by John Trybus, Managing Director

Social marketing and the name Alan Andreasen go hand-in-hand.

He’s without question a pioneer in the field of behavior change communication and it’s a privilege to feature him on the Social Strategist Project.

An internationally known professor at Georgetown University, Alan is also the author of countless books and articles and a visionary on how to use communication and marketing principles to address social problems.

Nearly 50 years after his start in the field, why is Alan still so passionate about the work that he does?

“I suppose the simplest answer is that I feel the concepts and tools that I’ve learned over the years are making the world a better place,” he says. “I get more satisfaction from using that same portfolio of [corporate marketing] skills to get people to do things where the benefit is making their lives better or to make the world a lot better.”

Here’s a preview of Alan’s take on the principles of successful social marketing:

  • You must be in the fight for the long haul. Changing or solidifying people’s behaviors is hard work and takes time. Sometimes it takes a really long time. Alan puts it this way: “The challenge for a lot of the social marketing applications is that the behaviors practitioners are trying to influence are rather deeply held ones in the people they’re trying to influence. Many social marketing programs have to take a very long perspective.” Not seeing immediate results is often the main reason funders stop financing behavior change projects. A long-term investment is imperative for robust results. Long-term funding for malaria eradication, for example, has helped achieve tangible results.
  • Identifying the (proper) audience is everything. Spending time getting to know target audiences is time well spent. “I always emphasize that the target audience is the one that holds the key to success and everything you do has to start with them rather than with you and what you think,” Alan explains. “If people aren’t doing something you want them do it’s because you haven’t found the triggers or connections that will link what you think is in societies or the individual’s best interest to something major.” To put it another way, it makes no sense to have a campaign for everyone. 
  • The importance of creativity. “How do you overcome that inertia and automatic rejection of attempts to influence target audiences?” questions Alan. Creativity. Just as commercial marketing is often successful through bold and unique approaches, the same goes when trying to influence behavior for social issues. Taglines, logos, cool spokespeople and clever branding can not only sell products but change people’s behaviors around HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and a host of other social issues facing the world.

Listen to my interview with social strategist Alan Andresen to learn more about the evolving field of social marketing and how behavior change communication is improving lives around the world.