Microtargeting and Normative Appeals to Increase Social Marketing Efficiency

[Alexander L. Metcalf of the University of Montana, Justin W. Angle
of the University of Montana, Conor N. Phelan of the University of Montana, B. Allyson Muth of Penn State University, and James C. Finley of of Penn State University recently published an article in Social Marketing Quarterly titled “More “Bank” for the Buck: Microtargeting and Normative Appeals to Increase Social Marketing Efficiency.” We are pleased to welcome Dr. Yang as a contributor and happy to announce that the findings will be free to access on our site for a limited time. They have provided further insights regarding the inspiration behind the research below.]

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We were motivated to pursue this research because so many conservation outcomes are dependent on human behavior and we saw a tremendous opportunity to modernize the toolkit used by conservation advocates and outreach specialists to improve natural resource stewardship. National media stories have been dominated by negative stories about big data and digital marketing by political campaigns, social media, and corporate interests, yet few people have explored how these tools might help achieve conservation goals or promote the public good. The most challenging aspect of this work was conducting a randomized controlled trial in a real world setting; experiments that allow us to truly demonstrate efficacy are relatively easy in the laboratory. In contrast, our field experiment required years of planning and coordination within our team and with our outreach partners. After all this work, our results demonstrated there is large, untapped potential to apply modern marketing tools to address critical environmental challenges, especially by connecting conservation appeals to each individual’s personal values. .

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Can Social Marketing Be Used to Decrease Demand for Illegal Wildlife Products?

[Dr. Steven Greenfield of the University of Cambridge and Diogo Verıssimo of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation and Research and the University of Oxford recently published an article in Social Marketing Quarterly titled “To What Extent Is Social Marketing Used in Demand Reduction Campaigns for Illegal Wildlife Products? Insights From Elephant Ivory and Rhino Horn.” We are pleased to welcome them as a contributors and happy to announce that the findings will be free to access on our site for a limited time. Below, further insights regarding inspiration behind the research, as well as additional information not included in the final publication, are available.]

For the last 50 years social marketers have been using marketing principles to promote behaviours that positive for individual citizens but also for society as a whole, such as healthy eating, family planning and physical exercise. More recently, principles of social marketing have also been applied to wildlife conservation. The illegal wildlife trade is a topic that has gathered a lot of interest from those looking to influence consumers of illegal wildlife products. While the wildlife trade is very diverse, encompassing anything from illegal fishing to trade in ornamental plants or pet animals, some of the products that get the most attention are elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. These charismatic animals hold a lot of sway with audiences in western countries and as such, much has been done in the last decade to try and change consumers’ minds when it comes to buying these products.

Yet, despite the increased attention given to social marketing when it comes to tackling the demand for wildlife products, it is important to acknowledge that social marketing is a complex framework, and its implementation can be challenging. In particular, the controversial nature of the topic, added to the fact that, traditionally, most conservationists have been trained in natural sciences and thus, have limited experience in the social sciences broadly and behavioral sciences more specifically. This context led us to examine the extent to which social marketing was actually being used in campaigns to reduce demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn.

To go about this, we first had to have a clear idea of what defines a social marketing intervention. We used the benchmarks created by the UK’s National Social Marketing Centre. After interviewing representatives of several NGOs working to reduce demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn, our research concluded that while there were substantial differences between organizations, overall there was limited evidence of the use of social marketing. There were also substantial differences in attention given to different benchmarks, with some, like attention to competition, being virtually ignored and others, such as customer orientation or audience segmentation, given at least some attention by all the organizations interviewed.

One key result of this research, is the limited consideration given to the exchange benchmark, which focuses on considering the costs and benefits of adopting a new behaviour, from the perspective of the target audiences. It is worth singling out this benchmark as it has deep conceptual impacts on the way we think about behaviour change. First, because this benchmark makes it clear that we have to fully consider the costs incurred when changes in behaviour occur and second, it makes it clear that this understanding must be framed from the point of view of the target audience. These two issues are key as interventions designed to preserve biodiversity are often designed without fully considering opportunity and social costs of changing any behaviour and as if the target audience shared the high value placed on wildlife that most conservationists would subscribe to. The reality is that, for many people in the world, wildlife, and wildlife conservation is an afterthought that has to compete with the many concerns they come across in their busy daily lives. As such, without framing these campaigns around genuine benefits exchanges that are compelling to consumers of these products, there is little chance of success. No doubt the way forward will be to ensure that demand reduction interventions make full use of the social marketing benchmarks to increase the chances of impact and see the success in fields such as public health be replicated in wildlife conservation.

