Social Marketing – Hearts and Minds

I remember back to the days when social marketing was described as ‘spending money for a good cause without actually expecting direct sales in return’. For instance, a care home in the Midlands offered to pay £10,000 to refurbish a nursery because vandals had destroyed the building. The nursery didn’t have insurance and was struggling to find the financial support. The nursery managed to re-open and the care home received publicity and was thought of within the community as a ‘nice’ company.

Social marketing has been in existence for decades and despite it being one of the more primitive forms of marketing comparatively to traditional routes, it can win the hearts and minds of people. In turn these ‘Robin Hood’ style goodwill gestures envoked positive feelings from the public towards a company, brand or individual. A bargain for £10,000.

Social Marketing

The social marketing concept was developed in the 1970’s as a part of the marketing mix. It’s grown over time and the largest brands can be seen today marketing their services / products and showing support for organisations where socially there is an indirect benefit.

Barcelona FC is argueably (that’s not a challenge) the world’s greatest football team. Since July 2006, Barcelona has allowed Unicef to become the sponsor of their football shirt for free in a five year deal. Instead of Unicef paying Barcelona to advertise on the top, Barcelona paid £1.5million per year to Unicef for help fund the excellent work the charity provides in combating AIDS and HIV in Latin America and Africa.

The support Barcelona provided the Unicef charity – which has nothing directly to offer the footballing club – earned them plaudits around the world. The partnership catapulted the European giants into another realm that most clubs could only aspire to reach, whilst Unicef gained world wide exposure, financial donations and managed to raise awareness of their cause.

Social marketing is a powerful marketing tool that most businesses will rarely be able to consider. If a social marketing campaign truly, over-whelmingly benefits the ‘receiving’ party and at the same time offers no direct financial benefit to the generous supporter, it will be a success. Otherwise it will be an obvious PR stunt and can have serious ramifications for any brand.

Note: Social marketing is not for the faint hearted, it will typically not deliver direct results in terms of immediate sales and it will take time for word of mouth to spread. Always take advice before operating a social marketing campaign.

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