fosteringsustainablebehaviorby Katrina Landau

So what exactly is social marketing, and how does it work to change peoples’ behaviors? While traditional marketing works by raising public awareness, social marketing works to identify barriers to behaviors and create long-lasting change. Instead of taking a to-down approach to simply convey information, many environmental educators are now striving to learn about the target audience, and build their programs from there. In this way we work to benefit the general society by influencing social behaviors, rather than to make money or fulfill a “bottom line.”

The ultimate objective of social marketing is to influence action.We can educate people about the environmentally sound way to do things, but if they don’t change their behaviors we might as well just save our breath! In the case of environmental issues we must convince people that the benefits of acting in an environmentally responsible manner outweigh the costs of doing nothing. e must understand and listen to our community members, and try to understand why people choose the behaviors that they do. Once we decide on a direction, our strategies must be flexible and as practitioners we must be prepared to alter our strategies when necessary.

In the book Fostering Sustainable Behavior (New Society Press, 1999), Doug McKenzie-Mohr and Williams Smith present a blueprint for social marketing campaigns. Pointing out the failures of many social marketing campaigns to actually change behaviors, they advocate for a new Community-Based Social Marketing approach. This approach outlines a number of pieces essential to a successful social marketing campaign, which begins by identifying barriers and benefits to behaviors.

Next, a system of tools is developed to initiate behavior change. Finally, a strategy must be designed that utilizes behavior change tools. This strategy is subsequently piloted with a small segment of the community, and the effectiveness and impact of the pilot is evaluated before the campaign is taken into the larger community.

-From the article “Community-Based Social Marketing for Environmental Change” by Katrina Landau in CLEARING #120 (Spring 2006).