The Financial Express

Social marketing - a proven tool for social development

| Updated: October 22, 2017 17:48:16

Social marketing - a proven tool for social development
For the first seven decades of the twentieth century, marketing was regarded as strictly an activity performed by businesses. In 1969, in one of their classic articles, Marketing Guru Philip Kotler and Sidney J. Levy claimed, "Marketing is a pervasive societal activity that goes considerably beyond the selling of toothpaste, soap and steel". Traditional marketing principles are transferable to the marketing organisations, persons, and ideas. Kotler and Levy's article generated much discussion and a debate also ensued among academics. Following the debates before and during 1974, it has been generally agreed that social marketing is here to stay and that it has many benefits to offer to society.
Social marketing means using marketing principles and techniques to influence target audience behaviour that will benefit society as well as the individual. Social marketers try to bring four behavioural changes. These are: 1.Accept a new behaviour, 2. Reject a potential undesirable behaviour, 3.Modify a current behaviour, and 4. Abandon an old undesirable behaviour. Social marketing differs from commercial marketing in that the goal is to improve individual and societal well-being rather than to increase profitability, with the ultimate beneficiary being society or the individual, rather than the organisation carrying out the social marketing activity. Numerous social marketing programmes have been implemented in Bangladesh by multiple change agents. Government-controlled institutions (such as Department of human rights, Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Department of Narcotics Control, Ministry of Disaster Management),  international agencies (such as UNICEF, WHO, Action Aid, USAID ), non-government agencies (such as BRAC, SMC)  have led several successful social marketing campaigns in Bangladesh. These change agents have applied social marketing approach to prevent physical and mental injury, control pollution, encourage healthy behaviour, improve financial well being of target audience and involve community in social development. Some of the notable examples are National Arsenic Communication Strategy and campaign by the UNICEF and DPHE,  road safety awareness campaign at national and community level by BRAC with the help of Danish embassy, drug prevention and control programme by Dhaka Ahsania Mission, raising awareness against acid violence by  Acid Survivors Foundation, creating mass awareness about electricity saving by Power Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, creating awareness about family planning programmes and products by Social Marketing Company (SMC) , immunisation campaign to prevent measles and rubella by Ministry of Health and Women Welfare.
There is evidence of association between timing of social marketing programmes and positive trend of social development indicators in Bangladesh. Diarrhea accounted for one-third of all child deaths in the 1970s and 1980s, while another third was attributable to six immunisable diseases. BRAC responded by scaling up the Oral Therapy Extension Program (OTEP) which
provided oral rehydration solution using an simple substitute. BRAC ran another scheme - the Child Survival Programme (CSP) - to promote the government's efforts to attain 'Health for All' by 2000 through reducing child and maternal morbidity. Not surprisingly, by early 1990s, Bangladesh had a higher percentage of immunised children compared to other countries of similar income level. In 2007, 80 per cent people knew that arsenic can be a problem with tubewell water, which is much higher than the late 1990s before the arsenic awareness campaign began. Open defecation shows a remarkable decline, from 33 per cent in 1990 to 6 per cent in 2009. This profound behaviour change has been possible due to the Coordinated National Sanitation Campaigns since 2003 using community-based approaches. The government, N.G.Os, community groups, private and voluntary organisations have taken various social marketing intervention measures to control the prevalence of HIV in Bangladesh. 
Social Marketing programmes are facing several barriers in Bangladesh. Social campaigns are raising the awareness level and knowledge of people but not strengthening their willingness to act in many instances. Social Marketing organisations in Bangladesh are also suffering from lack of financial sustainability, shortage of skilled and efficient employees, inadequate infrastructure and corruption.
Effective measures are required to ensure successful implementation of Social marketing programmes. Social marketing experts should be trained on commercial marketing techniques with additional training in various social science disciplines. Attention should also be given to establish a strong academic base of social marketing in Bangladesh. Specialised degrees and training can be offered on social marketing from universities and other educational institutions. 
The writer is Lecturer, Department of  Marketing, Bangladesh University of Business and Technology. [email protected]

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