Monday, 31 January 2011

The NCSM Showcase: Sharing ideas and strategy for more effective Social Marketing

An interesting article by Richard Madden over at MarketingWeek has drawn comparisons between marketers in the Voluntary sector and those working for commercial companies. The article makes the argument for it being the commercial marketers who can actually learn a thing or two from their Third sector counterparts, rather than the usual opinion of it being the other way round.

Four points are proffered in support of the argument. The first highlights Charity's need for more demonstrable effectiveness in their campaigns, due to the transparency of their financial reporting and the power of trustees. The second is a propensity for long-termism, the third a greater willingness to share thinking and strategy and the fourth, their quick uptake of behavioural economics, such as idea of the 'nudge', which the Coalition Government has famously taken to heart of late.

Where would the Public Sector, and more specifically, the NHS, fit into this scale?

I think it's fair to say that they tend more towards the Third sector way and in fact, those same positives could pretty much be said about the NHS to a certain extent. Whether Voluntary organisations do actually have the edge or not, the stronger partnership between the two that the Big Society hopes for, can only help in strengthening these points within the respective sectors.

The third point especially resonates with me, in light of our article last week calling for collaboration and sharing between NHS organisations in developing their Social Marketing campaigns. In that piece, I outlined a web based resource where case studies could be shared and discussed, cutting down on unnecessary research and development conducted by separate bodies in creating essentially the same campaigns.

I did wonder if anything was already out there along similar lines. No sooner had I published the article, than our own Marketing Director, John Gilbert, told me that indeed there was. Worse still, we'd actually featured it right here on the Rewarding Marketing Blog, though admittedly that was before my time back in 2009. And the final embarrassment for me, they've even featured a quote from us in their site. Whoops, sorry John!

Showcase, run by the National Center for Social Marketing (NCSM), brings together case studies from not just the UK, but also international sources. The information presented for each study is really exhaustive and in depth, covering key points of interest, such as budget, context, benchmark criteria, and evaluation. Entries can be searched by region or themes, such as smoking cessation or obesity, so visitors can quickly find those which are relevant to the campaigns they're considering conducting themselves.

Also included are contact details for the project leads. This goes some way towards allowing discussion and collaboration, but what I envisaged in my article would go further. Having either a public or private forum around each study would allow an interested party to ask questions and talk through the project, with that dialogue being saved for others to see and contribute to in the future. This would allow visitors to get answers to their questions without bothering the project lead, if they've already been asked. It would also offer the opportunity to communicate with peers who face similar challenges and are looking at related campaigns.

Whether this would be incorporated into Showcase or conducted via a third party, such as facebook, it could be extremely useful to those looking to maximise the effectiveness of their Social Marketing.

One last thing to mention about Showcase is the relatively small number of case studies included. Taking a look at a category which is currently high on the national agenda, such as 'obesity', there are only two case studies currently displayed. It's a guess, but I'm presuming this represents a tiny fraction of the obesity campaigns conducted throughout the country. I'm told that Showcase is well known among health professionals and obviously, they can't force people to submit case studies, but if there was some way to increase the number of submissions, it would make the resource all the more useful.

Friday, 28 January 2011

David Cameron writes to GP's through

Yesterday Prime Minister, David Cameron, looked to calm fears and rally support amongst the GP community for the recently published Health and Social Care Bill, with an open message to the members of the online network, The website is the largest network of medical professionals in the UK, with over 90% of the country's practising doctors registered and has been featured here before.

The message, which is available to read here, doesn't really say anything new, but instead attempts to dispel what Cameron terms 'the myths', that have cropped up in the media and around water coolers.

Here's a brief summary;

  • Myth number one that no change is needed. The Prime Minister says that it certainly is, when we lag behind Europe in many key areas.

  • Myth two that the reforms have come out of the blue. Not true, as everything proposed has already been trialled in one way or another before and the changes represent an evolution from what's come before.

  • Myth three that reform is moving too fast. Not so, as there will be a two year transitional period leading up to GP's taking full responsibility, where it can be trialled and the creases ironed out.

