Last week, Rosanna Post and myself from TCC went to this year’s European Social Marketing Conference that was held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The conference promised to be an interesting mix of debates, examples of good practice and insight in the development of social marketing in Europe, mainly centred on health (although animals weren’t forgotten thanks to the lady representing the RSPCA on cat neutering!).
The many countries that were represented made visible where the UK stands in comparison to the rest: far ahead. Where the UK has a National Social Marketing Centre which is being supported by the government, many individuals from other countries were bravely fighting to get their organisations to also work with social marketing.
Naturally, The Campaign Company wasn’t just represented to listen, our Senior Project Officer Rosanna Post also gave a presentation on shisha smoking amongst young Turkish people in Enfield and centred on the important role of subjective and social norms in the development of social marketing interventions. The myth busting game around facts and myths about shisha proved that a whole group of health professionals do not necessarily possess eternal wisdom, for many myths weren’t busted by any of them! Did you know for example that smoking one hour of shisha is the equivalent of smoking 100-200 cigarettes? Once again reinforcing the need to conduct quality research before any social marketing interventions and avoid the assumption that knowledge is power.
Also remarkable were the two men from India, who showed that segmentation in social marketing in countries like ours is much more straightforward. They were conducting a national campaign to reduce the distance you had to travel to buy condoms but were facing major segmentation issues due to the enormous differences in regional dialects and customs. It was a very successful campaign with a minor detail: the condoms weren’t for free. Quid pro quo.
Of further interest was the presentation by Professor Ken Peattie of Cardiff Business School about the intersection between commercial marketing and social marketing. Social marketers have become more and more skilled in selling their behaviour, but also now teach the commercial marketers in stimulating sustainable behaviour, such as Unilever with its five levers for change. An important notion is that these blurring boundaries have ethical implications, but at the same time create valuable opportunities to induce behaviour change in partnership with corporate companies. A powerful development.
The overall impression I got from looking around was this: social marketing still feels new. It’s scary. Professionals are insecure about it. They are wondering: doesn’t this look a bit like what we were already doing? Some speakers were functioning almost as spiritual guides to the ones new to the field. Others were confident and have been using these approaches for a long time. They were asking different questions: how do you find out your Return on Investment? how do you accurately measure effectiveness? Despite these differences, I would say enthusiasm ruled the day along with a passion and hunger for new ways.
Thank you Rotterdam for having us, see you next time!