Social marketing: the need and bizarre consequences

social marketing

Social marketing is an activity that by its very nature must do something good for society. Do it selflessly and free of charge. Most likely, that at a time when the company is starting to use corporate social responsibility (CSR), it’s no longer about any social marketing.

Cause-related marketing is starting, as the company is working on the brand with the help of cognitive biases and other human evolutionary features. Such activities will result in both further increase in customer loyalty and increase in profits.

Moreover, in developed markets, cause-related marketing (like social one) has become so commonplace that they can’t do without it at all. For example, most American consumers expect this kind of marketing from companies.

But what social marketing can affect even more than it affects consumers? Just stop and think. Before finding out the answer, I suggest understanding what is behind social marketing.

High sociality of our species is a feature that has allowed people to become a civilization. But in order to become a social species, the brain had to change. It had to learn to trust the representatives of one’s own group and react hostilely to representatives of other groups (which subsequently resulted in racism and chauvinism).

From a biological point of view, our main goal is to leave as many qualitative offspring as possible. Even the survival logic is subject to reproduction: the more you live, the higher the probability of more extensive offspring is. Of course, due to that need, there have appeared some behavioral tools that increased the likelihood of survival.

Helping another person, altruism, is an unconscious mechanism that increases the chances of getting help in return in the future. Our body encourages such behavior by hormones. Therefore, it is pleasant to help. Especially, if you help a member of your group. People are unlikely to help a member of another group. Only if there are strong moral beliefs.

Social marketing, like cause-related one, indulges our love for groups and help. Thus, the answer is: social marketing has more impact on employees than on consumers.

You haven’t forgotten the importance of motivation within the team, have you? It’s a complex process that is bound to make the employees’ work the most effective for the company. Formation of a strong group, based on important evolutionary mechanisms, is definitely the right way. It’s good for the company and pleasant for the staff.

Companies from Fortune Global 500 spend more than $15 billion annually for corporate social responsibility, which in many cases is an example of cause-related marketing. The logic of such investments can be understood thanks to a field experiment by economist John List and his colleagues.

They opened the company to get the most accurate results. When hiring employees in the first case, they used a casual advertisement, but in one example, they offered a payment of $11 per hour, in another—$15 per hour. A vacancy with a salary of $15 got a third more applications than in the case of work with a payment of $11.

In the second case, the researchers gave two ads with the same salary of $11, but one advertisement mentioned the availability of social projects of the company’s activities (aid to children from disadvantaged families in obtaining education), whereas in the second one there was nothing like that.

As a result, the vacancy with the corporate social responsibility element made up by 27% more applications. One could immediately jump to the conclusion: what is the point for companies of paying $15 instead of $11, when they can use social marketing?

But there is more to it. The economists continued their experiment, assessing the effectiveness of staff work recruited through the advertisement with the corporate social responsibility element and through the one without it. The first type of staff was more productive with the same work (10–25% more productive than the average employee).

The logic in this case is simple: working in a company with corporate social responsibility will attract people with a higher level of moral beliefs. Presence of moral beliefs, most likely, corresponds to honesty and responsibility while performing the work. Probably, there is also a positive correlation with the intelligence level (including the emotional one).

In addition, there is direct evidence of intrinsic motivation. Let me remind you that intrinsic motivation is the most effective one, but also quite fragile. There is nothing like working with desire, for the sake of some general great idea, reinforced by a fair share of altruism.

Generally, the sensitive to the social component employees were mostly women. It can be assumed that the men were again affected by testosterone, which adversely affects the empathic ability.

My guess is that men will be greater affected by the terror management theory. In other words, it is more effective to work with men with the prospects of leaving a “trace” after them. The application of the terror management theory in marketing is extensive.

Another John List’s field experiment on the impact of corporate social responsibility application also speaks in favor of using this theory from social psychology. An experiment on 3000 people has shown the dark side of good deeds.

Among the known cognitive biases is the so-called moral licensing. This concept describes how people justify their bad deeds by their previous good deeds. In the context of the experiment, it became obvious that one should be extremely accurate while using social marketing.

And one definitely shouldn’t take part of the employees’ salaries for social needs. The experiment demonstrated a decrease in the efficiency of work and a significant increase in fraud by the company employees if the employer performed such actions. In fact, in such a case, not only moral licensing is involved from among cognitive biases.


What is the conclusion?

Corporate social responsibility, social marketing, cause-related marketing are all good, but within the context. For a modern company, this is a must. Nevertheless, projects of this kind need well-thought-out application to individual segments of both employees and consumers.

Focus on the prepared audience (which comes to you specifically because of social initiatives), on women, and a quality social project. Make it clear that part of the employee’s work helps a good deed. And do not even think of taking a portion of the salary to implement such an initiative.


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Best regards,

Leon The Alien


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SEE ALSO: How to create a cool brand


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