Social Marketing – Part Four: What Stops People from Making a Change?

You have defined your problem. You have identified your target audience and the people who influence them. Now what? Before you develop your key messages and creative materials, you must understand what keeps your audience from making a change. This blog will cover step three in the social marketing process:

Identify/qualify the obstacles to making the change in behavior among the target audience

You selected your target audience because they are more likely to engage in a negative behavior and/or not engage in a positive behavior. In this blog on the social marketing process, we pinpoint the audience’s obstacles: the specific factors that prevent them changing their behavior. As in the previous steps of social marketing, identifying the barriers and obstacles usually requires primary and secondary research. 

In many cases, the target audience faces an awareness obstacle. They don’t change their behavior because they don’t know that a problem exists and/or how the problem affects them. We addressed an awareness barrier in our State of Wisconsin DOSE OF REALITY Opioid Abuse Prevention Campaign with our parent and educator audience. Many did not know that opioid abuse among teenagers had increased in recent years. As a result, they could not look for signs of drug abuse and practice safe storage and disposal of their medications. 

Other times, an audience knows about the problem but faces a specific practical challenge. This was the case in our RECYCLE FOR GOOD Campaign to Increase Recycling in the City of Milwaukee. Through our primary research, we found that although our key audience supported recycling, they did not know which items to recycle and when their recycling cart needed to be put out for pick up. This led to the Milwaukee Department of Public Works instituting a more regular and frequent schedule for recycling pick-up.

Occasionally, apathy or a negative emotional response can prevent an audience from changing their behaviors. This obstacle calls for a much different messaging strategy than an awareness or practical obstacle. For example, with the COVID-19 pandemic, positive actions that can be taken to help keep people from getting or spreading the virus have been associated with initiatives not directly related to the public health actions. That’s why AFFIRM’s approach to this issue attempts to remove that noise and focus on the things that bring people together in Wisconsin through our “Let’s Beat COVID-19 Wisconsin Style” Campaign. 

It’s important to fully understand your target audience’s point-of-view. If you cannot  identify and address the barriers they face in taking the desired action(s), your social marketing campaign will not be successful. Once you have identified obstacles, you can move on to the next phase in the social marketing process, which we will discuss in our next installment of our Social Marketing blog series. 

We hope that the tips in these blogs can help you create memorable campaigns that inspire positive change in your community. If you want to see a social marketing campaign in action, check out our new campaign, Let’s Beat COVID-19 Wisconsin Style on AFFIRM’s social media or website. And as always, if you need assistance developing your social marketing strategy, the experts at AFFIRM can help! 

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Affirm Agency

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