel Gomez, PSI Global Social Marketing Advisor

Considered a leading organization in social marketing, PSI presented multiple abstracts at the World Social Marketing conference in Sydney, Australia, earlier this month. In addition, plenty of lessons came from peer organizations, governments and marketing firms throughout the world. Here are three not-to-miss campaigns that PSI could iterate upon to do even more for “Sara,” PSI’s archetype of the customer it serves in the field.

  1. Interdisciplinary Approaches

Complex social issues need comprehensive interdisciplinary approaches in order to be successful. The Australian government looked deeply into the problem of the health and welfare of its extremely overweight citizenry, and launched a campaign to increase knowledge about the minimum required intake of fruit and vegetables. The government believed it was important to educate children and their parents through the school system, a traditional channel, but that wasn’t nearly enough. In order to implement a multilevel intervention, it approached retailers to sell fruits and vegetables at a reduced cost and supplied them with healthy recipes at the point of sale. In addition, community members gave nutrition talks at workplaces, stocking their staff canteens with healthy choices. The intervention has been so popular that the UK’s National Health Service is looking to possibly replicate it.

It also impressed PSI staff.

“This approach challenges platforms in PSI to think of their interventions … to think of what’s in it for everyone in the wider society in which Sara lives,” explained Leah-Mari Richards a Program Director at PSI Myanmar.

At PSI, we are tasked with looking at world of the woman we serve in its entirety in order to systematically understand how we can affect positive change — even in areas where we haven’t traditionally worked. This idea is strongly aligned to PSI’s strategic direction and vision.

  1. Digital Tools Can Foster Behavior Change

The conference also provided great insight into how many organizations were harnessing the power of digital tools to create behaviour change as well as shape markets in some cases. The “What’s My Number” campaign from New Zealand helped people make informed decisions about which electricity supplier to use in a newly deregulated industry. The www.whatsmynumber.org.nz website enables people to quickly identify whether they can save money on their electricity bills by using a simple calculator. If eligible, people wanting to access these savings can then link to a consumer site (www.powerswitch.org.nz) to initiate the switch to a new retailer. The fact that people could easily switch and that complex pricing strategies were broken down in an easy to understand format put competitive pressure on the providers and drove innovation in electricity companies in order for them to get the competitive edge.

PSI already has some great programs that use technology, such as LAC’s cyber peer educators, but with the deep penetration of phone usage in Africa, we could we do more to use technology more effectively to create real behavior change. How must adapt to Sara’s reality, which often includes having access to a cell phone and using SMS text messaging regularly. Social marketing programs that use digital tools could target her with e-vouchers, important messages and other digital bells and whistles, which will mean she is no more than a few keystrokes away from PSI’s health products and services.

“I think we can do more to bring this expansive view to our approach to social marketing to achieve a better life for Sara,” said Petra Stankard, a Technical Advisor at PSI Washington.

  1. Better Segmentation

As public health officials we want to help the entire population, but in order to target resources to the place they are most needed, we need to use segmentation. And before that, we first need to understand where the need is.

Rescue SCG, an anti-smoking campaign in the United States, didn’t know exactly who or how to target so it started broadly. So it began by asking questions about smoking behaviors by age group. But after researchers discovered that the most risky smoking-related behaviors were occurring in teenagers, they decided to further segment the age group by musical preference. Thus, they gleaned that Country Western and Hip Hop music fans were most likely to be smokers. They also identified attitudes and habits the fans associated with the music. They built a campaign targeting Country Western fans by framing it around open spaces and the love of freedom. For Hip Hop fans, the message was spiked with graffiti and reflected anti-establishment ideals.

Similarly, our strategic plan’s focus on getting to know Sara better will lead to a deeper level of research and segmentation, bringing useful insights to the fore. For example, a recent IDEO.org-led human-centered design workshop in Tanzania uncovered that boys flirt by showing girls a condom. The team quickly integrated messages that resonated with the boys and the girls they were flirting with into their condom packaging strategy.

However, deeper segmentation is needed. “We can dilute our messaging by incorporating too many messages,” said Julia Roberts, Deputy Regional Director, Latin America/Caribbean. “We need to develop even more specific archetypes along a greater spectrum in order to be more effective.”

All in all, these creative campaigns are sure to spark further innovation among PSI’s social marketing team. Interdisciplinary approaches, digital tools, and smart segmentation will allow us to better serve Sara by adapting to her life circumstances and serving her where she lives.

Photo Credit: Jake Lyell