Social marketing is difficult to apply. Our team have built CBE to explain the process social marketers apply to centre people at the heart of everything we do. Social marketing is the application of marketing to deliver a change that benefits people, communities and the planet. Social marketing works in partnership with other expert fields. You can read more about the key characteristics of social marketing here.

The key strength social marketing brings to the change space is the development of something people value. By understanding what people want, social marketers can generate voluntary behaviour change. Marketing is a matching approach. When people choose to join a social marketing program, their actions deliver direct benefit to them and to their community.

Scientists are examining social marketing practice globally. For example, our team has assessed the extent of social marketing principle use. Recent examples have looked at littering, composting and food waste. Over time we have learned that behaviour change is more likely when more principles are applied. In simple terms our research program seeks to understand what works. Our research and development efforts aim to provide tangible ways to help focus investment and people’s energy on the things that matter and that generate changes benefitting all.

As we learn more about what works, our team then focuses on building processes for others to follow. Social marketing has a lot to offer. We want to see more change makers using social marketing to generate voluntary behaviour change. Over the past decade our team have built the CBE process. CBE was developed to ensure both the philosophy, principles and set of activities of marketing are applied.

Diagram showing the CBE process

Philosophically marketing puts people at the heart of everything we do. Understanding how people live, work and play is at the core of marketing. By listening to people and learning what they want and need marketers find ways to change people’s hearts and minds. Marketers can also change behaviours simply by placing products, services and other offerings in different places and spaces. CBE demonstrates how marketing starts by learning from people and it explains how and where principles and activities are applied within a sequential process to achieve behaviour change. Take a look at how first time application should ideally occur by stepping through the CBE process here.

The CBE wheel shows how co-create, build and engage occurs across three steps when applied for the first time. Over time the stages blur in a continual process to iterate and improve products, services or programs in response to feedback. In social marketing we want people to willingly choose to do something different than they were doing before. By giving people the chance to design program solutions with us we learn what works for them and other people like them. This process is called co-creation.

Co-creation acknowledges that people are experts of their own worlds and invites them to voice what they need. By combining community and stakeholder perspectives the co-creation method delivers the solutions that people want to see. Learn more about how the Leaf Collective was co-created in Canberra here.

Build marks the second step of the CBE process. Once clear insights have emerged from co-creation, the people and organisations to realise the solution design are hired and they work to get core solution components together in time for launch. Program teams aim to offer products, services, programs or other solutions that are attractive and valuable for people and communication plans are built and approved to advertise the solution from launch.

Engage is the third and final step in the CBE process. This is where staff working in teams work with partners to make sure people know about the solution. Using a range of promotions, people are encouraged to attend events, buy or use products and services, follow work on social media, visit program websites and more. Calls to action are offered and the solutions in market are monitored to understand what works. As feedback comes in, program teams do more of what works to maximise program outcomes. In simple terms, activities that raise awareness and remind people of the solution and its availability are the focus of the final CBE step. Solutions are promoted as widely as possible within the budgetary and operational constraints.

We will briefly illustrate one example of how CBE was applied. Funded by Redland City Council as part of its 2016-2021 Koala Conservation Program one of our teams co-created Leave It. Our co-creation stage involved surveying people, interviewing experts, looking at the evidence base and co-designing key program components with dog owners.

The co-creation phase is described here in more detail. The Leave It pilot demonstrated that dog abilities could be changed following a four week program. In just 12 months our team learned that dogs can be taught to avoid koalas. During co-creation we gained the following insights from dog owners and the broader community. We learned that people wanted:

1. A fun, dog focussed program that teaches dog owners what to do could be offered, and

2. 4 weeks of training for dogs and their owners by qualified trainers were all that would be needed.

Following the success of the pilot the program, Leave It was rolled out city-wide over the next 2 ½ years. Leave It was funded by Redland City Council for three and half years. During this time a 40% reduction in koala deaths from dog attacks was observed. This is just one example demonstrating how programs can be built in partnerships with communities.

In 2021 Vanessa Salamone, Renata Anibaldi, Melissa Dalley, Jeremy Larsen and Brooklyn Downes piloted a social marketing in Canberra, ACT applying CBE™ to reduce the amount of leaves entering ACT waterways. People living in the ACT joined the collective diverting 200,000 litres of leaves out of stormwater drains.

This work is funded by ACT Government. The Leaf Collective was co-created with ACT residents and experts working on water quality, waste removal, composting and much more. You can read more about how The Leaf Collective Autumn 2021 pilot was co-created here.

You can explore program elements realised after co-creation by exploring our project website. You can also follow us on Facebook to watch how our work continues to unfold. 

Over the past ten years Social Marketing @ Griffith has worked on a host of different issues realising many positive changes. Our work has positively impacted ten’s of thousands of lives for the better and it has prevented koala fatalities from dog attacks. In addition to watching the Leaf Collective program unfold in real time, you can look back at how we have used CBE in other projects. We provide a roadmap outlining the activities that occurred in first time program development and implementation across each stage of the three step CBE process in our forthcoming Social Marketing Quarterly paper. We hope that it helps you to advance your change projects as well. 

Author: Prof. Sharyn Rundle-Thiele