Selling beyond belief


Personal belief systems supported by social and community norms challenge the success of social campaigns to change traditional attitudes and behaviors, especially when the campaigns attempt to transport the values of developed countries to traditional cultures in less-developed countries. The introduction of well-designed, well-researched social marketing campaigns can increase the overall success rate of public, attitude-change campaigns. By utilizing professional marketing techniques (i.e., the "four 'P's' of marketing: product, price, place (distribution), and promotion), change agents can successfully sell an idea, even if people's beliefs are very much opposed to it. In this paper, the authors present a case history of "Memoirs of a Female Doctor," a 25- spot campaign which was designed to tackle more than a dozen anti-family planning social beliefs and values held by an illiterate and rural target audience in Egypt. With a high frequency of broadcasting of those spots, and with high reach using one medium- television, the campaign succeeded in considerable attitude change toward family planning. In her "memoirs," a female physician appears every night on television to present one situation of an encounter with an ordinary citizen who has some sort of misunderstanding of misconception of family planning and contraceptives. The situation usually ends with clarifying that misunderstanding and correcting the misconception. The popular, highly- respected, mother-like actress enjoyed the audience's respect and trust. By altering deeply ingrained traditional mores, the campaign managed to change behavior in the desired direction. Independent research shows an increase in contraceptive prevalence in Egypt from 37.8 in 1988 to 47.1 in 1992. This is coupled with change in knowledge and attitude regarding family planning and the use of contraceptives.

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