By: Brian Day, Rare’s social marketing director
Approximately 5,000 messages bombard Americans’ limited attention span daily. Which one do you remember? To get a person’s attention requires an art, to spark action requires a science.
In the United States alone, companies spend more than $100 billion a year on advertising. Even companies as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola devote over $2 billion a year to get consumers to choose their sugar water over others’. In the private sector, marketing wields power. It sells carbonated, brown sugar water even though science shows soda wreaks havoc on human health. Social marketing takes the powerful arsenal of commercial marketing tools—like posters, radio spots and stickers—and applies them to social good. For Rare that is conservation.
Rare has been amazingly successful with social marketing. Typically, advertisers consider anything close to one percent point in market shift a triumph. Rare’s numbers often spill into the double digits. When Paul Butler arrived in St. Lucia 35 years ago to help save an endemic parrot, he brilliantly harnessed the country’s pride of place—one of the strongest motivators of human behavior. (Think of the frenzy behind sports teams. That is pride of place.) Combining an emotional bond to pride with targeted marketing messages, Paul mobilized an island nation to save a parrot. Paul realized changing behavior is never easy. The only person you can really change is yourself. Marketing scientifically creates an enabling environment to make decisions. These changes in behavior are voluntary, not mandated by policy.
In order to get desired behaviors from the target audience, marketers need an intricate understanding of motivators. People do things for good reasons. Marketing is not about smart people telling dumb people what to do; it is about learning from the target audience. In marketing, perception is the reality. And you do not know how people perceive their world until you talk to them.
“Social marketing takes the powerful arsenal of commercial marketing tools – like posters, radio spots and stickers – and applies them to social good.”
Rare fights against the odds. We do not ask people at the grocery store with soda on their shopping list to buy our brand of carbonated sugar water; we ask poor people to stop fishing where they already fish. Rare’s differentiator is pride and its power to motivate a whole community to protect natural resources. We do not set out to create conservationists, we make people proud of what they already have and inspire them with targeted marketing messages to protect it. Once the community unites around that idea, the sell gets much easier.