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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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.

Book Review: Strategic Social Marketing

Strategic Social Marketing Book Cover

Jeff French and Ross Gordon, Strategic Social Marketing. London: SAGE Publications, Ltd. 2015. 448 pp. $155.00 (hardcover), $59.00 (paper-back), $37.60 (Kindle edition)

ISBN 978-1-44624-861-1 (hardcover), ISBN 978-1-44624-862-1 (paperback)

Ann-Marie Kennedy of Auckland University of Technology recently took the time to review Jeff French and Ross Gordon’s book in the Journal of Macromarketing. Here is an excerpt from her review:

Strategic Social Marketing by Jeff French and Ross Gordon provides a well-rounded view of social marketing that will broaden each reader’s understanding of the concept. In a refreshing take on social marketing, they focus on strategic social marketing, which is defined as: ‘‘The systemic, critical and reflexive application of social JMMK_new C1 template.inddmarketing principles to enhance social policy selection, objective setting, planning and operational delivery’’ (p. 45). Taking a more macro view, this is different from other books on social marketing that focus on individual level behavior change almost exclusively.

Throughout the authors develop the reader’s understanding of social marketing from traditional concepts to the latest discussions and conceptualizations among academics. This should not be surprising given the authors’ contributions to recent developments in social marketing thought within and beyond the Journal of Social Marketing. Not shying away from both sides of the story, they also present criticism, contradictions, and critiques, blending theory to aid readers in reaching their own conclusions. With thoughtful insights and enlightened citations, this is a must read for anyone in the area.

You can read the full review from Journal of Macromarketing by clicking here. Like what you read? Click here to sign up for e-alerts for the latest research and articles published by the Journal of Macromarketing.

CVS to Stop Selling Tobacco Products: Major Policy Change

Wednesday’s headlines brought us the news that CVS stores will  stop selling tobacco smoking-167066_640[1]products by October 1st.  As CVS is moving into providing healthcare in addition to drugs, it’s no surprise that Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said in a statement, “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

In light of this news, we are delighted to provide free access for a limited time to several  articles that focus on behavior and policy change relative to tobacco use:

Looking for Social Marketing Research Inspiration?

Research in Social Marketing has celebrated much research success for over forty years. In the latest article from Social Marketing Quarterly, author V. Dao Truong outlines not only the achievements made, but the possible pathways for further exploration. Truong reviews the literature here:

Since the term social marketing was formalized (Kotler & Zaltman, 1971), it has attracted increased SMq Coverattention of scholars and practitioners in differing disciplines as evidenced by the growing number of academic and practical articles published globally (Truong & Hall, 2013). By using the tools of generic marketing to promote voluntary behavior change in target audience for collective welfare, social marketing has demonstrated its potential in a number of sectors. These include health (Bryant, Forthofer, Brown, Landis, & McDermott, 2000; Gordon, McDermott, Stead, & Angus, 2006; MacKintosh, MacFadyen, & Hastings, 1999), communication and transportation (Cooper, 2007; Fox & Kotler, 1980), environmental protection, sustainable development (Kennedy, 2010; McKenzie-Mohr, 1994; McKenzie-Mohr, Schultz, Lee, & Kotler, 2012; Tabanico & Schultz, 2007), and tourism and leisure (McKenzie-Mohr et al., 2012; Truong & Hall, 2013). Social marketing’s successes can be found in many case studies and reports (Cork, 2008; Doner, 2003; Gordon et al., 2006; McKenzie-Mohr et al., 2012; Stead, Gordon, Angus, & McDermott, 2007).

Click here to read “Social Marketing: A Systematic Review of Research: 1998-2012” for free! Sign up for e-alerts to get the latest from Social Marketing Quarterly by clicking here!

Are Facebook Fan Pages Effective?

Social marketers are out to create change—and there’s nothing like social media to spread the word to massive amounts of people. But beyond getting “liked,” does a Facebook fan page actually influence the way people think and behave?

In the first SAGE-published issue of Social Marketing Quarterly (SMQ), Paige Woolley and Michael Peterson, both of the University of Delaware, examine the impact of a Facebook fan page on its followers. “Efficacy of a Health-Related Facebook Social Network Site on Health-Seeking Behaviors” was published in the March 2012 edition of SMQ. Click here to access all articles in this issue.

The abstract:

The current study was designed to determine the impact of a health-related Facebook fan page on health-seeking actions, thoughts, and behaviors. Ninety Get Up and Do Something (GUADS) fans who were 18 years and older completed an online questionnaire about their perceptions, use, and reaction to a Facebook page. Results revealed the GUADS Facebook page prompts healthseeking actions by motivating fans to search for more health information online. The page positively influences health-related thoughts and behaviors by motivating and reminding fans to engage in healthy behaviors. Frequency of seeing, clicking, and reading GUADS posts was significantly related to health information seeking and health-related thoughts and behaviors. Results suggest that Facebook may be an effective medium to help individuals maintain and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

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