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Best practices in social marketing among aboriginal peoples

Contents

I Summary
II Introduction
III Definition of social marketing
IV Methodology
V Key recommendations from the literature
VI Practical Implications
VII Assessment of the research base and directions for future research
VIII Conclusion
IX References and resources

--Submitted by Judith Madill, Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa; Libbie Wallace, Karine Goneau-Lessard,  Marketing and Communications Directorate, Health Canada; Robb MacDonald, MacComm Social Marketing; Celine Dion, Marketing and Communications Directorate, Health Canada

I Summary

We recently conducted an assessment of the literature on social marketing programs for Aboriginal peoples, revealing issues and insights for both researchers and practitioners to consider. The findings that are of most interest to practitioners focus on the importance of:

  • avoiding pan-Aboriginal campaigns,
  • recognizing, understanding and building programs based on established cultural norms,
  • developing community-specific and community level campaigns,
  • leveraging social networks and social gatherings
  • utilizing formative research in order to develop solutions that are more likely to be adopted by target audiences.

For researchers, our assessment highlights a significant gap in the literature. In particular, we determined that the literature is very sparse as well as being over reliant on small samples and qualitative methodologies. We hope that our work will act as a catalyst for future research and theory in this critical area.

II Introduction

There has been little formal study and reporting done concerning effective development of social marketing programs targeted specifically at Aboriginal audiences and the purpose of this paper was to identify, summarize and assess the relevant literature. Health Canada and practitioners in other parts of the world have utilized a social marketing approach in order to realize positive health and societal outcomes among Aboriginal peoples and have learned much from their “on the ground experiences.” However, there is a significant gap in the published literature on the topic. Our review is intended to raise issues for both social marketing practitioners and researchers. As stated by McCalman et al., (2013: 726), “Community-based organizations themselves, for example, do not have ready access to the intervention or implementation literatures to ensure that their programs are informed by the best available evidence.” However as McDonald (2011) and others have shown, building on literature evidence is helpful in increasing the success of campaigns.

III Definition of social marketing

Social marketing campaigns, at their core, are behaviour-change initiatives. Grounded in psychology and other social sciences, social marketing uses a strong understanding of the potential target markets and their motivations for engaging or not engaging in particular behaviours. Its defining characteristics include audience research, pretesting, monitoring, and careful market segmentation. Social marketing is also driven by exchanges that encourage a behaviour change on the part of the targeted audience. A social marketing campaign is fundamentally different from a campaign that is purely promotional, or intended solely to communicate a message to an audience.

A final ingredient in social marketing worth mentioning here is the distinction between “upstream” and “downstream” approaches. The traditional or downstream approach involves efforts to encourage change on the part of those who have already adopted unhealthy or negative habits. The ‘upstream’ approach is focused on preventing people developing unhealthy or negative habits.

In order for a campaign to warrant the label “social marketing,” a strong mix of these elements (though not necessary all of these elements) needs to be present.

IV Methodology

We conducted our literature search and review and retained a total of 16 articles for assessment based on two principal criteria: (a) the paper had to be research-based (b) the paper had to describe research concerning a social marketing campaign directed to Aboriginal or Indigenous populations.

More than half (nine) of the papers focus on North American social marketing programs with two focusing on Aboriginal populations in the United States, and seven reporting on Canadian research (one on food issues in Northern Canada, four focusing on First Nations people, two focusing on Inuit populations, one focusing on both First Nations and Inuit, and one on Metis). The other seven papers center on the southern hemisphere with six in Australia and one in New Zealand. The papers address health and related issues such as physical activity, nutrition issues, food and diabetes, accessing health services or health information, tobacco, binge drinking, health risks from environmental issues, as well as one each on cervical screening and hand washing with soap. Much of the empirical research reported in the published papers is formative, concerning issues related to effective development of specific campaigns. Most studies used qualitative methodologies including mainly focus groups and in depth key informant interviews as well as limited use of other qualitative methods such as case studies, observations and demonstrations.

V Key recommendations from the literature

By examining the studies that are part of the literature base, we can make a number of observations concerning recommended social marketing practices.  A common theme that emerged was that multi-channel approaches appear to be critical for effective message dissemination. In particular:

  • Three of the studies reviewed (Ho et al., 2006; Ipsos-Eureka and Winangali Pty Ltd, 2010 (b); Parker, 2011) identify the universal value of mainstream and Aboriginal media outlets, including television and radio for broadcast message dissemination.
  • Print media, including posters and brochures can be an important part of the overall campaign, and many campaigns identified the value of print materials. Recommendations from evaluators in Australia, Chickasaw Nation and Canada suggest that print materials need to be visual and reflect back to the community appropriate and relevant faces, words and cultural imagery (e.g., Ipsos-Eureka and Winangali Pty Ltd, 2010 (b)).
  • The Canadian and Aboriginal studies all acknowledge the value of Elders for message dissemination. In a related vein, numerous reports identify the importance of face-to-face communication as an important channel for information dissemination. Smylie et al., (2005) suggest that the more cohesive the community, the more effective word-of-mouth approaches are, reinforcing the importance of face-to-face communication with certain populations or communities. They also found that, within a First Nations community, the more stigmatized the topic (e.g., mental health or addiction issues), the more important individual versus group consultations.
  • Campaign messaging can be enhanced through story telling. At the community level, there is an obvious connection between employing a story-telling approach and events and social gatherings. Depending on the audience segment, the most appropriate role model(s) can be local tribal leaders or peers
  • Two studies, the Environics Research Group (2011) as well as Ipsos-Reid and Winangali Pty Ltd, (2010 (b), identify the increasingly important role that Internet-based technology is playing, particularly for younger audiences and educated women.
  • Overall campaign development needs to be reflective of Aboriginal culture. Better understanding of cultural assumptions and norms can help social marketers develop stronger campaigns while also helping to identify segments of the population most likely to be receptive to change campaigns.

