3 Tips for Your Social Norms Marketing Campaign

International Students, Student Affairs, Student Health

In a previous blog, we discussed social norms marketing – using traditional and innovative marketing methods to inform and educate students on positive social norms with the goal of correcting the misconceptions.

For example, if I told you that most universities use social norms marketing campaigns to reach their students, would you be more willing to consider your own campaign? If you answered yes, then it is easy to see how a social norms approach could have a positive impact on students. So now that we’ve convinced you, here are three tips for developing a successful campaign.

  1. Use a variety of communication methods

It is a common advertising strategy to use different venues to get the message across to your audience. I’m sure you’ve seen ads on TV, then online, and then again in print. This strategy helps to reinforce the message and create greater awareness than if just one venue were to be used to reach students.

To reach students, consider the following methods for a comprehensive campus-wide campaign,

  • Posters in high-traffic areas on campus
  • An ad in the student newspaper
  • Digital means, such as the school website and social media pages
  • An informational table during orientation – make it engaging by handing out giveaways and incorporating games
  • Use an influencer – If a student has a large social media following, work with them to spread your message. This could be a very beneficial approach since word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing methods.
  1. Make sure your imagery and design appropriately get the message across

If you don’t communicate your message properly or use imagery that reinforces your point, your campaign could end up having the opposite effect or no effect at all. Let’s look at one specific example of an unsuccessful campaign and why it failed:

A group of researchers met to analyze an unsuccessful social norms campaign at a large urban university. One component of the campaign was printed posters displayed around campus. “The advertisement was dominated by a black-and-white photograph of a young, male student who is leaning over a toilet. A pizza box and several empty beer cans are strewn on the floor. The phrase “Bottoms Up!” appears at the top in large letters, Near the bottom of the advertisement is the campaign slogan, “Done 4” plus the following normative message: “Over 3/4 of [university] students drink 4 or fewer drinks when they party.”

There were a few different theories as to why this campaign was unsuccessful:

  • The selected image did not reinforce the message
  • The slogan’s placement on the advertisement was overshadowed by the imagery
  • The campaign slogan wasn’t easily associated with the campaign’s message
  1. Obtain feedback from students

It’s happened many times before, you have a great idea for a campaign message but no one catches on. What went wrong? One possible reason why your campaign wasn’t well received is that the message wasn’t right for your target audience. Therefore, it is important to test your message with your target audience and tweak it based on their feedback. One common way to do this is by hosting a focus group. Develop a few design concepts, gather a small group of students, show them the advertisements, and host an open discussion. This is a great way to obtain valuable feedback directly from the people you want to reach.

Now that you know what social norms marketing is and the basics of how to build a campaign, it’s time to get started on your own. To get the creative juices flowing, here are some real-life campaign ideas.