  • Myth  four that GP's will have their time taken up with paperwork, rather than treating patients. This will be avoided by offering support and resources to GP's in managing their new responsibilities. Having consortia instead of individuals will allow for those GP's who would rather not take the lead.

  • Myth five that GP's will have to use private firms to help in their commissioning. No, they won't be forced and will have the choice to go elsewhere, such as the Third sector.

As I say, nothing particularly surprising to anyone who has been following the reforms and the message is more a reiteration of what's been said before.

But, what's most interesting about this to me, is the medium by which Cameron has chosen to speak to GPs. is essentially a Social Media website and the fact that the Prime Minister chose it as the best way to address concerns on such an important issue, demonstrates the power of such platforms. Like facebook and other sites of it's ilk, gets massive interaction, with 40,000 unique visitors every day and therefore offers a huge, engaged audience.

Increasingly, Social Media is becoming the number one way by which to reach such audiences, who make up the country's population and to get a message across.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Striking for Better Health

eskimosoup have been busy developing and delivering a campaign, which sees martial arts duo Strike team up with NHS Hull to deliver a programme of fun and exciting workshops at secondary schools in Hull.

The aim of the programme, which commenced this week, is to provide an exciting, inspirational session to help raise the career and health aspirations of young people in Hull in order for them to work hard and achieve what they want from life.

Danny Ball and Liam Richards from Strike will introduce a short film showing their journey to reaching the final of Britain’s Got Talent. The workshop will involve demonstrations of martial arts, teaching a few basic moves, and delivering a positive message about health and careers.

eskimosoup ensured that the design and messages through the website and the Path to Success booklet were appealing to the young target market. The Path to Success booklet was designed to help young people think about their personal ‘path to success’ and to understand what motivates them, the options they have and what things they can be doing now to help them work towards a happy, healthy life.

You can learn more about the campaign at or visit the facebook page at

eskimosoup Case Study: Strike for Health

Here's the third in our series, showcasing a few of our projects. Today, we have Strike for Health, a project eskimosoup delivered with NHS Hull. This featured the popular martial arts performance duo from Britain's Got Talent.

The Challenge

Develop an ongoing and effective marketing approach through which Strike working with NHS Hull can educate, inspire and call to action positive behaviours relating to health and aspiration amongst over 500 young people in Hull.

The Approach

eskimosoup developed a Strike for Health brand and “The Path to Success”; a system through which young people are assisted with life goal setting, supported and given feedback.

This was supported through a programme of high profile events, media relations campaign and a programme of events working with schools in Hull, commencing in 2011.

Learn more about Strike for Health at

Monday, 24 January 2011

Has your Social Marketing campaign already happened elsewhere?

What Social Marketing campaigns are currently being conducted around the Country? It's very difficult to find a definitive answer, but it's a safe bet that every local NHS organisation will be running programmes of one sort or another. These will no doubt be aimed at national problems, such as obesity, smoking and alcohol abuse, as well as some that may be more specific to their local area.

As part of writing this blog, I try to keep an eye on interesting Social Marketing schemes taking place at a local level, as well as the national campaigns. I do this through having Google Alerts set up on various keywords, which emails me when those keywords appear online. This certainly turns up some great examples, such as the moodometer initiative being run by the NHS Foundation Trust for Gloucestershire, but is equally certain to miss a lot, whether because the keywords aren't included or they're not documented well online.

A central online hub, displaying details of the various campaigns would obviously be very useful to people like me, who write on the subject, but it could also have more far reaching benefits.

As I've said, Local campaigns are already quite difficult, if not impossible, to track down online. This could become even more so as localisation grows, with the Government's intended reforms for the NHS involving giving more responsibility to local authorities, with Public Health and hence, the majority of Social Marketing going to Councils.

The problem with this, is that many may end up reinventing the wheel. The population of Bristol and Hull may be socially different, but if an anti smoking initiative works in one, what's to say it wouldn't work in the other?  Yet, the two bodies remain ignorant of each others efforts, so spend time and resources researching and developing individual campaigns to the same end, inefficiently doubling up their work.

