Social movements to support behaviour change

As part of SenateSHJ’s social marketing work, we’ve been exploring and working with the concept of social movements.

Social movements have traditionally been thought about in the context of political change – think civil rights, gay rights, animal welfare – but they are also about quite personal individual changes. Recent fair trade and animal welfare movements are great examples; political change is one focus but so are individual consumption patterns.

In social marketing, we often target the individual: we want each person to buy our behaviour change product; change happens one person at a time. But how powerful can it be when you tap into a social movement or use a wave of social change to tip or nudge individuals to change, and to support them to sustain their change?

This isn’t a new line of thought: Malcolm Gladwell explored this topic in his book The Tipping Point, and more recently took it further in an excellent article in the New Yorker. 

In our work with the Campaign for Action on Family Violence, alongside the Ministry of Social Development, the Families Commission and DraftFCB, our approach has been to understand what social mood or movement is already out there, and use the campaign to tap into, enhance and provide nourishment to what is there.

With another client recently, we have begun delving more deliberately into thinking about what elements make up a social movement: how are they formed, how are they sustained and how do they grow?

A study from the University of Southern California sets out 10 factors for successful social movements, which resonate very strongly with our experience in social marketing (compare their 10 factors with SenateSHJ’s 12 elements for successful social marketing in our social marketing framework – attached below).

It brings us right back to the question of how social marketers can use the concept of a social movement to help influence personal behaviour change.

We think there are five component parts for social movements that social marketers can tap into, and that we can use to help us shape our campaigns. SenateSHJ’s five component parts for social movements as part of social marketing are:

•    A Common Cause

•    A Coordinated Campaign (someone or a group at the centre deliberately working to tie all the disparate elements together)

•    Connection (personal, emotional or social affiliation between the people who make up the movement)

•    Conversation (the massive power of personal conversations to create connections and recruit movement members)

•    A Catalyst (an event – or events – to spark the movement, nudge it along or cause it to tip)

To talk to SenateSHJ about how to use knowledge of social movements to contribute to social change, contact Tracey Bridges.