Tag Archive | Social marketing

Social Math Making an Impact

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently released a report on Progressive Tax Options for BC. In the report they listed off several options for tax reform in BC. Some of their suggestions included:

  • Increasing the tax rate for the top bracket ($103,205 +/yr) from 14.7% to 17
  • Increase tax rate and add two new taxable income brackets by dividing up the current top bracket into 2 or 3 (i.e. 15% on $103,000 – $150,000 income; 18% on $150,000-$200,000; and 21% on income over $200,000)
  • Increase ALL tax rates by 20% and add two new upper income tax brackets at 20% and 22%
  • Return corporate income tax rate to 13.5%
  • Reduce corporate tax deductions
  • Increase the BC carbon tax to $50 per tonne of CO2

The list goes on, to include several more options. However, what I’m interested in pointing out is not necessarily these progressive tax ideas (although interesting in themselves), but how CCPA went on to make this information more relatable to the general public. Many would glance at this report and not be sure of what to make of it. So CCPA went a step farther using Social Math.

Social Math = is a simplistic way of making data and complex ideas more basic by relating it to concepts we already understand. It’s a way of presenting numbers in a real-life situation that is more familiar to the general masses.

So for each of these progressive tax options the actual impact can be better understood using social math, for instance:

  • Increasing the tax rate for the top bracket from 14.7% to 17%, would generate $375 million, that could increase welfare benefit rates from $200 to $400/month
  • Increase tax rate and add two new upper bracket taxable incomes would generate $700 million, that could build 2000 units of new social housing per year plus restore K-12 class sizes, composition and specialist teacher staffing to levels that prevailed 5 yrs ago
  • Increasing ALL tax rates in each bracket by 20% and adding additional upper income tax brackets at 20% and 22% would generate $2.3 billion that could fund:
  1. 2000 units/yr of new social housing
  2. Welfare benefit increases
  3. Restore class sizes, composition and specialist teachers to where they were 5 yrs ago
  4. First phase of child care plan
  5. Needed investments in community health care for seniors and people with disabilities
  6. Ministry of Children and Family Development budget increases
  7. Increase in postsecondary education funding
  8. Substantial increases to environmental protection
  9. OR….
  10. Eliminate MSP Premiums
  • Return corporate income tax rate to 13.5% would generate $700 million that could develop a more ambitious Climate Action Plan
  • Reduce corporate tax deductions would generate $300 million that could be spent on Green industry investments
  • Increase the BC carbon tax to $50 per tonne of CO2 would generate $2.2 billion; $1.1 billion could fund an expanded low and middle income carbon credit (making the bottom half of BC households net beneficiaries even with a high carbon tax) and $1.1 billion for public transit and/or building retrofits to reduce greenhouse gases.

They also have various infographics that show the impacts that these progressive tax options could have.

tax-options-930-million-a-1       Tax-options-graphic-carbon-tax

Just by putting this data in to a more familiar context the impact and reach of the information is likely to increase substantially.

Ivanova, I., & Klein, S. (2013, January). Progressive tax options for BC: Reform ideas for raising new revenues and enhancing fairness. Retrieved from: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC%20Office/2013/01/CCPA-BC-Tax-Options.pdf 

(abrubach, 2013)


Must-see YouTube Channel: Doc Mike Evans

I have a love-hate relationship with YouTube.  I love that I can visit YouTube and find a video about every event imaginable, search for any scene from my favourite tv shows, look for that memorable performance I missed last night or stumble across the classic scene from that famous film.  On the flip side, I hate that I am tested every time I visit YouTube and forced to exercise a large degree of self control to see whether I am disciplined enough to simply watch that one video I initially went online to find or instead, spend the next several hours clicking on the various video suggestions that automatically come up on the right hand column of the page.

However, I recently came across the YouTube Channel Doc Mike Evans and find myself less guilty for watching video after video that I never intended to watch.  In the theme of social marketing, Doc Mike Evans (in my opinion) successfully manages to utilize social media in a creative way for health communication.  Having been described a leader in “sticky health messaging”, he brings me back to childhood nostalgia by using cartoon illustrations while narrating to provide entertainment education.

Doctor Mike Evans is a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto.  He describes himself as someone “interested in engaging users and people with varied skills, particularly creatives, and mushing them together with researchers and clinicians to re-invent patient education.” So, he launched a video back in December 2011 called “23 and ½ hours” (see below)

that went somewhat viral (not Psy Gangnam style calibre) but has now been viewed by more than 3 million people (and I just noticed that this video was posted in How to Add Some Pizzazz to Your Blog Posts.  What I appreciate and find unique about his style is that he is extremely knowledgeable but simplifies the health information using artistic expression so that it is understandable.  Additionally, he does all the narration and producing but gives credit where its due at the end and most importantly, thanks you for listening to him (if you make it to the end of his videos).