Whether it's Council's, GP Consortia or the Third Sector running campaigns, being able to see what others are doing and to share experiences could be very useful to those involved. If an idea has been tried somewhere, but been proved to be ineffective, others can avoid making the same mistakes, and possibly look to how it can be made to work. Successes can be repeated in other locations and improved on.  With communications incorporated into the hub, collaborative work between separate authorities, sharing research and developments, could lead to all the more effective strategies.

The Midwife Hull project which we've developed and managed on behalf of NHS Hull, has been extremely successful and could certainly be replicated in other areas of the UK, with the very reasonable assumption of similar success. However, for this to currently occur, it would most likely involve us touting for trade with other PCT's or them happening across the campaign online. In the first instance, those on the receiving end may be sceptical of cold calls and the company's intentions. The second instance, again, depends on that campaign actually being visible online.

It would be a different story with the proposed hub, whereby those concerned would find an honest account of the project given by their peers, rather than a provider looking for work. Key metrics would be included and those responsible could be contacted to answer questions. Projects would also be categorised, so a user could refine their search to campaigns relevant to what they're planing.

The Government is moving towards a decentralised NHS, with authorities looking after their own. Whether or not this is a good thing is up for debate, but those authorities shouldn't take it as a lead into becoming more isolated from others and blinkered as to what goes on outside their borders. They'll all be working to similar goals and should take advantage of that fact to collaborate on achieving them.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Health and Social Care Bill looks to encourage further competition in the NHS

[caption id="attachment_711" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley"][/caption]

The much anticipated Health and Social Care Bill was published on Wednesday. The Publication came as confirmation of many plans the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, laid out in his white paper last Summer and the ensuing consultations appeared to have made little difference to his intentions.

This is the first reading of the Bill by the House of Commons, so there's still a long way to go before it comes to pass.

Speaking to Radio 4 before th Bill was published on Tuesday, Mr Lansley said the "‘invariable rule’ would be that patients have better information, greater access to their records and greater opportunity to be involved in and influence the decisions made about their care: ‘This means we move away from a world where in effect the articulate and pushy negotiate their way to the care they get."

The key points of the bill are:

  • All Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) are to be abolished by 2013, with the intention of cutting bureaucracy and reducing the over-abundance of 'administrators'.

  • GP Consortia will be formed throughout England and will have responsibility for commissioning healthcare for their communities. They will have control over 80% of the NHS budget.

  • All hospitals in England will be encouraged to take on 'foundation trust' status. This will make them more autonomous, with less ties to Government, and allow them to make a profit, should they so wish. Private firms will also be able to take over the running of these hospitals and tender for health service commissions.

  • Accountability and transparency will increase, with the formation of Healthwatch. This will be an independent body which will keep track of providers' performance and follow up on complaints.

  • Another new body, Public Health England, will be created. This will oversee and support the transition of responsibility for Public Health, from the NHS to Local Councils.

From our point of view, it's still not clear just exactly how much responsibility the new GP Consortia will have for delivering Social Marketing. We presume a large part will be via Public Health England, and hence, through Councils, but if anyone has any further insight on this, we'd be very grateful to hear from you in the comments below.

Read the Health and Social Care bill in full here.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

eskimosoup Case Study: Peter's Story

[caption id="attachment_700" align="alignright" width="170" caption="Evelyn Krasner and Phillip Lofas from NHS Hull launch the new Peter's Story DVD."][/caption]

Here's the second in our series, showcasing a few of our projects. Today, we have Peter's Story, a project eskimosoup delivered with NHS Hull.

The Challenge

  1. To raise awareness around Men’s mental health, primarily in all Hull postcodes

  2. To create innovative partnerships with organisations and individuals who are in the mental health remit

  3. Over 5,000 DVDs to be distributed through a variety of channels (i.e. MIND Positive Assets)

  4. Produce an exclusive DVD media launch

The Approach

Peter’s Story is a DVD based around men’s mental health and the biggest obstacle was to get men to talk about the taboo subject. The DVD produced by the NHS was a tool to get the target demographic to talk about the subject and seek assistance if needed.

The distribution of the DVD was a key objective, as well as raising awareness around the topic. The key was to research into all key bodies and organisations who are involved in the mental health remit and form alliances to assist ion promoting Peter’s story to a wider audience.

