When I grow up I want to be a social marketer

  • by helga
  • 14/01/2013

Today I dedicated some time to thinking about what I want to get out of The marketing cube and why ‘social entrepreneurship’ (in lack of a better term) is an aspiration from the outset.

Since I’ve participated in Sicamp a few years back (I think it may have actually been the first Sicamp?), I’ve been on and off reading and researching topics around social entrepreneurship and social innovation. After Sicamp, I found other important contributions for this persistence, namely:

  • Pat Kane’s The Play Ethic / New Integrity, which I came across purely by chance in 2007; and also
  • Porter’s and Kramer’s Creating Shared Value (CSV) paper in Harvard Business Review, which I read last year while working on a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) assignment.

Why is social entrepreneurship important? Put simply, because there is a deep disconnection between regular business aims and what is good for society. The concept of CSR, having emerged somehow to mitigate this disconnection, is completely flawed as it stands. For most private enterprises, profit is the main aim and social responsibility is merely a peripheral subject, arising to address outside pressures and customer concerns. I totally subscribe to the concept of CSV instead, which rather than waving around social responsibility, philanthropy or even sustainability, seeks instead to redefine economic success itself. From the Wikipedia article on shared value:

‘The central premise behind creating shared value is that the competitiveness of a company and the health of the communities around it are mutually dependent. Recognizing and capitalizing on these connections between societal and economic progress has the power to unleash the next wave of global growth and to redefine capitalism.’

At the moment, solving social problems is seen as a problem for governments, NGOs and the like. I would certainly not claim that social problems are NOT a problem for governments (RIP Tories’ Big Society), but shouldn’t societal needs define markets more directly in the for-profit sector as well? Slowly, mostly due to customer awareness, I think that starts happening in some places. If the change were to gain momentum and become globally significant (which I dare doubting), using ‘social’ entrepreneurship as a concept opposed to ‘normal’ entrepreneurship would even create some constraints for us.

So, going back to The marketing cube. As a creative and a graphic designer, I used to hate ‘marketing’ because I saw it as the instrument of big capitalism and profit-making, totally apart from a more personal, ‘meaningful’ creative path. Nowadays, I think marketing has a really great potential to help creating shared value and nudge people and business into making the right choices –  from health to environment, from cultural openness to promoting sustainable lifestyles.

The definition of marketing by the Chartered Institute of Marketing reads “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”, which I find kind of unsatisfactory… I prefer the definition by the American Marketing Association: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

What is the main difference between definitions? The American talks about value, the UK’s replaces it with profit. One could argue that they both relate to the same thing but alas, not all profit is equal, as the Harvard Business Review paper I mentioned above cleverly puts it.

And apparently social entrepreneurs are wary about ‘marketing’ themselves… there are only a few marketing agencies targeting the ‘social entrepreneurship’ market with very targeted positioning, many times including a degree of  ‘social aim’ in their business objectives as well. Is that what I want from The marketing cube? Perhaps, but not quite… you see, I really dislike the concept, very common in what I came across so far, that as a social entrepreneur you have, on one hand, your ‘market’ (the people you sell your product or services to), and on the other hand your ‘beneficiaries’ (the communities or ideas where you re-invest part or all of your profits).

Anyway, it’s 2am… time to go to bed and to start my week. I leave you with the top 10 objectives for social enterprising in the UK, from Fightback  Britain – Findings from the State of Social Enterprise Survey 2011 (Social Enterprise UK):

•    Providing affordable housing (10%)
•    Supporting vulnerable children and young people (10%)
•    Addressing financial exclusion (13%)
•    Protecting the environment (16%)
•    Addressing social exclusion (18%)
•    Promoting education and literacy (19%)
•    Improving health & well being (22%)
•    Supporting vulnerable people (23%)
•    Creating employment opportunities (24%)
•    Improving a particular community (25%)

Nighty night. Due to popular demand, here’s another picture of my cat  – always much more crowd-pleasing than my boring posts.

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