When you meet someone for the first time (friend of a friend, parent of a friend, someone random on the street who starts talking to you), you are inevitably compelled to make conversation. Sometimes it’s small talk. Sometimes it’s more substantial. But always…always…the question comes up. “What do you do?”
When I first started at Ogilvy, I used to say “Social Marketing.” But then the endless amount questions followed. How do you explain something so complex to a person you hardly know? They may have little understanding of communications and marketing, never mind the intricacies of behavior change principals we employ on a daily basis. After a few months of looking at confused faces as I tried to articulate myself around the concept of social marketing, I changed my answer.
“What do you do?” they would ask. And I began say “Cause Marketing.” With this answer, people immediately understood that my job involves marketing for the ‘good’ of society. People got it. Well…kind of. Cause marketing technically involves for-profit businesses helping out non-profit cause(s) in one way or another, whether it is through corporate giving, or through collaboration on other cause-related programming. But I also personally work on behalf of two public Federal agencies. So my answer “Cause Marketing” wasn’t really accurate across all of my accounts.
Social marketing involves the application of consumer marketing principles to the promotion of ideas and practices to create awareness and change attitudes and behaviors regarding social issues. Public safety, violence reduction, environmental sustainability, the promotion of volunteerism, and health and well-being are all social marketing topics, just to name a few. Social marketing can be used to change intentions around perception of risk and social norms, and can additionally provide skills needed to carry out specific behaviors to improve the health and safety of individuals, or of a population, or even of an ecosystem. (Imagine saying this at a dinner party…)
My conclusion: There is sometimes an overlap between social marketing and cause marketing. For example, one project I work on involves a corporate organization that aims to advance education. We apply behavior change tactics to encourage people to give back to their local educational communities, reward teachers for hard work, and volunteer in their local school systems. Social marketing. The project also involves corporate giving to educational non-profits through corporate social responsibility. And with this, the program promotes consumer purchasing behavior. Cause marketing.
“What do you do?” I now have it down to just a few short and sweet sentences:
“I work in social marketing. I use traditional communications principals and apply them to help others change their behaviors for the ‘social good.’ It’s kind of like cause marketing—making a difference.”