The terms we use matter when designing and promoting public and social goods. I don’t like the term “subsidy” when applied to government programs. It lacks the related themes and ideas that I think we want associated with public spending. The term has also taken on negative connotations that further hinder strengthening our communities through the marketing of social goods. I prefer to think about government investments.
I’ll illustrate my point with a personal story from my early career at Microsoft.
Look for bright spots of success and hope among your market audience, and you may find your next big idea. Here are lessons from a story about how one underfunded aid worker used turning bright spots into products and services to change a nation.
During flu season it’s good to remember that we’re social animals. Our social standing directly impacts our health; social inequity leads to increased public health threats.
The relationship between status and health showed up clearly in the Whitehall studies in the U.K. The first study tracked the health of men in the British civil service over a ten-year period. It found a strong, inverse relationship between rank in the hierarchy and death rates from coronary disease. Executives atop of the civil service enjoyed much better health than the menial workers at the bottom.
In the United States, discussion of delivery drones usually follows stories such as this New York Times piece about Amazon testing product delivery drones. While Amazon may be aiming for an automated distribution channel, drones offer hope to public and social sector organizations as well.
Distributionis a pillar of marketing, and equitable and cost-effective distribution is a necessity for social goods and services.
This CBS News story showcases several efforts to employ drones in Africa for distributing vital public and social services in areas lacking other infrastructure such as roads and rail.
Sidewalks are infrastructure and infrastructure is a reflection of our social nature. Sidewalks are, or can be, important public spaces. They might, or could, be the public space with which we’re most familiar. Sidewalks build community and promote the healthy lifestyle and walkable neighborhoods that many people say they want.
Consider what happens on sidewalks: chalk drawings, tricycle rides, dog walks, hopscotch, jump rope, lemonade stands, neighborhood conversations, holding hands.
Lucky Iron Fish is a certified B Corp working to improve health around the world, starting in Cambodia. They’ve made a short video, with the help of Google, to tell their organization’s origin story. The video is a great two-minute organizational narrative example that uses the five parts of Joseph Campbell’s mythological story form to tell an compelling story:
Marketers often benchmark their goods and services against the competition. For countries, the main benchmark for nearly a century has been Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. The United States rules in GDP. While increasing GDP does correlate with some improvement in social conditions, it is purely an economic measure. As the measure of a country, a society, it’s narrow and incomplete.
In business school, we poured over case studies, stories about how companies solved, or didn’t solve, a particular challenge. So here’s a challenge for you: how would you use existing products, distribution channels and means of promotion to improve nutrition in one of the largest and richest countries in the world?
I need to replace a toilet in my house. I don’t like spending money on toilets. To me, toilets are like vacuum cleaners and car tires–things that I didn’t grow up looking forward to investing in with my adult money.