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Applying social marketing principles to the social change process

Watch this video from Sharyn Rundle-Thiele to see how the 3 step C-B-E process was applied to reduce dog attacks on koalas
Social marketers use research to get a deep understanding of how we can approach change. We call this insight. We use insight to build programmes that engage community. Let’s take a look at a successful pilot programme. I’ll explain how our team applied research to understand the issue, and how the programme was built and trialled in the community. This example shows you how the co-create, build, engage process– CBE– was applied. Dog attacks are a key threat for Australian koalas. This was identified as an issue in one Australian community. To understand what stakeholders valued we use a systematic literature review, a community survey, co-design workshops and expert interviews. Let’s take a quick look at how the research was used to co-create the programme.
A systematic literature review involves searching databases to understand what’s been done before. We are faster if we learn from the past, and we have to go beyond published science. To do this, we speak to experts to find out about other programmes. Sadly, many past programmes were not evaluated. And because of this, we don’t really know if they have delivered change. Other programmes are competitors. The competitor examples we find can be used in the co-design process to learn which programmes people like and what they don’t like. A community survey is an invaluable way to gain insight. In this instance, we used a survey to identify four groups of dog owners. We called the largest group, “Furbabies.”
This segment of dog owners treated their dog as a member of the family. In the co-design workshops, 60 dog owners designed a programme they would value. Dog owners were a very important stakeholder group, and planning programmes with them was the only way we could understand how to achieve change. We learned from experts, too. Dog trainers told us that a four-week programme would be ideal to teach dogs and owners how to stop chasing koalas. Our research delivered a deep understanding for our creative team. Dog owners made it clear the programme needed to be broader than koalas, because dogs can chase and kill other forms of wildlife, too.
We learned that we needed to show dog owners how they could stop their dog from chasing wildlife, and it needed to be fun. The co-creation design process led to insights that we used to build a programme called Leave It, a four-week training programme offered for $150 at three different locations. We promoted Leave It to make sure that dog owners knew about the programme. Dog owners had asked to be shown what to do, and at the same time, they wanted to have fun. Dog Fest was created– a mini festival delivering retail stalls, training talks, and displays for dog owners living in the local council area. Dog owners could enrol in Leave It at our display stand.
More than 2,000 dog owners attended Dog Fest, and many enrolled in the Leave It programme. Leave It dog trainers all received training in koala aversion from an expert. Delivering behaviour change is the end goal for social marketers. To understand whether Leave It helped to change koala aversion, dog owners were surveyed, and Leave It dog trainers assessed the dogs’ abilities before and after the programme. We found that koala aversion increased for dogs participating in Leave It. We used insights from stakeholder surveys to understand how Leave It could be improved. And in doing so, we started the three step CBE process all over again.

A local council wanted to reduce dog and koala interactions. Finding a solution needed dog owners, dog trainers, wildlife experts, and other experts, to identify strategies that could be implemented to help prevent dogs from attacking koalas.

I hope you enjoyed the video. It was a powerful program with fantastic results.

Working from the bottom up

When tasked with a problem marketers need to gain a deep understanding to learn how to effect change.

As we saw in the video, we started by learning from people at the heart of the problem. In this case we worked with dog owners and other experts. Co-design was applied to work with dog owners, challenging them to identify solutions that could be introduced to reduce dog and koala interactions.


Our surveys of dog owners and project stakeholders showed ways the program could improve and these findings have been used to make further improvements to the Leave It program. Program evaluation is used to improve the program, ensuring it grows stronger year on year.

The pilot project results were positive and led to council continuing the partnership. In 2018/2019 we have embarked on the city wide roll out of a train the trainer program. Our aim is for all dog trainers working in the local council area to have the skills to teach koala aversion techniques to dog owners. You can take a look at our project website, Welcome to Leave IT, to learn more about how the program has evolved.

The C-B-E process is a continual process and what we learned from the pilot program was taken forward into the 2018/2019 citywide roll out.

Your task

Think about your problem. What research would you need to dive deeply into to understand more about how you could implement a strategy to overcome the problem? Use the comments link below to explore your ideas with other learners.

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Social Change: How Can Marketing Help?

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