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Why Do We Make It Click?

Why Do We Make It Click?

Not many years ago, Kiwis laughed at the thought of putting on a seat belt. They lit up a smoke where and when they felt like it and thought nothing of scoffing a couple of bottles of wine before getting in the car and driving home.

Things have changed. People’s attitudes to these kinds of behaviours have for the most part changed. But how did the changes come about? Why do we “make it click”? What makes us think, “If you drink then drive, you’re a bloody idiot?”

According to an international expert currently in New Zealand to present to an Australasian conference in Wellington, the answer is “social marketing”.

Professor Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute for Social Marketing in the UK and Professor of Social Marketing at the University of Strathclyde has built up a reputation in a field which many claim to understand, but are mistaken.

Professor Hastings says social marketing is often confused with social advertising, and seen as tackling complex social and health behaviours with glossy, superficial and expensive mass media campaigns targeted at individuals. But this is not so, as delegates at the Social Marketing Down Under Conference will hear.

“Social marketing is not social advertising,” Professor Hastings says. “It is much broader, sophisticated and radical than that. We haven’t just borrowed ideas from Madison Avenue, we’ve pillaged the Board Room. We recognise that the Philip Morrises and Diageos of this world haven’t succeeded simply by producing nice billboards, but by developing a whole business process that ensures that the customer welcomes their products and the environment favours purchase and consumption.”

Professor Hastings says the former demands a comprehensive and long term consumer marketing - not advertising – strategy, the latter sophisticated courtship of the movers and shakers – or stakeholder marketing.

“We have learnt from this. We welcome the challenge not just to frighten folk with the dire consequences of their behaviour – as public health so often does - but to build supportive relationships with them. We proclaim that the marketing environment is critical to success. Social marketing, is about social not just individual change. We recognise that our behaviour change thinking can be applied just as effectively to Government ministers as teenage smokers. Denormalisation, the key lesson to emerge from 20 years of tobacco control, fits this thinking like a glove,” Professor Hastings says.

“Above all, we know all about competitive analysis; that tackling smoking without hobbling the tobacco industry is like ignoring the mosquito in the fight against malaria, that fast food marketing is part of the obesity problem and producing an alcoholic beverage described as ‘vodka toffee’ is going to encourage inappropriate drinking. And we can take on these competitors because we understand marketing: we know where the bodies are buried.”

Professor Hastings says social marketers have much of which to be proud.

“We might not have a magic bullet, but we do bring valuable and original thinking to the behaviour change world.”

The Social Marketing Down Under conference has attracted delegates from throughout New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.

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