Monday, 25 October 2010

When is the Best Time to Deliver Social Marketing?

time-12To mark the launch of Alcohol Awareness Week 2010, a new initiative has been introduced by Northhamptonshire NHS. As part of their ongoing Like A Drink campaign, the PCT will be taking their drink awareness message to the bars and clubs of the county.

Young drinkers in the area are the targets and will be invited to take a variety of sobriety tests, such as breathalysers and walking straight lines whilst wearing beer goggles. Those who score poorly will have their hands stamped with the web address for the campaign, where they can find help and advice in controlling their drinking.

This is far from the first time that such a campaign has targeted the Public whilst actually in drinking establishments, where it's been commonplace for several years now to find drink awareness messages on beermats and wall posters. Charities, such as DrinkAware and Alcohol Concern, as well as the NHS, have employed such techniques, along with the more direct, face to face methods currently being used by NHS Norhamptonshire.

But is this the right time and place to deliver such messages? Within the buying cycle of the average drinker, the decision has already been made to make the purchase and the amount to be  imbibed will already be roughly predetermined. What's more, they're already out on their night of fun and being told to consider cutting it short or to be sensible whilst it's in full swing may gain a little resentment against the message itself and the organisation offering it.

To a certain extent, this is speculation and it would be interesting to see figures on the effectiveness of such campaigns, as well as the results garnered from NHS Northamptonshire's latest scheme as it progresses. However, the point does highlight an important consideration in Social Marketing, which mirrors that of it's commercial counterpart; what is the most effective time to deliver a message?

This point is often overlooked in both the Commercial and Public sector, with campaigns rolled out as soon as they're ready to go, but more thought is needed. To achieve maximum impact and penetration, the psychology of the recipient needs to inform the timing of the message. In email communications, for instance, Friday afternoons is considered an optimum time to give a sales pitch for retail. The target will be winding down work and looking forward to shopping on the Saturday.

With an alcohol awareness campaign, targeting the point  at which people are most likely to have a positive outlook on their drinking habits, i.e. whilst on a night out, may not be the best time. With the NHS Northamptonshire initiative, the hand stamp may well be the best move, as this could still be with there the morning after, when hangovers rear their ugly heads.

As this is the time many are more likely to, albeit often over-optimistically, proclaim "I'll never drink again!", it stands to reason that it would be one of those optimum times to deliver the message. For that message to stand a chance of effecting behavioural change it needs to 'bed in' strongly or better still, engage recipients enough for them to subscribe to an ongoing campaign. It doesn't take to great a leap of the imagination to realise that this is something which Social Media is almost ideally placed to deliver, all the more so as Sunday just happens to be a day when people are most likely to log in.

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