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Implications of Work Effort and Discretion for Employee Well-Being and Career-Related Outcomes

Researchers and Authors Argyro Avgoustaki of ESCP Europe Business School and Hans T. W. Frankort of the University of London recently published in article in the ILR Review entitled, “Implications of Work Effort and Discretion for Employee Well-Being and Career-Related Outcomes: An Integrative Assessment,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below they discuss the motivations and findings of this research.


What motivated you to pursue this research?

In an earlier study (Avgoustaki 2016), one of us examined factors predicting employee overtime. A natural follow-on question is how overtime relates to employee-level outcomes. Several reflections on this question motivated our current study. First, a broad and multidisciplinary literature shows that overtime predicts reduced well-being. The popular press often portrays this finding as signifying merely the kind of inconvenience that employees must endure to make headway in their careers. Yet, we were surprised to find no studies directly examining such folk wisdom, through systematic comparisons of the well-being and career-related implications of overtime. Second, while overtime is the type of work effort receiving most attention among practitioners and policy makers, employees often work at high speed or to tight deadlines and so they can also experience high levels of work intensity. We realized that little was known about the relative power of overtime versus work intensity in predicting employee outcomes. Thus, we set out to examine overtime and work intensity as predictors of both well-being and career-related outcomes in a representative sample of close to 52,000 European employees.

Were there any surprising findings?

First, we find that work effort broadly predicts unfavorable outcomes, both in terms of employee well-being and career-related implications. In other words, overtime and work intensity seem not to predict a balance of favorable and unfavorable outcomes, where career-related progress somehow makes up for decreased well-being.

Second, although both overtime and work intensity predict unfavorable outcomes, we find that work intensity is the stronger predictor in virtually all our analyses. Thus, one might ask whether the common concern of employers and policy makers with overtime and hours of work in some way misses the mark. Perhaps it is not the duration of work but its intensity that requires greater attention.

Third, we asked whether work effort predicts better outcomes in employees that have the discretion to decide how and when to perform their work. We find some such evidence, although we were surprised to observe that increased work effort remains associated with inferior outcomes even in employees with more discretion. Perhaps more surprisingly, work intensity in employees with discretion often remains a stronger predictor of unfavorable outcomes than overtime in employees without discretion.

How will this research have an impact?

We hope that our research will contribute towards a broader awareness of the possible adverse implications of excessive work effort, in general, and work intensity, in particular. Such awareness is important for employees, who must consider that the costs of excessive effort might outweigh its benefits. Greater awareness is important also for employers and policy makers interested in stimulating productive and sustainable effort. Beyond established initiatives to limit the duration of work, we believe strategies that limit the adverse implications of intensive work merit greater consideration.

Cited reference

Avgoustaki, Argyro. 2016. Work uncertainty and extensive work effort: The mediating role of human resource practices. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 69(3): 656-682.

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The Effect of Workplace Inspections on Worker Safety

Ling Li of the University of Wisconsin– Parkside and Perry Singleton of Syracuse University recently published in article in the ILR Review entitled, “The Effect of Workplace Inspections on Worker Safety,” which is free to read for a limited time. The abstract for the article is below:

ilra_71_4_coverThe US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces safety regulations through workplace inspections. The authors estimate the effect of inspections on worker safety by exploiting a feature of OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting plan. The program targeted establishments for inspection if their baseline case rate exceeded a cutoff. This approach generated a discontinuous increase in inspections, which the authors exploit for identification. Using the fuzzy regression discontinuity model, they find that inspections decrease the rate of cases that involve days away from work, job restrictions, and job transfers in the calendar year immediately after the inspection cycle. They find no effect for other case rates or in subsequent years. Effects are most evident in manufacturing and less evident in health services, the largest two-digit industries represented in the data.

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Evaluating Social Marketing Campaigns

[We’re pleased to welcome author Diogo Veríssimo of Johns Hopkins University. He recently published an article in Social Marketing Quarterly entitled “Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Veríssimo provides insight on impact evaluation and behaviour change:]

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Measuring change is hard. But it is also critical to programs hoping to influence human behaviour towards more positive societal outcomes. In a newly published paper, Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns, we tackle the challenge of evaluating social marketing campaigns targeting fishing communities in the Philippines with the goal of driving the adoption of more sustainable fishing practices at the community level.

