Friday, April 20, 2018
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‘How can social marketing help the government?’

Q: We read your column before Christmas about how to apply social marketing to business. While that must have been useful to businessmen, it actually presented a problem for us.

We’re an NGO helping a number of LGUs (local government units) at the provincial and municipal levels in health services programs. We’re persuading LGUs to agree to our using social marketing as the framework for crafting the per LGU health services needs satisfying and IEC (information, education, communication) campaign.

We say your Christmas column did not help our efforts because several LGUs who read that column, including those who just heard about it, questioned the relevance of social marketing to promoting local governance. During one meeting, a few in fact not only questioned relevance but also the “risk” in bringing in social marketing. That’s when one of them asked: “What will those tricky and scheming marketing wheeler-dealers do to our uncontaminated health services programs once they’re here? Are we ready to lose our programs’ redeeming social value?”


Please help us persuade our client LGUs how social marketing can distinctively help their governments’ health services campaigns.

A: We’re sorry to hear about the unhealthy image that social marketing has in the minds of some of your client LGUs. But we’re glad it’s only some and not all. We fully understand where this skepticism is coming from because we’ve encountered it so many times in the past four decades.  That’s how long social marketing has been around when it was first introduced by Professor Philip Kotler of Northwestern University in 1971.

It’s most likely that those LGU skeptics were speaking from their experience with commercial marketing where unfortunately marketing’s “tricky and scheming” character still abound. Here’s our Marketing Rx to answer your request for help.

To speak in concrete terms and so that we are directly addressing your concerns, let’s take up your “per LGU health services needs satisfying and IEC campaign.” So first, there’s correct and valid needs assessment to carry out among the campaign’s intended beneficiaries. There are two aspects to attend to in this needs assessment. The first is to insight into the needs of those in demand so that you can change their harmful behavior to become beneficial, or bad behavior to become good, or good behavior to get better. The second needs assessment aspect is to monitor those beneficiaries’ changing needs as well as those needs’ changing priority.

Our recent social marketing book How to Change the World details the first-needs assessment aspect for DOH (Department of Health) and its campaign during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos. That campaign went after downscale pregnant women in 41 Social Reform Agenda (“poorest of the poor”) provinces. The campaign’s intent was to address and effectively serve the three segments of these pregnant women about their pre-natal care issues and problems. We also assisted via social marketing in the late ’70s in diffusing the use on their babies of ORESOL (Oral Rehydration Solution) by extreme poor mothers when their babies suffer diarrhea. This was a joint DOH-WHO health initiative.

The How to Change the World social marketing book also provides the details and the complete story relating to the second aspect of needs assessment. That’s on creatively monitoring the changing needs and those needs’ changing priority among those in demand for satisfying those needs, and then in taking action on the uncovered changes.

The specific case dealt with here has very direct relevance to your LGU project. This was the case of our applying social marketing to help the provincial LGU of Bulacan during the two terms of Governor Josie de la Cruz with meaningful and constituency-driven local governance.

The book’s details of this case innovated in the cost-effective monitoring of citizen’s changing priority needs and concerns about Bulacan’s social and development situation.


How exactly were the first and second aspects of needs assessment carried out in a valid and cost effective way? The complete how is presented with practical tips on how to undertake a DIY (do-it-yourself) research version in the companion book to How to Change the World. This is the just released book, Quick-but-Clean Social Marketing Research.

What about the post-needs assessment IEC campaign? What is social marketing’s contribution in this critical government responsibility? The same recently published two books provide the stories of our social marketing planning and research engagements in the Population Commission’s family planning IEC campaigns, in changing for the better the “giving behavior” of givers across the four socio-eco classes to government and NGO “causes,” and in “kaizening” (continuously improving) the DOH family planning clinic service quality.

The help from social marketing differed from that from mass communication agencies in some practical and cost-effective ways. This is not to say that social-marketing-framed IEC is better or can replace the masscom-framed IEC. This is just to say that social marketing’s approach to IEC can significantly complement and help raise the government’s IEC from good to better, from sub-optimal to optimal effectiveness.

Finally, lest we give an impression that social marketing’s help is limited to DOH, we must mention that considering just our own application of social marketing to government, this assistance extends to campaigns like drug addiction control, anti-smoking, smoke-belching and pollution control, HIV/AIDS prevention, anti-corruption, voting behavior, weight control and fitness, alcoholism, whistle blowing behavior, and white slavery control.

If you’re going to present the foregoing to your social-marketing-resisting client LGUs, you may want to provide support document to your presentation by giving them a copy of the two books, How to Change the World: a Manual for Social Marketers and Quick-but-Clean Social Marketing Research.

Keep your questions coming. Send them to us at or God bless!

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