In one of my undisciplined YouTube sessions, I came across one of his recent posts from December 2012 called “What is the Single Best Thing You Can Do to Quit Smoking?” (see below)

and thought it was especially fitting for our class.  In this video, he discusses steps of the stages of change theory (without identifying it as that) on exactly what the title says, what the single best thing you can do to quit smoking.  It was a compelling visual aid for me, a non-smoker, to be guided through the thought process of smoking patterns by breaking it down into different parts of change.  I felt like he provided me with accurate and valuable information that raised a level of self-awareness about relationships, describing it as a journey, which helped me gain a better understanding from a non-smoker perspective.  It’s a little bit of a longer YouTube video but if you have 12 minutes to spare, watching the video will introduce you to Doc Mike Evans attempt to use social media and marketing to provoke what I believe is positive behaviour change.

Maybe I’m the only one who is this obsessed with YouTube.

Maybe I need an intervention and I need Doc Mike Evans to create a video on YouTube addiction.

But if you share my love-hate relationship, I do recommend subscribing to Doc Mike Evan’s channel for some creative social marketing.

Corporate Social Responsibility – Using One’s Power for Good or Just Another Marketing Ploy?

Dove Self Esteem Fund 

“Imagine a world where every girl grows up with the self-esteem she needs to reach her full potential, and where every woman enjoys feeling confident in her own beauty” Dove Self Esteem Fund 


 “Be it a competitive Sporty Girl, a tireless Party Girl or a High Maintenance Girl, the hottest girls are the most demanding. So recharge with AXE Shower gels” AXE

The Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada defines Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as the “voluntary activities undertaken by a company to operate in an economic, social and environmentally sustainable manner” (2013). While there are many different approaches to CSR, the better-known form of CSR is when a corporation uses its power and money to make a positive social impact on issues such as health, community, and sustainability. This social impact as also an opportunity for the company to benefit in terms of enhancing the brand’s image, gaining customer and employee loyalty, and increasing sales.

CSR is an example of the struggle between business and ethics. Consumers expect companies to be socially responsible. Companies now have mission statements, values and entire CSR webpages. A great case study of this is Unilever, which is a multinational company that owns some of the world’s most well known brands.

 Unilever brands Unilever brands 2

According to Unilever, sustainability and CSR are not just tokenisms, but there is an actual business case for them.

Unilever case for business

In addition to multiple CSR projects around health, wellness, education, community, environment and sustainability, Unilever has also committed to working with governments to help achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. They make the “most significant contribution to the MDGs through the products we sell and the wealth and jobs our business operations create” (Unilever.com, 2013).

Unilever MDG

But what happens when a company with a strong commitment to CSR owns brands with contradictory social messages – one that promotes health and wellness and another that perpetuates stereotypes and inequities?

One of Unilever’s most well-known brands, Dove, it launched the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty 2004, a massive marketing campaign to challenge our culture’s beauty stereotypes. Dove uses “real” women in their campaigns and in one ad, even shows all of the work that goes into making a “natural” looking model. It also started the Dove Self Esteem Fund to create advertisements, toolkits, guides, videos, workshops and events to promote self-esteem among women. (Click here to see Dove’s ad ‘Onslaught’) 

However, one of Unilever’s other brands, Axe, is known for their ads where using their product will enhance a guy’s sex appeal. Their ads are meant to be over the top and silly, but they always use the Regular Joe gets sexy girl when he uses Axe theme. As the Unilever website says, “Getting the girl has never been easier, thanks to the Axe effect” (2013). (Click here to see AXE’s newest commercial) 

So what do we make of these two contradictory messages that come from the same corporation? Can we trust the good deeds and social initiatives of big companies? How much of CSR is about giving back and using one’s capital to do “good” and how much of it is about good public relations and marketing? Is CSR just another ploy to get more customers, support and money? Does it matter if the intent is marketing and publicity if the goal, whether it be to raise money to find a cure for cancer or to increase women and girls’ self esteem, is met?

And now, as a (hopeful) future public health professional, it has become even more complicated and I have even more questions (!). I am starting to realize that we cannot separate health from business or money any more than we can separate it from ethics and rights. So where does this leave us? I do not have any answers. In fact, the more I learn, the messier it gets. CSR is just one example of the balance between the hypocrisy– capitalism and the business of health versus true and sustainable health and wellbeing for all – that we as public health professionals will face. I do not have any answers to any of the questions above except that I think we do what we can. It is not best answer and it is one that I struggle with every day (and I am not even graduated yet!), but it helps.


Axe Website http://www.axe.ca/#/axe-campaigns/keepup

Axe Commercials http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL598C34DC6F63C425

Dove Canada http://www.dove.ca/en/Social-Mission/About-the-Movement.aspx

Dove Campaign images and videos http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/dove%20campaign

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (2013). Corporate Social Responsibility. Retrieved from http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/ds/csr.aspx?view=d

O’Donnell, Daniel (2008). Unilever’s Dove and Axe: Examples of Hypocrisy or Good Marketing? Case Study Competition (Arthur W. Page Society): 39–51. Retrieved from http://awpagesociety.com/images/uploads/08CaseStudy_Journal.pdf

