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A quick glance. Slow down.

September 10, 2010

One of our interests is Social Marketing which is becoming increasingly recognised as a field in its own right.  There are great resources at the National Social Marketing Centre here.Click for the story

Social Marketing, to those needing clarification, is the application of marketing tools and techniques to social objectives.  It’s not, as you might be led to believe by a Google search, to do with promotion through online social networks which logically should be called ‘social network marketing’.

All that aside, the core of social marketing is developing ways of changing people’s behaviour from  socially ‘undesirable’ to socially desirable. So that means gaining insight into how and why people are making the decisions they are making right now.

The classic examples (and those most written about in academic marketing) are smoking and taking exercise with perhaps alcohol abuse coming in third. But speeding and all kind of driving related behaviours are also targeted.

The problem is that we all know (personally) that simply setting a speed limit and putting in place legal sanctions, for example, doesn’t make us drive legally. Designers of signage and road layouts are constantly working on ways to make drivers pay attention and modify their driving behaviour  – witness those motorway signs that remind you to pull over for a break.  Possibly the most direct (and reviled) ‘behaviour modifers’ are speed bumps and speed cameras but quite radical ideas such as  the complete removal of  the separation between car and pedestrian have also been tried.

For what it’s worth, I think these latter, so-called ‘Shared Space’ schemes offer the best chance of long-term changes in driving behaviour (you can read the UK Dept for Transport assessment here) because they irrevocably change the nature of driving. Of course there are costs (slower journeys for drivers) and risks (largely to pedestrians as they are more vulnerable) but there could also be ancillary benefits. The reduction of the car ‘s advantage in towns and cities will add extra motivation for people to choose (possibly more sustainable) public transport and, thereby, increase the demand for good public transport. Another positive social outcome you might believe.

It all illustrates that Social Marketing is arguably rather more complex than conventional ‘product’ marketing. And this image, from Canada, illustrates that well-meaning marketers (though not social marketers) often miss the point.

This 3D child will have an effect on drivers. But what do you think the effect will be? And for how long?

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