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Vital Stories

Top Hits from the World Social Marketing Conference in Toronto

1. Rescue Social Change Group’s thoughtful founder, Jeff Jordan, led a keynote session that illustrated the difference between two connected, but separate strategies; commercial and social branding. His theory: When legislative and financial interventions have stagnated, and declines in smoking rates among specific populations (such as 20 to 25 year olds) fail to decrease in places like California, he calls in a creation called Commune.

This intervention builds on a strategy the tobacco industry uses to great effect; targeting tastemakers and trendsetters such as “hipsters and young musicians to participate in spreading messages, in this case anti-industry messages. A 32-month follow-up study, found that 14% of the target group and 23% of opinion leaders within that peer group, quit smoking. Materials from this campaign in San Diego can be viewed here.

2. Hummingbird International’s Chairman/Managing Director, Shiraz Latiff, provided an uplifting presentation, sharing three successful social marketing campaigns from his native country of Sri Lanka. The most captivating of these campaigns was a novel diabetes prevention effort called Seeni Meani, (Seeni is a Sri Lankan word for sugar).

“F’poons,” a teaspoon with slots cut out of the head (resembling a fork), were unsuspectingly placed in sugar jars in popular restaurants in Colombo, to create awareness among tea drinkers about how much sugar they were using. In just six hours on World Diabetes Day, over 1,500 people used the special spoons. The result, tea drinkers used approximately 65% less sugar. Users were surprised when they first saw the odd device for scooping sugar, but the F’poons illuminated simply and easily just how much sugar customers were using in each cup of tea they drank (approximately 2.5 teaspoons). Strengthened by a multilingual PR campaign, the intervention garnered accolades in several international forums. There are now plans to produce the f’poon on a commercial level for expanded use. An explanatory video and A project summary are available here.

3. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement gave some unexpected insight into the nature of eating habits and food choices. Author of “Mindless Eating”, Dr. Brian Wansink explains how a persons’ subconscious choices can be positively influenced simply by the ways that food is presented. His low-cost/no-cost solutions were wildly effectual in better eating habits and healthier food selection, Using tactics that include simply nudging unknowing subjects in the right direction by using environmental and visual cues. For example, simply reorienting a lunchroom layout can provide win-win ideas that help students make healthier food choices, while being easy and inexpensive for schools. Three super-simple effective measures that make a big difference in food selections:

A. Put fruit in a pretty bowl
B. Give healthy lunch items a nice name such as” hearty roasted late autumn vegetables.” as opposed to “turnips and carrots.”
C. Put the salad bar directly in front of the check out line

Sam Kolinsky Communications Associate