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4 Things You Need to Sell Change

It was so tempting to put a clickbait title like “4 Secrets to Selling Change” on this piece but nothing’s really a secret anymore, and readers would know that two paragraphs down. People have become smarter consumers in the past two decades. As a marketer, commercial or social, it is crucial to recognize and understand this. Whether you are selling a product or behavior, your market will know–and know quickly–if you’re giving them a load of crap.

With social media, consumers or in the case of social marketing, the target audience, are no longer just the market–they have become the marketers as well (French, 2011). This evolution of roles must be carefully considered when planning the 4Ps for social marketing.

Now what do you need when developing a social marketing mix?

  • Authenticity (product). While fake luxury items may have a market in surprising segments of the global population, fake social products don’t. Some people may pay some money for class A bags, but most people will most likely not bother changing their behavior for a benefit that is unreal, unfelt or unsustainable. In our social marketing project, our core product is safety from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and freedom to live normally again (however people defined their old normal versus the new normal). The actual product is COVID-19 vaccine/vaccination. We want non-health essential workers to get inoculated against COVID-19, but we cannot sell the prospect of being safe and free from the threats of COVID-19 if there is a huge chance the vaccines would not work. Social marketers’ position is strengthened by evidence of their product’s authenticity, whether it comes from science or the lived reality of others.
  • Customization and Credibility (promotion). No one plan fits all, and no medium has the monopoly on communication, just as no social marketer has the monopoly on good intentions. The audience is everywhere all the time, bombarded by all kinds of messages, thanks to the Internet. This is both a threat and an opportunity for social marketers. It increases the competition but it can also provide direction on how to customize the promotion to reach the target audience where and when it matters. For example, in 2019, a study found that 70% of consumers have shared a brand’s video on social media, and 70% of brands credit videos with their high conversion rate (Salzman, 2019). If videos get the job done for commercial marketers, then videos is what social marketers should do. Just remember that no matter how much you personalize your promotion, if it comes from a source with no or low credibility, it will not work. Credibility is the key to gaining trust, and trust is the key to getting your audience to do what you propose they should do (Baier, Dinwoodie and Peach, 2020).
  • Clarity of Cost (price). Everything has a price, and when money is part of the equation, it could make or break situations. Hence, it is imperative that social marketers use this concept of incentives or disincentives to advance their objectives for behavior change. Be loud and clear about the price your target audience will pay, is paying, or might pay if they do not change their behavior. Hong Kong has a hefty fine for smoking in prohibited areas and littering. Years ago, a colleague in our Hong Kong office–a heavy smoker who shrugged off these laws–had to pay HK$ 1,500 when police caught him dropping a cigarette butt outside our building. He has not thrown a single cigarette in a public space since then. The reality of the cost triggered and sustained his behavior change.
  • Accessibility (place). If you can make life easier for people, make it easier for people. Social marketers can do this by maximizing all possible distribution channels for their product so that the target audience has several options for a positive encounter with it. This will make it easier to adopt the desired behavior change. In the case of vaccination against COVID-19, social marketers must ensure that vaccines are available in barangays, places of work and many public hospitals. They can facilitate transport service or schedule vaccinations on days that are most convenient for the target audience, which could include weekends or even holidays.


French, T. (2011, July 1). We’re all marketers now. McKinsey Quarterly.  


Salzman, M. (2019, Aug. 19).  Five marketing trends for now — and what they’re trying to tell us.

            Forbes.       trends-for-now–and-what-theyre-trying-to-tell-us/?sh=53e62beec63c

Baier, N., Dinwoodie, K., & Peach E. (2020) Why we build credibility in our speeches. Speaker’s

            Handbook. University of Saskatchewan.

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