ESSAY – CAN MARKETING CHANGE BEHAVIOUR?
Peter Drucker, management consultant, said that “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself”. Marketing is more often used to sell a product or a service but it can also be used to influence consumers’ behaviour. It is called social marketing. For Kotler and Andreasen (1991), it “seeks to influence social behaviours not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target audience and the general society”. It is a way to “sell” ideas, attitudes and behaviours. Social marketing is more often used by governments to solve, for instance, health and environmental problems. However, changing people’s behaviour can be very difficult to do. In this paper we will see that there are different ways for marketing to succeed a behavioural change, not always on his own. Also, there are other alternatives needed to achieve this change. How marketing can change behaviour?
Social marketing has an important place in the behavioural change. To reach this change, companies, governments or policy makers have, at first, to understand consumers’ needs and why people behave the way they do. An effective social marketing campaign is built on an important research and on group consultation to understand their needs and motivations. Thus, they have to think about a message that can reflect the different target groups in order to be able to influence them. For instance, to reduce binge drinking among teenagers, the first thing to do would be to talk to local young people to understand why they are drinking alcohol and how we can persuade them to stop (Perspectives in Public Health, 2009, p2).
A social marketing campaign can succeed if it is well-targeted. Segmentation can sometimes be a problem because everyone does not react in the same way. We cannot promote a social campaign to all, it does not answer to everyone’s needs. Some people will not be as easily influenced than others. Segmentation accentuate individual differences. One of social marketing principles is that the audience has to be understood. Because even if the point of the campaign will remain the same, the reason why people want to change their behaviour is different from a person to another. We are not going to use the same ideas and arguments to convince them. The campaign will be different. For example, people vary in their levels of concern about pro-environmental behaviour (Corner and Randall, 2011, page 1009). Some are engaged in environmental behaviour because they are really concerned about the Earth’s future whereas other people are only engaged because they want to save money.
To target precisely, marketers can use some data, as “geo-demographic data” (Perspectives in Public Health, 2009) to know what messages would incite them to change behaviour. The best way to know the answer will be to ask a few people, who are part of the target, to respond. For instance, in the United Kingdom, Transport for London did a social marketing campaign “Stop. Think. Live.” about road safety targeting teenagers. There is a message (e.g. “My friend saw the text. He didn’t see the truck.”) and a photo of a dead teenager lied on the ground. Teenagers can reflect to this person on the photo, or it can make them think about one of their friends. Transport for London did this campaign to tell teenagers to pay attention and live. The message is clear and the picture can shock people. Then, we can think that this does not just happen to other people. Transport for London’s previous safety campaigns had an impact, “with the number of teenage deaths or serious injuries in road incidents falling by 14 per cent between 2009 and 2010” (S. Bull, 2012). Most of the time, to impact the youngest people, policy makers are using shocking images to make them react. They are the most easily influenced.
The success of a social marketing initiative depends on the...
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