Social marketing targeting Indigenous peoples

Social marketing campaigns are essentially marketing initiatives that seek to bring about behaviour-change amongst a certain group of audience. Thus, effective campaigns of this nature usually make use of a strong understanding of the specific potential target markets and their motivations for engaging (or not) in a particular behaviour. Some examples of behaviour-change social marketing campaigns include economic development and sociopolitical issues (e.g. encouraging investment or migration to a certain region, changing pre-established perspectives of a certain community or group, etc.).

One of the areas that many marketers find the most challenging is building a social marketing campaign targeted at Indigenous peoples. The first thing to keep in mind is that one must be careful not to romanticize and generalize “iconic cultural symbols” to represent all Indigenous peoples.

An example of this would be the use of Totem Poles as a generic symbol to represent all Indigenous communities and more importantly, doing so without consent (even if this is done without the intent to harm). In the past, there were many Indigenous communities that had totem poles up in the west and missionaries/priests/other European authorities had these cut them down and burnt them in front of entire villages. To use those images therefore would continue the notion that these icons can still be used and romanticized, and more importantly, may cause certain audiences to relive or recall trauma that occurred historically and spiralled down to the present.

When developing a campaign targeted at Indigenous peoples, one should avoid “pan-Aboriginal” approaches that generalize various communities into a collective group. Instead, it is important to recognize, understand and build programs based on established cultural norms; developing community-specific and community-level campaigns that resonate with the audience on a personal level.

As with any other social marketing campaigns, in-depth research on the targeted audience is essential to developing the most suitable solution for that specific group, this includes leveraging social networks and social gatherings, for instance.

One thing that’s mostly consistent across the board is that multi-channel approaches appear to be critical for effective message distribution, and consequently for facilitating behaviour changes.

These are just some of the observations that have been made on social marketing targeting indigenous peoples, but many of these points apply to individual pieces of design work concerning similar targeted audiences as well.