The approach was to ‘piggy-back’ any events or major meetings that would give Peter’s Story great exposure and allow. For example any local conferences that could provide an opportunity to show Peter’s Story,

The Outcome

  • The DVD created a large media interest. The media launch premier was a great success, which saw BBC Radio Humberside, BBC Look North and a large space in the Hull Daily Mail.

  • The DVD created a lot of constructive discussions around men’s mental health.

  • The DVD encouraged line managers, HR managers to take the DVD and distribute around their team (commercial business).

  • The DVD was incorporated into many public sector organisation’s agendas and was utilised to distribute to clients they were treating.

  • Peter’s Story was rolled out nationally after being recognised by the Director of mental health first aid training.

Monday, 17 January 2011

What are the benefits of Remote Monitoring and can it work online?

Cutting edge technology is being trialled by Wakefield NHS in treating people with chronic heart failure. The system allows for remote monitoring of a patient's health, via the internet, as well as facilitating one on one consultations. Run in Conjunction with BT, the trial is due to run until February.

The project uses an interactive personal health system, called the Intel® Health Guide, which incorporates a home based device which prompts patients to regularly input their vital data, such as heart rate and oxygen levels. These are then transmitted, via the internet, to their community nurse for analysis. Should the patient or nurse have any concerns, they can consult via video conferencing integrated into the system.

The tool is not just designed to help heart failure, but any chronic illnesses. A pilot scheme by NHS Lothian initially used the system to help sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and extended later to other chronic ailments, such as cardiac disease and diabetes.

'Telehealth', as such systems have been christened, has a number of benefits for both patients and providers. It has been found to reduce hospitalisation and readmission rates, by identifying problems early. Patients are more likely to adhere to their disease management programmes, improving their outcomes and again, reducing time in hospital. There's also the factor of cost. With less time in hospital and fewer in-person consultations, telehealth can make significant savings, which is obviously a big bonus in the current climate of tight budgets.

Perhaps the most important benefit though, is increased peace of mind for the patient. Wakefield resident, David Ward, had a heart bypass 12 years ago and credits the Health Guide with rejuvenating his life.

"... this system has given me the confidence to lead as normal life as possible with my heart condition... Because of the confidence I have in this system, I don't worry about my health like I used to. I sleep better and don't have the panic attacks I used to and I've started to walk small distances again – I'd go as far as saying it's given me a new lease of life."

The remote monitoring utilized by the Intel Health Guide is similar to that which we've recently discussed in relation to mental health and positive behavioural change. The benefits are very much the same and especially with the inherent savings, should be high on the NHS agenda for extensive research and possible implementation.

Whether the monitoring required for chronic illness is beyond what an online tool could deal with, I'm not sure, but relaying data and video conferencing would certainly be possible. A web based version of the Health Guide could therefore be viable. This would have the advantage of having an unlimited usership and be easier to distribute, as well as being far cheaper than purchasing real-world equipment. A social element, shown in the articles above to be very useful, could also be incorporated.

As the NHS looks for innovative ways in which to not only gain better health outcomes, but also save money, delivery of healthcare via the internet appears to offer huge opportunities to do just that. Video conferencing especially, could drastically reduce time needed with patients. This could be a timely boost for GP's, who may need all the free time they can get to deal with the challenges of the impending Consortia.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Third Sector could help free up Hospital Beds; Could the Internet help too?

Next week is likely to be crunch time for the NHS, when it's future becomes a little more certain as Andrew Lansley's health reforms go before Parliament. His proposals represent possibly the greatest shake up in the history of the Health Service and have appropriately caused much passionate debate over the past months.

A lot of comment in the media has been negative since the new year, so it was refreshing to read two articles this week that focused more on the positives. These remarkably similar pieces at the Guardian and Telegraph, both forward the argument for the Third Sector taking a bigger role in helping the NHS provide healthcare. This is very much in line with the Big Society agenda and echoes our article from back in October.

The story in the Guardian mentions that 75% of NHS resources are taken up by people with long-term illness and how the voluntary sector has the experience and knowledge by which to reduce hospital time and readmissions for such sufferers. The Telegraph also points to the Third Sector helping patients at home, thereby reducing  their need forhospital beds.

