National Social Marketing Centre

Patrick Ladbury

Government social marketing lives!

Patrick Ladbury, Monday, June 20, 2011 - 12:45

Following on from the Department of Health’s recently updated social marketing strategy, The Communities and Local Government department last week launched a guide to delivering local behaviour change campaigns: Inspiring Communities, Changing Behaviour.

The guide sets out the stages required, and the key principles of behaviour change programmes. These mirror the social marketing approach that The NSMC advocates.

The resource is a very easy to read and provides some very important tips not often seen in behaviour change guides including:

  • Reviewing existing secondary research
  • Learning from those already undertaking the desired behaviour
  • The importance of working with stakeholders
  • How to run a community panel
  • The importance of setting clear behavioural goals

However I would suggest there are a few things that could have been included which would have made the resource even stronger.

  • The resource discusses the importance of understanding the barriers to change that different groups of people have (and the importance of designing different interventions for different groups). However it does not go into detail about the benefits people may receive from changing their behaviour and how programme leads can work on increasing these benefits (as well as also reducing the barriers). This is the core element of the exchange principle that lies at the heart of social marketing
  • The case studies and write-up of the projects evaluation could have been stronger if they had provided the clear behavioural goals that each project had set, and provided information on how the projects were performing against their objectives.
  • The guide provided very few statistics (but lots of anecdotal evidence). As budgets are becoming tighter the importance of statistically proving the impact of behaviour change campaigns becomes ever more necessary.
  • Before any behaviour change programme starts, policy and programme makers need to understand what limitations they may be working under (time, budget, resources, staffing available) as this will shape the actual interventions that can be developed

The current policy climate favours the use of behavioural economics and nudges to steer people into altering their behaviour. As such, the department have understood the need to take a planned social marketing approach in order to achieve sustainable behaviour change and understand where and with whom ‘nudges’ can be most effective.

I hope that the department continue to use the guide to help develop future behaviour programmes and policies. It would be good too, if they share the research insight that they develope through the programme with other government departments and organisations. (If they need a platform to do that, we have just the place: One Stop Shop!)

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