Part 1 of 2

The benefits of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 — protection against becoming sick or dying — seems rational.  Not everyone agrees. The CDC issued a report on June 21st 2021 announcing that 38% of adults between 18 and 29 years of age had received at least one dose of a vaccine by May 22, compared to 80% of adults older than 65.  The White House followed this by projecting that it will fall short of its goal of vaccinating 70% of adults by July 4th.  Herd immunity is expected when 70% of a population is vaccinated. 

Businesses across the country, from bars to marijuana dispensaries, have been offering perks to those with a Covid-19 vaccination card.  Krispy Kreme (Winston-Salem, NC) said that for the rest of the year, it would give one free glazed doughnut per day to anyone who presents proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.  Ohio, New York, Oregon, and other states are offering millions of dollars through lotteries to those vaccinated.  These incentives have had mixed results. 

Strategic social cause marketing, however, would be more effective. Consumer marketing efforts are grounded in psychology and are heavily influenced by cultural and social norms. The first five steps a social cause marketing plan are shown below, and the last five steps will be in the next News post.

Step 1:  Define the problem, purpose, and focus

Any social marketing health strategic plan needs a clear statement of the  specific public health problem, which might be a severe epidemic (Covid-19), an evolving issue (increases in opioid use), or a justifiable need (public education on the prevention of HPV).  Adequate background information is needed at this step.  It is critical to identify the program’s sponsor(s) and to summarize the factors that led to developing such a program.

Once the public health problem is defined, a purpose statement is needed to make it clear what impact and benefits the social marketing plan, when successful, would generate.  A focus is needed to narrow down the scope of the plan to make the best use of the available resources, maximize the impact, and ensure plan feasibility. The focus is selected from a number of options that have some potential to help achieve the purpose.

Step 2:  Conduct a situation analysis

Typically, a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) is conducted to provide a quick audit of organizational strengths and weaknesses and environmental opportunities and threats. Strengths to maximize and weaknesses to minimize include internal factors such as levels of funding, management support, current partners, delivery system capabilities, and the sponsor’s reputation.

Opportunities to take advantage of and threats to prepare for include major trends and events outside the influence of the sponsor.  They are often associated with demographic, psychographic, geographic, economic, cultural, political, legal, and technological forces.  At this step, it is important to conduct a literature review and environmental scan of current and prior strategies and tactic, especially those with similar efforts, and summarize their major activities conducted, major effects achieved, and major lessons learned.

Step 3:  Select target audiences

A target audience is quite like the bull’s eye.  It is selected through segmentation, a process to divide a broad audience (population) into homogeneous sub-audiences (groups), called market segments.  A market segment is identified and aggregated by the shared characteristics and needs of the people in a broad audience, including similar demographics, psychographics, geographic locations, behaviors, social networks, community assets, and stage of change.

It is ideal that a social marketing effort focus on one primary target market, but secondary markets are often identified, based on the marketing problem, purpose, and focus of the campaign defined earlier. An estimated size and informative description of the target market is needed at this step.  An ideal, composite description of the target market will help “recognize” a member of the segment if he or she walked into the room.

Step 4:  Set marketing objectives and goals

A strategic social marketing plan needs clear goals.  Specifying desired behaviors and changes in knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs, marketing goals always includes a behavior goal—something the target is desired to do as a result of the strategies and tactics.  Marketing goals also often include a knowledge goal which makes clear the information or facts that the target needs to know, and a belief goal, which relates to the things the target needs to believe in order to “change its mind.”

A social marketing plan also needs to establish quantifiable measures, called marketing objectives that correspond to the marketing goals. Marketing objectives, responding to behavior objectives, knowledge objectives, and belief objectives respectively, should be ideally SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound in terms of knowledge, attitudes, and behavior changes.[i]  What is determined here will have strong implications for budgets, guide marketing mix strategies, and direct evaluation measures in the later planning process in a social marketing plan.

Step 5:  Identify factors influencing behavior adoption

The social marketer needs to understand what members of the target marketing are doing or prefer to do, and what is affecting its behaviors and preferences.  Specifically, barriers, benefits, competitors, and the influencers need to be identified at this step.  Barriers refer to reasons, real or perceived, why the target market may not want to adopt the behavior or think that it cannot be adopted.  Benefits are the “gains” the target audience could see through adopting the targeted behavior. Competitors refer to any related behaviors that the target audience is currently engaged in, or prefers, rather than the ones being promoted. Influencers include any “important others” who could have some influence on the target audience, such as family members, social networks, the entertainment industry, and religious leaders.

Part 2 will explain the remaining five steps of a social cause marketing plan. 

[i] Haughey, D. Smart goals. Retrieved from April 8, 2009, from