We'll be publishing an article on Monday that touches on this, specifically how remote monitoring via the Internet can also go towards achieving the same. With the news today about the expense of Consultant overtime, such ways of reducing the time people spend in hospital could play a key role in the NHS making the savings the Government requires of them.

Internet Marketing WOW e-book launched!

eskimosoup are proud to announce we are now serialising our Internet Marketing Wow! programme for free.

Internet Marketing WOW! is a training programme that provides everything you would ever need to know about getting your organisation up to scratch with internet marketing.

Whilst this has been previously presented as a one day event for clients and associates, we are now sharing the insights online to our facebook friends. The programme provides tips, tricks and techniques we can use everyday that helps clients increase their online presence and persuade more customers to buy from them.

Become a fan of our facebook page to get hold of your copy.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

eskimosoup Case Study: Midwife Hull

We're quite modest at eskimosoup and don't often mention our own work on the Rewarding Marketing Blog. That's not to say we're not very proud of the work we do though, so for the next few weeks, we'll be biting the bullet and featuring a range of our favourite Projects.

To start with, here's Midwife Hull, which is an ongoing initiative we run in partnership with NHS Hull.

The Challenge

NHS Hull were seeking new and engaging ways to help them meet their social marketing objectives for increasing the numbers of pregnant women smokers accessing the Stop Smoking Service and quitting smoking.

The Approach

eskimosoup and NHS Hull adopted Social Media led healthy lifestyle approach. The aim was to increase engagement with young pregnant women in Hull, many of whom were smokers, by enabling them to ask general pregnancy-related questions, and share stories and experiences of pregnancy with other women in Hull.

Activities included:

  • In-depth interviews with pregnant women in Hull, some of which were smoking during pregnancy. The objective was to gain a better understanding of the sample group, the use of social media and attitudes to smoking during pregnancy.

  • Development of “talking head” interviews with pregnant women, health advisers, a healthy lifestyle midwife, an aqua natal instructor and a stop smoking advisor to generate content for the Midwife Hull YouTube channel.

  • Development of a “Hull & Pregnant” Facebook page and a “Midwife Hull” Facebook profile. The Midwife Hull profile shares information, advice and is a popular central resource for women in Hull asking questions relating to health during pregnancy through a private messaging service, which is responded to within 48 hours.

  • Development of the Hull and Pregnant blog to feature firsthand views and articles collected from pregnant women in Hull, plus responses from midwives and healthy lifestyle specialists.

  • Development of leaflets, displays stands, and stickers to enable targeted promotions and engagement with young pregnant women in Hull.

The Outcomes

  • Midwife Hull Facebook Profile has over 900 friends (predominantly in target geographical area and age group) and received 82 health-related questions in the first 100 days of running.

  • Positive media coverage including major features on BBC Look North, and the Hull Daily Mail (two separate features).

  • Clear evidence of approaches to the Stop Smoking Service as a direct result of intervention by the Midwife Hull Facebook profile.

  • Clear evidence that social media can be an effective engagement tool with young women leading to positive health behavioural change.

  • Return on investment to be determined by independent organisation

Evaluation due mid-2011.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Social Gaming offers huge opportunities to the NHS, Government and the Big Society

A new study published by gaming market researchers, Newzoo, found massive uptake in the use of Social Media games, such as FarmVille and MafiaWars, during 2010.  Numbers rose 66% in the year, with over 250 million people now playing worldwide. The study also showed a downturn in console game sales, indicating that the free, online games, played through websites like facebook and Bebo, are the new kings of the hill.

So, why is this relevant to us here? The one word answer, which seems to crop up everywhere in recent times, is engagement. These games connect to people and connect people to each other. Not only that, but they do it on a very regular basis, with many people logging into their Social Media accounts on a daily basis. As we discussed in a previous article, this can be extremely useful in encouraging behavioural change.

In that article, we looked at research into these games' effectiveness, specifically in delivering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  We also recently spoke about an application to help sufferers of anxiety and depression, but apart from these, there doesn't appear to be a great deal going on around this area in the UK. That's to say, not that a search through Google has been able to uncover, so if there are any we've missed, we would love to hear about them.

