Social marketing applies concepts of commercial marketing theory and techniques to the marketing undertaken by non-profit organisations. The target audiences in social marketing tend to be segmented, and messages have to be tailored to the have the most impact on the target segments. The focus of social marketing is to market socially beneficial behaviour, with the marketing of ideas to achieve attitude changes leading to behaviour changes. Research in social marketing is undertaken in order to understand what people perceive as the gain from the ‘negative’ behaviour they undertake as opposed to the perceived cost of adopting ‘positive’ behaviour. A change in behaviour is viewed as an exchange in which positive behaviour is adopted in exchange for giving up negative behaviour that has some perceived pay-off.
The promotion activities of the New Zealand Fire Service are analysed in terms of the social marketing model. The strategies adopted in current fire safety, education and research activities are seen as resembling the social marketing approach in a number of respects, such as identifying ‘at risk’ groups and targeting specific programmes at them. However, in other respects less of a resemblance is observed. An implicit assumption is identified namely that improved awareness results in improved safety. The report cautions that this will not necessarily follow.
The report suggests that better outcomes might be achieved if promotion focussed less on mass media advertising, which changes awareness, and more on research into messages tailored to each target audience in order to change behaviour . A 24-step plan split into 2 stages is proposed for the Fire Service to make the transition to a social marketing based promotional plan, without altering the promotional budget.