Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

Implications of the Unique Characteristics of Social Causes

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

Implications of the Unique Characteristics of Social Causes

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

A large number of social change campaigns fail, either absolutely or relatively. According to Kotier, "many social change campaigns accomplish little (1989, p.5)." The reason, according to Kotler, is that they have either targeted the wrong audience, failed to develop a motivating message, or did not give the audience a way in which to respond to the message constructively. In the 21st century, the field of social cause marketing is still battling with the factors that are limiting the field, identified as 'millstones' (McAuley, 2014). But marketers overwhelmingly are focused on behavioral changes in the social cause target audience (Helmig, B. and Thaler, J.,2010). Could the solution to this dilemma lie deeper in the very characteristics of that which is being exchanged? A limited understanding of the differences between products, services and social causes may be responsible for the limited success of many social change campaigns.

As the conceptualization of marketing of services evolved, service marketers also struggled with this same phenomenon. The effectiveness of using marketing techniques for services improved once the characteristics of services were defined and understood. Marketing is a form of exchange, and the what being exchanged makes a significant difference in the planning and process of that exchange. Marketing of products requires that a consumer buy a ready-made, tangible item which will to satisfy a need. Marketing services requires that a consumer becomes part of an orchestrated buyer-seller interaction to satisfy a need. But, social marketing campaigns develop a social 'idea' which is to act as the catalyst for change in the individual. Seymour Fine stated that "ideas arise out of problem situations," and that "ideas are to problems what products are to needs and desires. Each is capable of resolving or satisfying some situation (1981, p.22)." Because social causes are intangible offerings that require behavior to change, it is difficult to formulate product concepts which are meaningful and simple to communicate to the target audience (Bloom and Novelli, 1981). Social marketers are in agreement that the bottom line for social marketing is behavior change in the target audience (Andreason, 1994, 2002).

In one of the earliest manuscripts addressing the application of marketing strategies to social change, several differences between products and social ideas were discussed by the author (Rothschild, 1979). One difference which was sighted was the fact that the personal benefits that one would gain from the adoption of a social cause could be weak. This was attributed to the possibility that there may be a much lower level of involvement associated with a social cause than with a product. First, the benefits from adopting a behavior encouraged by a social cause, have no reinforcers for possible long term behavior changes. Second, the benefits of a social cause mainly accrue to society rather than to the target audience. A third difference could be that there may not even be a latent demand for the social cause. Last, the cost of adoption by the consumer is usually not monetary, but it may be perceived as a greater expenditure than the benefit is worth. Time, effort, and/ or emotional costs all can be more limiting than monetary costs. In a later treatise on social cause marketing, Rothschild listed five differences of social issue behaviors from commercial behaviors: self-interest, exchange, competition, free choice and externalities. While the concept of self-interest is a development of the idea of personal benefits in his earlier work, the latter four are previously unmentioned differences. Rothschild states that most consumers act out of selfinterest in a social marketing world of 'other' interest, most social marketers ignore the exchange process and its importance to marketing and don't fully consider the fact that alternatives (competition) exists for all choices and that this free choice by consumers may create costs (externalities) for society (Rothschild, 1994). …

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