Archivo del November, 2013

Communicating to exist, or existing to communicate?

This week I will be giving a talk on marketing and communication in NGOs at the 4th Social Third-Sector Congress. I plan to begin my remarks with an insightful quote from a third-sector executive: “Our institution prefers to act before communicating.”

Over the last 10 years, communication has grown spectacularly in Spanish NGOs in terms of budgets, staffing and departments. This growth has been similar to that seen in the healthcare services marketing sector, described by Eric Berkowitz as “a dramatic increase in marketing budgets, reflecting an acceptance of advertising and not of marketing in the true sense… investing heavily in advertising when marketers knew virtually nothing about the target audience”.

These two very socially oriented sectors face similar difficulties and confusion when it comes to finding a place for communication and marketing. In NGOs, this confusion manifests itself in the use of communication primarily for fund-raising purposes: communication with potential donors is given higher priority than communication with the social base.

Marketing in NGOs should communicate within a reference framework like the one described by Toni Puig at ESADE: organisations that prioritise ideas over management, whose mission is to raise awareness among citizens, and which therefore see communication primarily as an uninterrupted ethical conversation about how we should live and how to achieve it. This communication should be directed at the three audiences that define an NGO: external (society at large), internal (collaborators), and intermediary (highly involved external stakeholders such as members, donors, volunteers and sympathisers). And the services simply come afterwards.

All this is perfectly synthesised in an article by José María Herranz of the Miguel de Cervantes European University (UEMC): as long as companies communicate in order to exist, NGOs should understand that they exist in order to communicate.


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Freedom from social guilt through indulgences

Guilt has always been used as an emotional driver in marketing. Guilt motivates action in so many different spheres:  consumption habits, personal and health-related routines, and even the decision to take out an insurance policy to protect one’s family. In the short term, it works… until you start reflecting on it some time later.

Now that Europe appears to be emerging from a new tunnel into economic confidence, we’re faced with a ‘new normal’ situation. Consumers have already decided, as a matter of mental hygiene, to change their consumption habits. Companies, meanwhile, are starting to use new marketing approaches. And many companies are focusing on frugal indulgence: spending less while still relieving stress through consumption. It’s a mutation of L’Oréal’s “Because I’m Worth It” campaign.

In previous recessions, indulgences were characterised by various differential attributes: they focused on basic needs, overt snob appeal or high intrinsic quality. In 2013, however, European consumers seem to need social-esteem-building indulgences that free them from their feelings of social guilt.

Companies are already generating solutions that maximise the ‘social-guilt-free’ attribute. Kellogg’s makes cereals from rice grown by farmers in the region; Carrefour sells vegetables grown locally by a farmer identified by first and last name… By buying these products, I am supporting my local community and reducing my environmental footprint. I don’t need products that are perfect in terms of sustainability or social responsibility; I just want something that immediately reduces my feelings of guilt.

Trendwatching dedicated its latest trend briefing to guilt-free consumption, but let’s expand this notion to include social aspects. This is a great opportunity for the NGO: I’m sensitive, my prayers that things not get any worse have worked, and now I want to indulge in things that instantly assuage my feelings of guilt. How about a donation that can turn a homeless person’s life around? It takes just three minutes. Now I feel better.


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