10 Reflections on the 2013 World Social Marketing Conference

Apr 23

In the few short hours since the 2013 World Social Marketing Conference concluded earlier this evening, I’ve found myself reflecting quite a bit on the presentations and discussions.  So, while it’s all still fresh in my head, here are some of my personal takeaways (in no particular order):

1.  Social change marketing, as I’m now referring to our discipline, is still brand challenged — most notably by the ever-growing confusion with “social media” and the fact that to some “marketing” is a bad word.  Yes, we need to do a better job of “marketing social change marketing.”  So let’s stop talking about it, and let’s start doing it.

2.  It was refreshing to hear some presenters admit they don’t have all the answers and call for the field to collaborate on finding solutions to big problems.

3.  It was disheartening to see the divide that still exists between academics and practitioners.  As my colleague, Tom Beall, eloquently said: Let’s build on our commonalities and not exploit our divisions.

4. I wish there were more time to experience the culture of Toronto.  To open the conference, we were treated to a beautiful blessing from a member of First Nations followed by a performance by a World Champion Hoop Dancer — something I’d never seen before and thoroughly enjoyed.  Yet, I found myself wishing for more opportunities to experience the culture of Canada and the beautiful city of Toronto throughout the next 2 1/2 days.  The next time we gather, I hope there are more opportunities to do so that are baked in to the conference agenda.

5.  Presentations that rely heavily on visuals and compelling stories are far more engaging than text-heavy slides.  (This is not a new learning but one that was re-confirmed after watching 2 1/2 days of consecutive presentations.)

6. Experts from outside the field of social marketing but who work in a related field bring a valuable perspective — we should strive to hear more from them.

7.  The solutions to our society’s most wicked problems will only be solved with the involvement of ALL sectors of society.  (Jay Bernhardt)

8. Both sides of public-private partnerships need courage for there are always detractors.  (Celeste Bottorff)

9. Social and Marketing go together like a horse and carriage.  Lyrics by Nancy Lee.  Vocals by Nancy Lee’s Granddaughters.

10. There is amazing insightful, creative, and innovative social marketing work happening around the world.  I’m inspired and am looking forward to getting back to work to apply some of what I learned this week!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 at 11:59 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Ogilvy Washington, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to “10 Reflections on the 2013 World Social Marketing Conference”

  1. alan tapp says:

    Thanks Jennifer
    I like the social change marketing idea by the way.

    Academic practice gap: couldn’t agree more. However the gap/issue that needs more debate is the acceptance by some social marketers that commercial orgns can fund behaviour change. So, Coca-Cola funds physical activity interventions through its CSR. What worries me is the general acceptance of this. The odd can of coke does no harm, lots of coke does a lot of harm. Do we turn a blind eye to this? Are we are being rolled over by big-corp under the guise of doing good?

    In this respect I think there’s an important academic-practice debate to be had.
    regards Alan Tapp

  2. Dana Allen-Greil says:

    Sounds like a great conference! I also wanted to weigh in that “social change marketing” is a brilliant way to refer to the field. “Marketing” shouldn’t be a dirty word and pairing it with “social change” also helps show that it can be a tool used for good in the world.

  3. Jennifer Wayman says:

    Thanks Alan and Dana for your comments!

  4. Renaming the discipline “social change marketing” makes a lot of good sense to me. I have always called it “social marketing” among the insiders and “social issues marketing” with everyone else. I’m going to switch to “social change marketing” now. Change IS what we’re all about, as evidenced at this most recent WSM. I’ll be sure to share your ideas about the terminology on the ISMA site (i-socialmarketing.org), too.

    Thanks for the excellent recap!

  5. Shannon Walsh says:

    I love the idea of calling it “social change marketing.” Particularly with the advent of social media, sometimes even an elevator speech doesn’t help correct people’s thinking as to what we do on a daily basis.

    Thanks for sharing these insights!

  6. Lea Pounds says:

    Ditto on the other comments about “social change marketing”. I also think we need more reasoned debate about commercial enterprises and their role in behavior change (note that the conference was sponsored by a commercial enterprise that started out as an ad agency) – this is not a ‘black and white’ issue. I believe there are shades of gray, nuances we over look when we fail to look at the issue from different perspectives. BTW thank you Ogilvy for sponsoring the conference!

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