Across the pond in the US, it's a different matter, where many companies are already delivering better health outcomes via gaming. HopeLab is a non profit Social Enterprise founded by Pam Omidyer, the wife of  eBay founder, Pierre Omidyer.  Founded in 2001, HopeLab looks to how technology and gaming can be used to improve health in young people.

HopeLab's first product, Re-Mission, is a traditional PC based game aimed at young Cancer patients. The game is available for free, worldwide. A study conducted by the company found that...

"... participants given Re-Mission maintained higher levels of chemotherapy in their blood and took their antibiotics more consistently than those in the control group, demonstrating the game’s impact at a biological level. Participants given Re-Mission also showed faster acquisition of cancer-related knowledge and faster increase in self-efficacy."

Moving into the realms of Social Gaming, HopeLab's latest product targets that problem area which the Coalition Government is particularly interested in, namely, child obesity. Zamzee is based around an online rewards system, where physical activity is tracked via a keyfob, then uploaded to a personal profile on a dedicated website. These points can then be traded for real and virtual items, such as new avatars for user's profiles and gift vouchers. The project is due to be rolled out later in the year and will also incorporate mobile technology.

Something similar would certainly be possible via facebook et al, and fits perfectly with David Camerons ideas on 'nudging'. Social Gaming is far from the exclusive domain of children, so could be an extremely powerful platform by which to deliver nudges and the related incentives aimed at tackling a range of Public Health concerns.

There's also another way in which Social Gaming could contribute to the Big Society. Again, America sets the example, with the new Social Gaming company, CausePlay, about to launch a number of innovative products. These integrate advertising into Social Games, as do most, but the difference is that a percentage of revenue is donated to a specific good cause, related to the game. This effectively means that each time a player logs in, they raise money for that cause, as well as having their awareness of the cause raised.

The first game to be released, will be Hospitopia, donating 10% of profits to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Should this get anywhere near the usership of CityVille, which, with over 84 million active users, has just become facebook's biggest ever application, then the money raised would be huge.

Having the good cause attached would only help uptake and fits with the idea shared by the Government and Business, that company's should work with other sectors to make a bigger contribution to Society. With budgets for the Third Sector and the NHS tight (to put it mildly) any additional funding would be welcome and that offered by Socila Gaming could be substantial.  With the Coalition looking to how they can encourage the population to donate more, via signs at checkouts and further options at cashpoints, this would offer them the chance to feel like they are helping, without dipping in to their already barren pockets.

All in all, the potential benefits of Social Gaming are massive. Hopefully, it won't be too long before serious efforts are made within the UK to take advantage of them.

NHS brings together all sectors of public health

Did you know eskimosoup produce the NHS Marketing Blog to serve our clients working within the NHS and partner organisations?
exists to serve individuals from the public, private and voluntary sector working in the area of public health. Our aim is to become the UK’s leading independent website for all things marketing and communications between public health.

The blog encourages those with an interest in health-related marketing and communications to share opinions, articles, news and anything else that may benefit users of the website.

So go on take a look and see what you think…here is a list of our latest articles:
Social Gaming offers huge opportunities to the NHS, Government and the Big Society
The Great Swapathon: What does it offer besides vouchers?
A New Year of Nudges, Networks and… Social Media?
Caring for others as the New Year dawns: Wouldn’t it be great to hear more?
Applications to support the “Happiness Index”?

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Great Swapathon: What does it offer besides vouchers?

Earlier in the week Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, announced announced the Government's first major Public Health campaign of the New Year. The Great Swapathon, under the Change4Life brand, aims to 'nudge' people into swapping unhealthy habits for healthy lifestyle choices. The initiative comprises offer healthy eating voucher books and an online tool to help identify and encourage 'swaps'.

Media coverage, in the Daily Mail, the Guardian, and many other outlets, has focused on the vouchers and specifically, the big business brands offering sponsorship for the scheme. Rather than do the same, let's take a look at the online tool.

This involes setting up a user profile, then going through a health questionnaire, and finally choosing from appropriate 'swaps'.

