Unlocking the Keys to Social Impact Marketing: Reach People Where They Are and Speak Their Language

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Unlocking the Keys to Social Impact Marketing: Reach People Where They Are and Speak Their Language

Profiles of College Up! (FAFSA Completion Events) and Brand Ambassadors for California's Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program
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Unlocking the Keys to #SocialImpactMarketing - Speak Their Language http://bit.ly/Kh7TFP
Monday, April 30, 2012 - 10:00am


We have previously discussed the importance of making cause and social marketing efforts relevant to consumers and “reaching people where they are” via our first whitepaper, the Six Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing. As we continue our work with corporations, nonprofit organizations and government entities to drive social change initiatives, it is clear that cause and social marketers must speak the language of those they are hoping to impact. Of course, by “speak their language,” I don’t mean cause and social marketers must reach target audiences in English, Spanish, French, etc. What I mean is the most effective behavior change marketers take the time to understand the cultures of the audiences they are looking to reach and develop social change campaigns to reflect the societal norms and positions of those audiences. They take time to discover the people, places and things that are relevant in the lives of their targets and the channels through which they will most effectively and favorably receive behavior change messages.

Many years ago, we had the pleasure of working with the California Public Utilities Commission on its statewide Deaf and Disabled Telecommunication Program outreach and engagement effort. One of the primary target audiences the client identified was senior citizens, particularly those in assisted living facilities. Through research, Incite learned that one of the target audience’s favorite activities was playing bingo and understood that this time of the day was often the time when the target was most attentive and open to receiving information. In turn, Incite created several engagement teams that traveled to assisted living facilities across the state of California to play bingo with residents while also sharing information with them about technology available to help them better stay in touch with loved ones. In this way, Incite was able to speak to the senior citizen audience in a way that wasn’t instructional and engage them via an activity they enjoyed.

More recently, we have been working with a partner to educate New York City high school juniors and seniors about the importance of completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing the FAFSA can unlock dollars for students to put toward post-secondary education. Many of the students targeted for this campaign came from underserved communities and, often times, did not have role models at home. To reach these students, Incite enlisted the help of New York City hip-hop media property HOT 97. Through HOT 97, Incite reached NYC high schools students via a radio campaign encouraging them to sign-up for a contest. HOT 97 and Incite then picked six winning schools where we executed pep rallies educating the students about the importance of completing the FAFSA. These pep rallies were hosted by HOT 97 DJ’s and included dance and rap contests paired with FAFSA completion messages. The tone of the on-air campaign and nature of the pep rallies provided Incite an opportunity to share this critical message with targeted students via channels and personalities that resonated with them.  Check out this video to see HOT 97 and Incite in action at Boys & Girls High School in Brooklyn, New York:

College Up! Pep Rally

In short, take time to understand the language your audience speaks. Then, build your cause or social marketing campaign in a way that reflects this understanding. I think you will experience measurable improvement around the action you want your target audience to take – whether that action is purchasing a Cap Tel (captioning) phone or completing a form to help them go to college.


Jeremy Smith
+1 (317) 684-2957
Incite - Social Impact Marketing