Below is a presentation I delivered with a partner today regarding the use of marketing techniques in the non-profit sector.
I found it incredibly hard to argue the “no” side in this debate because when I first saw the question, I didn’t really agree with my side. (It was assigned to me because I registered late for the Marketing Ethics class.) I found myself researching a lot because I had to convince myself that my side at least had a valid point.
We decided to limit the topic to advertising because most of the literature we’ve read focused on this practice. Honestly I thought it was necessary to have a very limited scope with this one — I just can’t imagine any non-profit surviving without doing anything like a door-to-door effort or direct mail (technically, both of these are marketing techniques).
Essentially, here are our main points:
- There are fundamental differences between the commercial and non-profit sectors, especially when it comes to product and price; these differences necessitate the need for different approaches in each sector. (In other words, not everything we learn in business school is applicable to the non-profit sector.)
- Advertising is not effective in communicating social messages. To back this up, we highlighted studies that suggest that consumers are tuning ads out, and that social marketers are forced to use emotional appeals (fear, guilt, sex, etc.) to catch their target audience’s attention.
- Advertising is a waste of money — mainly because emotional appeals do not necessarily work and because of advertising wearout (which necessitates that non-profits produce new advertising regularly).
- There are other methods that non-profits can use — for instance, personal communication and other grassroots initiatives.
Just a note: even after presenting this to my class (and defending it ferociously), I still think that advertising can be part of a non-profit’s marketing efforts. It’s really just all about implementation. Emotional appeals are ethically questionable, but that doesn’t mean that non-profits can’t be more creative and use humour, for instance, in order to cut through the clutter. Also, it has to be part of a more integrated marcomm campaign; advertising by itself probably won’t do the trick.
I think, too, that internet advertising presents some opportunities for non-profits to increase awareness about their cause without relying too much on emotional appeals.
I’m just glad that I’m done with this debate. Defending a position that I don’t agree with forced me to think even more critically — and I found the process interesting — but the experience was stressful and confusing for me.
P.S. I’ve used Prezi for this, and obviously the actual presentation has some issues. I suggest working with a big monitor if you ever find yourself working with Prezi — some of the frames in this presentation looked better (more focused) on my laptop’s computer.
Photo: net_efekt (on Flick)