Unilever http://www.unilever.com/

and http://www.unilever.com/images/IntroductiontoUnilevertcm13283368.pdf

Social Marketing Ethics: A need for more open dialogue

I came across a blog posting recently that had the National Chief Psychiatrist of Ghana blaming some of the pastors for hampering their efforts to reduce mental illness. He claimed that the pastors “brainwashed patients and their relatives” and played on their superstitious beliefs to discourage them from seeking help from mental health professionals. Shifting gears, the Chief Psychiatrist then started discussing the new Mental Health Act. He stated that it was key to decreasing mental illness among the masses and would result in 40-50 psychiatric bed facilities in all regions in the next 10 years. Elaborating on the mental health strategy, he said “we will target specific groups and educate them on the law to ensure its effective implementation”.  I couldn’t help but notice the National Chief Psychiatrist’s none too subtle hostility towards the pastors. Clearly he thought that the pastors were in the wrong and his endorsed mental health strategy was the answer to better mental health in Ghana. While there wasn’t a quote from these “brainwashing pastors” I did wonder about their side of the story. What did they think of the new Mental Health Act? Did they think that their ways were the right ways? The bottom line is that both the National Chief Psychiatrist and the pastors are competing with each other. They are trying to market a product, be it the new mental health strategy that adopts a more clinical approach or traditional ways and medicine; they are both trying to influence people’s health behaviours and perception towards mental illness. They are “targeting” specific audiences and promoting a message specific to them. While the 4 Ps i.e. Product, Place, Price and Promotion may vary for the National Chief Psychiatrist and the local pastors, they are both attempting to change people’s help seeking behaviours regarding mental health. This right here was social marketing in action!

This got me wondering about the ethics of social marketing and how it isn’t necessarily discussed. If anything, as conscientious public health professionals it is assumed that everyone will adhere to ethical standards. And we assume yet again that which ever product health professionals are trying to get the audience to adopt is the right one for them. Hopefully the product which could be an intervention, service etc. is evidence based, context appropriate and based on valid formative research. But in the end, does that justify using social marketing to manipulate people’s behaviours to satisfy your intervention goals and objectives? Does it then make it alright to do so as long as you have public welfare and best intentions at heart? How far is it ok to go when using fear, shame or anxiety in social marketing strategies? Andreasen (2001) discussed a list of ethical principles common to both social and commercial marketing –

  • Be truthful
  • Protect privacy
  • Don’t model inappropriate behaviour
  • Don’t be offensive
  • Be fair and balanced
  • Avoid stereotyping
  • Protect the children

However, as Andreasen (2001) elaborates, we can’t consider these principles as a checklist that gives equal weight to each issue.  An open dialogue and locating yourself is extremely important. He also suggests use of rational frameworks to avoid bad ethics. I have listed below some resources that I found helpful. While by no means do they answer all questions, they are a good starting point.

Some useful resources:

Amenuveve, V. (January 12, 2013). Superstition, pastors blamed – For derailing effort at reducing mental illness. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://news.peacefmonline.com/social/201301/152964.php

Andreasen, A.R. (2001). Ethics in Social Marketing. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Eagle, L. (2009). Social marketing ethics: report prepared for the National Social Marketing Centre. Technical Report. National Social Marketing Centre. Retrieved February 6 2013 from http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/54/1/NSMC_Ethics_Report.pdf

Rothschild, M.L. (1999). Carrots, Sticks, and Promises: A Conceptual Framework for the Management of Public Health and Social Issue Behaviors. Journal of Marketing, 63, 24-37.


Dhaarna Tangri

Rethink Breast Cancer Social Marketing Campaign

Recently I came across a video advertisement on Facebook:Rethink Breast Cancer: Your Man Reminder . As a young female I find many of the side panel advertisements targeted to my demographics, however this one was particularly daring. I remember hearing about it a few years ago when it was originally released, but thought I’d mention it again on our course blog as it has to do with Social Marketing in the Health domain.

Rethink Breast Cancer is an innovative approach to breast cancer education, support and research that attracts a younger target audience (<40 yrs) and attempts to meet their continually changing needs.

The target audience is suggested to be: modern, bold, culturally aware, youthful, and upbeat. In their 20’s, 30’s or early 40’s who are not necessarily responding to the typical breast cancer awareness campaigns of pink ribbons, teddy bears, cancer walks, or other brochure-type information packets.

The goal of Rethink Breast Cancer is to bring BOLD awareness to a prominent health concern by “foster[ing] a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters; infus[ing] sass and style into the cause; and most importantly, respond[ing] to the unique needs of young women going through it” (www.rethinkbreastcancer.com).

They are attempting to motivate young women to take responsibility for their breast health, focusing on prevention and early detection. By redesigning dated images, ideas, and language associated with breast cancer they are creating high-impact, fear-free messaging. Partnering with like-minded organizations to bring more awareness and resources to the cause and inspiring a new generation of breast cancer supporters.

This video is only way of the many creative advertisements for the Rethink Breast Cancer campaign, other outlets include: Support Saturdays, Breast Fest Film Festival, TellHER2.ca, appropriate print advertisements (ie. Chatelaine, Canadian Living, etc), and other partnerships (ie. American Eagle, Telus, Blackberry, O.P.I., Rebook, etc.

(abrubacher, 2013)