Research on impact evaluation is vital to improve implementation, particularly in high uncertainty high complexity environment such as those in which social marketing operates. By measuring our impact we can first ensure we do no harm and then learn what works, to improve with each iteration. This is even more pressing in the environmental context, as we have lagged far behind sectors such as public health or international development in impact evaluation. Therefore, our goal with this paper was to showcase how we can raise the bar on the evaluation of behaviour change efforts, in this case social marketing, in a particularly changing subject, that of fisheries management in the tropics.

Our work focused on the evaluation of three social marketing campaigns in the Philippines, using a quasi-experiments design of match campaign and control sites. We measured both social indicators through surveys and biological indicators using underwater ecological surveys. We found limited evidence of behaviour change amongst fisherman and no evidence of change in fish biomass as a result of the campaigns. Yet, we also discussed the fact that this last result is fully expected, given how long fisheries take to recover, a timeline often measured in decades, not years. This has implications not only for the way that we plan and implement social marketing campaigns but also for donors who should be aware that expecting biological change in the often short project cycles may just be unrealistic.

Moreover, our research hopes to highlight the difficulties of carrying out competent impact evaluations in a context where both social and biological indicators need to be measured and where both terrestrial and in-water data is needed. This has obvious implications in terms of cost, not only in terms of money, time and staff but also in terms of required technical expertise. Project budgets need to reflect this reality if we are to be truly evidence-based and take responsibility for the interventions we implement. After all it is not about success and failure, it should most of all be about learning.

Building Consensus through the Delphi Model

[We’re pleased to welcome authors D. Scott Borden of Western State Colorado University, Gareth Shaw and Tim Coles of University of Exeter Business School. They recently published an article in Social Marketing Quarterly entitled “Consensus Building in Social Marketing Campaigns Through the Delphi Method,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Borden provides insight on the Delphi Model:]

SMQ_20_2_C1 & C5.inddWhile this piece highlights best practices for promoting water efficiency behavior in tourism accommodation, we focus heavily on the innovative applications of new and, in this case, past methods to aid in promoting social causes. With better tools, and use of them, we can collectively move Social Marketing forward. Additionally, the US, if not the world, has never been, in our lifetime, less in consensus on key issues. There is little question that the Delphi Method is a polarizing tool. Some scholars point to the small sample size or the subjectivity of opinion by ‘experts.’ Though we too hold a healthy skepticism of the Method and attempt to highlight these in the paper, we also see great opportunity for better standardizing the method to bringing people together in consensus. In particular, we appreciate how the Delphi Method honors the voice of the practitioner whom can, at time, be omitted from academic discourse. In this paper, we found the Delphi Method to be an effective tool for building consensus on prioritizing social marketing initiatives. However, we also believe that methods such as these have far reaching applications to current efforts. With this in mind, we look forward to reading of further ideas on applying this tool, and others, in improving the field of Social Marketing and efforts to better our world.

Macro-Social Marketing and Gun Violence in America

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Traditionally marketing has focused on how to change individual’s behavior in order to buy a product. What media strategies can increase sales, and how to associate values with products? With the advent of the social marketing fields, analysis focused on how conventional marketing tools could be used to change behavior to improve one’s well being and address social problems. While there is a wealth of literature that looks at how government agencies can utilize marketing tools to effect individuals engaged in certain behavior, there has been little research on how NGO’s utilize the same tools to alter behavior and invoke policy changes.

Researchers and Authors Aimee Dinnin Huff, Michelle Barnhart, Brandon McAlexander, and Jim McAlexander perform a pertinent expansion of this field by  looking at how American Gun Violence Prevention groups (GVPGS) act as macro-social marketers.

They recently published in article in the Journal of Macromarketing entitled, “Addressing the Wicked Problem of American Gun Violence: Consumer Interest Groups as Macro-social Marketers,” which is free to read for a limited time. The abstract for the article is below:

Building on work on social and macro-social marketing, we provide an empirical account of ways in which American gun violence prevention groups (GVPGs) act as macro-social marketers as they address the wicked problem of gun violence, which they define as deaths and injuries with firearms. We find that, as a collective, GVPGs attempt to change the culture related to guns by targeting up-, mid-, and downstream agents. We contribute to theory by (1) expanding the concept of macro- social marketing beyond government entities to include consumer interest groups and collectives; (2) introducing internal marketing as a macro-social marketing tool critical for macro-social marketers dependent largely on volunteers; (3) elucidating ways that macro-social marketers can accomplish upstream changes indirectly, by encouraging consumers and citizens to influence policy makers; and (4) revealing marketing tactics that can be leveraged across up-, mid-, downstream, and internal efforts.

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