VI Practical Implications

Another key aim of our study was to provide recommendations that will be of value to social marketing practitioners in developing more effective social marketing programs targeted to Aboriginal populations. Our recommendations focused on, among other issues:

  • The importance of understanding cultural norms that can influence behaviour change. This finding also ties in well with recent work by Kenny and Hastings (2011) who discuss the importance of understanding social norms for both “upstream” and “downstream” marketing especially among the young and vulnerable. Cultural norms are a critical part of the foundation for developing successful social marketing campaigns. For example, consideration of the benefits to family and community (not only the individual) might be considered during the strategic design phase of the campaign.
  • The importance of segmenting First Nations and Inuit populations and avoiding pan-Aboriginal campaigns. This finding aligns with recent research (for example Walsh et al. 2010) examining European anti-smoking campaigns and showing that sub segments of target audiences respond differently to the promotional components of such campaigns. Although the Aboriginal literature is extremely limited, it points clearly to varying sub segments within Aboriginal target audiences and the need to consider these sub segments in developing social marketing campaigns.
  • The importance of developing community-specific and community level campaigns for engagement of key stakeholders, leveraging social networks, and influencing decision-makers. Recent literature has centered on the importance of managing and developing relationships with important stakeholders. More successful social marketing will be built on a foundation of recognition and understanding of key stakeholders and networks.
  • The importance of leveraging social networks and social gatherings as opportunities for message dissemination (for example, community meals and workshops/presentations, were preferred channels for information dissemination), the value of delivering a campaign message through story-telling, and the value of utilizing Elders for message dissemination. These findings also tie in well with studies focusing on creating and overcoming resistance to persuasive messages promoting risky behaviours and reducing resistance to messages promoting healthy behaviours.
  • The importance of formative research in order to develop solutions that are more likely to be adopted by target audiences. While this is considered standard social marketing practice, it bears repeating that it may be even more important when designing campaigns targeted to Aboriginal audiences.

VII Assessment of the research base and directions for future research

Future research is needed to specifically utilize and test (as appropriate) the recommendations developed in the current literature and report on their success in order to build a chain of evidence concerning social marketing practices with Aboriginal and Indigenous populations. That effort would be supported by using appropriate theoretical frameworks rooted in both social marketing as well as Aboriginal cultures. In addition, extending the literature review outside the current focus to include related tangential fields would also help build understanding of Aboriginal populations and health behaviours.

VIII Conclusion

A variety of approaches for improving health outcomes in Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples are possible and have been utilized, and one approach for achieving the desired change is social marketing. Our review, however, found a dearth of research concerning effective development of social marketing programs targeted specifically at Aboriginal audiences. We hope that our work will stimulate further studies in this important area. The research provides an important baseline upon which future social marketing programs can be built.

IX References and resources

Ho, L., Gittelsohn, S., Harris, S., Ford, E. (2006), “Development of an integrated diabetes prevention program with First Nations in Canada”, Health Promotion International, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 88-97.

Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute and Winangali Pty Ltd Project No: 09024065 (2010a), Developmental Research to Inform the Local Indigenous Community Campaigns to Promote Better Health, May.

Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute and Winangali Pty Ltd Project No: 09024065 (2010b), Developmental Research to Inform the National Action to Reduce Smoking Rates Social Marketing Campaign, June.

McCalman, L., Bainbridge, R., Shakeshaft, A., Singleton, M., Doran, C. (2013), “Tailoring a response to youth binge drinking in the Aboriginal Australian community: A grounded theory study”, BMC Public Health, 13, pp. 726-735.

McDonald, E., Slavin, N., Bailie, R., Schobben, X. (2011), “No germs on me: A social marketing campaign to promote hand-washing with soap in remote Australian Aboriginal communities”,
Global Health Promotion, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 62-65.

Parker, S., Hunter, T., Briley, C., Miracle, S., Hermann, J., Van Delinder, J., Standridge, J. (2011), “Formative assessment using social marketing principles to identify health and nutrition perspectives of native American women living within the Chickasaw nation boundaries in Oklahoma”, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 55-62.

Smylie, J., Kaplan-Myrth, N., McShane, K., Métis Nation of Ontario-Ottawa Council, Pikwakanagan First Nation, and Tungasuvvingat Inuit Family Resource Centre (2009), “Indigenous knowledge translation: Baseline findings in a qualitative study of the pathways of health”, Health Promotion Practice, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 436-446.

Walsh, G., Hassan, L., Shiu, E., Andrews, C., Hastings, G. (2010), “Segmentation in social marketing: Insights from the European Union’s multi-country, antismoking campaign”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 44, No. 7/8, pp. 1140-1164.