When the Question is: How Do You Stay Current in Social Marketing?

Recently at the World Social Marketing Conference (WSMC) in Washington, DC Hilary and I attended a plenary session entitled “Digital is the answer, what was the question?”

At times plenary sessions can strike fear into the hearts of participants; there is nowhere else to go because no other sessions go on during plenaries, they often run for a big chunk of time and everyone else at the conference is in that room, so you can’t even quietly duck out to go to the washroom without everyone knowing you left (hello, social control!).

Luckily for us, the plenaries at the WSMC were very interesting and informative. This one was particularly striking for me; the panel featured four speakers, each of whom used a different digital method in a social marketing campaign.

Below is a quick overview of each campaign and why they embody best digital practice.

Adelante Youth Development Program

Panelist: Dr. Doug Evans
Digital tactic: Victor and Erika telenovela series
What it looks like: Engaging digital prevention messages, social media advocacy and a six episode webnovela that deals with issues that Latino youth in Maryland often face. Results for the campaign as a whole included:

  • 247,212 people reached
  • 44,488 engaged (liked, clicked, shared, commented)
  • Engagement was associated with outcomes including positive sense of self and contribution to the community

Why it’s best practice worthy: Adelante worked with their target population – Latino youth in Maryland – to find out what social issues could get in the way of their developmental success. They then worked with youth in the area to write and star in the web video series. The best practices here are engaging the target audience in development and featuring them in the tactic. This is something we at ChangeMakers have heard in our research time and time again – target populations want to see people they actually know or at least someone they can relate to in communications materials.

Reduce Your Juice

Reduce Your Juice

Reduce Your Juice

Panelist: Dr. Rebekah Russell-Brandt
Digital tactic: Reduce Your Juice uses a smartphone app, emails, social media and text messages.
What it looks like: Through the various digital media, participants receive games, digital messages, activities and rewards to help participants reduce their energy usage. Reduce Your Juice gamified the reduction of energy consumption. Entire families would play the game in the app and track their energy reduction (i.e. when a certain family member turned off the lights). Rewards such as badges would be provided for hitting a certain level.
Why it’s best practice worthy: The campaign targets entire families and draws on friendly competition to garner results – drawing on some pretty powerful neuro-circuits. The campaign did a great job at getting kids involved in policing household energy consumption. Though some of us parents wish it was the other way around (!!!), kids have an amazing degree of control over parental behaviour so the change is spanning multiple generations.

Reduce Your Juice gets extra points for translating digital engagement into measurable behaviour change when families track their energy saving tactics.



Innovation Next

Panelist: Lawrence Swiader
Digital tactic: Innovation Next is a research and development program of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy.
What it looked like: A call for applications from teams of people – any combination of people interested in preventing teen and unwanted pregnancy. Teams are funded based on their passion, perspective, potential for diffusion and ability to focus on current gaps. Funded teams develop digital solutions to teen and unwanted pregnancy based on design thinking and are given selected for further funding based on innovation, focus on high-risk population and sound data. Ten teams are funded initially, five of which are funded again for further development and dissemination.
One of the 2016 winners included Boink: an app that connects young people to a team of experts and enables them to ask questions about sex and sexuality.
Why it’s best practice worthy: Innovation Next is all about grassroots digital solutions. It brings together teams of people from different background and different perspectives in order to come up with solutions to teen and unwanted pregnancy. Multiple solutions are supported that addressed different platforms, target audiences and barriers.

Boink gets extra points for avoiding vanilla-syndrome with a catchy name and answering spicy questions about positive sex and sexual health practices – an additional point of interest for teens.

Dry January.

Dry January.

Dry January Alcohol Reduction Campaign

Panelist: Jude Hackett
Digital tactic: Dry January website and app
What it looks like: Participants are able to track their current calorie consumption and amount spent on alcohol using the website. They can then download the app to track their consumption and the amount of calories and money they have saved. Results included:

  • 4,000 sign ups in 2013
  • 6 billion #dryjanuary hashtag impressions globally in 2017
  • 5 million Britons attempted Dry January in 2017
  • 67% of participants sustained reduced drinking levels after January (2016)

Participants were also able to donate if they felt good after Dry January, or create fundraising challenges to raise money for awareness surrounding problem drinking.
Why it’s best practice worthy: We think the personalized tracking app is a great way to keep people motivated and engaged. Neurobiology tells us that tracking personal benefits rev up the dopamine and endorphin circuits in our brains – the ones responsible for incentive/motivation and pleasure/reward, respectively. Way to target the brain!

Like Reduce Your Juice, Dry January gets extra points for making the behaviour trackable – the website gives overall calorie and money saving stats.

In a world where the digital landscape is changing too rapidly, it is invaluable to learn from the successes and less-than-successes of others in the field. Digital social marketing is both the current and future frontier, and when it uses the right neuroscience, social science and technological science, behaviour change can go viral.


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