Insight driven behaviour change
Written by Jeff French   

Social Marketing: Three Concepts and Three Principles

by Professor Jeff French 




Social Marketing concepts and principles are not of themselves a process or recipe for success; rather they are the ingredients necessary for successful social programs that seek to influence behavior. It is important that they are not confused with ‘process planning models’ i.e. how to plan and deliver or do social marketing such as the STELa social marketing planning model. There are specific process planning models for this purpose. Instead, the concepts and principles of social marketing are essentially the key elements that indicate if a programme is applying a social marketing approach. It is also important to recognise that these concepts and principles are not a random or arbitrary collection; rather they are derived from an evidence and experiential base about what works and what does not in the development and delivery of public sector programmes designed to deliver measurable change in behavior.

Concept 1: Insight Driven

Social marketing is based on the development of a deep ‘insight’ into people’s lives, with a clear focus on what will and will not move, motivate or enable people to change in any given situation. Insight drills down from a wide understanding of the customer (customer orientation) to focus on identifying key factors and issues relevant to influencing particular a behaviour. The approach is focused on identifying and developing ‘actionable insights’ based on all available relevant data to make considered judgments about what will help, these insights are subsequently tested through pilots and refined or rejected according to their utility.

 Concept 2: Exchange and Value Creation

The concepts of exchange and value are central to social marketing. Exchange is based on the premise that we tend to change out Behaviour when we perceive that it is in our interests to do so. We are also normally seeking value, things that make us feel better, safer or respected. 

To apply these concepts we focus on developing a deep understanding of what people say they want and value we then use this information to develop interventions, systems, products or services that people will want to engage with or use. In some cases if the data we collect tells us it is necessary we may need to use exchanges that are negative in nature , for example it may be necessary a part of a change programme to impose a fine for littering if our research tells us this would incentivise people no to drop litter.

Concept 3: Competition


A robust competition analysis is a key principle of social marketing programmes. Competition analysis examines both internal and external competition and seeks to address these forces.

Internal competition (e.g. psychological factors, pleasure, desire, risk taking, and addition)

External competition (e.g. wider influences and influencers competing for the audience’s
attention, time, and behaviour, promoting and reinforcing alternative or counter behaviours)

Strategies are then developed to minimize the potential impact of competition.


Principle 1 : Behavioural Goals


Social marketing has a clear focus for achieving impact on people’s behaviour, and is based
on the setting out of SMART behavioural goals. A broad behavioural analysis is undertaken to develop a rounded picture of the current behavioral patterns and trends, making sure to examine both, the ‘problem behaviour’; and the ‘desired behaviour’. Interventions are then developed to focus on specific behaviours (going beyond just focusing on addressing information, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs).

Interventions seek to address three key behavioural issues not just the ‘behavior change’:

1 Formulation and establishment of the behaviour - understanding what helps trigger and establish the behaviour in the first place (making sure to look at both the problem and the desired behaviour)

2 Maintenance, compliance and reinforcement of the behaviour - understanding and sustain the behaviour over time (again making sure to look at both the problem and the desired behaviour) 

3 Behavioural change - understanding what will move and motivate or assist people to make changes and what barriers need to be addressed

Social marketing is also distinguished by its explicit embrace of theory. Theory drawn from many disciplines to inform and steer the development of programmes. Theory is used to inform and guide development, with theoretical assumptions being tested as part of the developmental process. An open integrated theory approach is applied to systematically examine which form of theory offers the greatest utility in a given context, while avoiding the tendency to simply apply the same ‘preferred’ theory to every situation and context.

Principle 2: Segmentation

Social Marketing applies a segmentation approach, going beyond demographic and where relevant epidemiological and service uptake data by adding data about people beliefs, attitudes, understanding and behaviours. Target audiences are segmented using this data into sub sets that share common beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Interventions are directly tailored to specific audience segments rather than relying on ‘blanket’ ‘spray and pray’ approaches.

Principle 3: Methods Mix

Social marketing applies an appropriate mix of methods to achieve the goals of the programme: A range of different approaches are examined and used to establish the most effective, efficient and cost effective mix of methods : There are basically five ‘Types’ of intervention and four Forms of intervention:

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Last Updated on Thursday, November 19, 2015 11:28 AM