When you think of something or someone turning 40 years old this year, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The classic children’s television show Sesame Street just celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2010, Starbucks’ first spice and tea shop sprouted up in Seattle in 1971, and the #4 hit song on the radio during 1971 was “It’s Too Late” by Carol King. While many of us remember the 40th anniversaries of our childhood shows, preferred stores, and lyrics to our favorite songs, there is another anniversary this year that deserves some attention.
It has been almost 40 years since social marketing became a formal discipline in July of 1971 with the publication of the article, “Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change” in the Journal of Marketing by marketing experts Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman. Kotler and Zaltman advocated to the marketing community that social causes can be advanced more successfully through applying principles of marketing analysis, planning, and control to problems of social change. While this article was written four decades ago, the nuts and bolts which Kotler and Zaltman proposed are the very same social marketing principles that us “social marketers” use today. As the anniversary of this article’s publication approaches, it is clear that social marketing is more alive than ever.
In these 40 years, social marketing has been introduced to the public health community and filled the space for a much needed mechanism to propel awareness and behavior change-focused initiatives, campaigns, and programs. While I may be almost half as young as the discipline of social marketing itself, I wanted to share one of my three favorite social marketing campaigns that still rings true in my mind as the best of the best of true social marketing campaigns. What are some of your favorite and most memorable social marketing campaigns? Look out for my top two tomorrow.
Background: Launched in February 2000, truth® is the largest national youth smoking prevention campaign and the only national campaign not directed by the tobacco industry. The campaign exposes the tactics of the tobacco industry,the truth about addiction, and the health effects and social consequences of smoking—allowing teens to make informed choices about tobacco use by giving them the facts about the industry and its products. It is designed to engage teens by exposing Big Tobacco’s marketing and manufacturing practices, as well as highlighting the toll of tobacco.
Objective: To change social norms and reduce youth smoking. Recent data has shown that historic declines in youth smoking have stalled, making truth®’s lifesaving messages more important than ever.
Strategy: Tobacco use provides some teens with an outlet to express themselves; truth® provides an alternative. Teenage years are a time of transition into adulthood and a quest for control. For some teens, tobacco use can fulfill the innate adolescent need to rebel; truth® is an alternative way to meet that need.
As a brand, truth® directly counters messages from the tobacco company brands, which spent more than $13 billion in 2005 to market their products in the U.S. alone. truth® can never match that spending, so instead it stays ahead by breaking through and being more “cutting edge.”
The truth® campaign uses research with teen audiences, marketing and social science research, and evidence from the most successful anti-tobacco campaigns to inform its strategies.
Results: The campaign has won more than 300 awards for advertising efficacy and has also been lauded by leading federal and state public health officials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and former President George W. Bush.
Legacy for Health, truth fact sheet, http://www.legacyforhealth.org/PDF/truth_Fact_Sheet.pdf