Going through the questionnaire, it's surprisingly gentle. No questions about smoking or with the implication that you might be over drinking, which you may expect from such initiatives in the past. It's very much in line with the Government's 'nudge' thinking, where people aren't told what to do or made to feel guilty, but instead encouraged to make better choices.

Once the questionnaire is complete, the website provides you with a health rating (mine was happily 'good'). You're then taken to the first 'swap'. For me 'drink' was offered, with several options to choose from. Again, these weren't the usual, strict 'don't drink' style suggestions, but rather gentle 'nudges', such as "Have a non-alcoholic spacer between drinks" or "Opt for a smaller glass".

Once an option is selected, the next page says that it's more fun to share the experience and options are offered to invite friends via email or facebook. I didn't invite any friends, but did allow the associated facebook app to access my information.

And that's it. My swap is due to start tomorrow, so I'll report back with what help and encouragement the website provides. I'm sure this will include emails, but I'm really interested to see what comes from the facebook app. More and more research is finding that the social element provided by sites such as facebook can be hugely helpful in encouraging behavioural change. I look forward to seeing if and how the Great Swapathon takes advantage of this.

On Monday, we'll be publishing an article looking at this in more depth, specifically focusing on the massive benefits that Social Gaming can offer.  The Great Swapathon is a year long campaign, so bringing in a gaming element in the future may well be a good idea.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A New Year of Nudges, Networks and... Social Media?

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, and Prime Minister, David Cameron, are spearheading a new campaign to improve the nations health. As the New Year begins, the Government are looking to make the most of the population's resolutions to become healthier, taking advantage of the time of year, as we suggested in our article last week.

The plan, to be rolled out as part of the ongoing Change4Life campaign, will see the NHS offer up to 1 million nicotine patches to smokers for free. This is the first time this has been available without prescription. Cut-price vouchers for gym and swimming sessions will also be on offer.

The move further demonstrates the Coalitions Government's commitment to "Nudge" theory. This is essentially where instead of telling people what the do, the Government look to how they can "nudge" people into making better lifestyle choices. It's based on the fact that people don't always do what's best for them, but instead of prohibiting the bad options, those that are better are made more attractive. An example would be in a canteen, where the healthy food is placed at eye level and the less healthy items are in a harder to reach position.

The idea of the nudge came about as a result of research conducted by leading American economists, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, who published the appropriately titled Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, back in 2008. Since then, both Barack Obama and David Cameron have become advocates of the theory and have invited the authors to advise on it's integration into policy.

Cameron went so far as to launch a "behavioural insight team", dubbed the "Nudge Unit" by many, whose role over two years is to look at how to prompt people into making better lifestyle decisions.

Despite the new initiative and the ongoing work of the "Nudge Unit", an article over at the Telegraph, suggests that nudging may already have had it's day. In the article, leading economist Eric Beinhocker states that the behavioural understanding of Nudge Theory is only the first step, with the larger goal to understand the networks in which we live.

This view was put forward back in August by another leading Economist, Paul Ormerod, in his excellent essay, N Squared; Public policy and the power of networks, published by the RSA. The essay argues that although the nudge can be effective and valid, our social networks have a much greater influence on how we behave. Nudges should therefore be employed within these structures, with emphasis placed on examining which spread best through a network. The power of the nudge is then combined with that of our networks, hence "N Squared".

Ormerod suggests that harnessing the potential of this could offer Government a tool the likes of which it's never seen, with the ability to "... induce dramatic mass behaviour change." This reaches beyond public health, towards the collaborative vision of the Big Society and even tackling international challenges, such as climate change.

Any long term readers of the Rewarding Marketing Blog may have noticed my propensity to offer Social Media as a relatively untapped well of massive potential for influencing behavioural change. With that in mind, it may not be too difficult to guess where this article is leading.

If social networks offer such a powerful opportunity, then Social Media may be a large part of the means by which that's achieved. Networks within Social Media are far more visible, reachable and measurable than they are in the real world. Ormerod also states that an understanding of the "flow" of networks means only a few need to be nudged, for a huge number of people to be affected. Incorporating this with the viral nature of Social Media doesn't take much of a leap.

Should Government look to adopt any or all of "Network Theory", Social Media could provide the tools to make it a reality.