Jeff Jordan sharing on social branding

innovate change in partnership with the New Zealand Drug Foundation and our mates at Curative brought social marketing maestro Jeff Jordan, founder of Rescue SCG, to NZ to share his unique approach – social branding.

As well as sharing his experience of being a young social entrepreneur at innovate change takeaways, Jeff facilitated workshops on behaviour change for good in Auckland and Wellington.

Here’s a look at eight insights he shared in April 2015:


ONE:  Awareness is not enough.

For a long time public health has strived to raise public awareness of various pieces of information that say people shouldn’t do x behaviour and should definitely do y. We assume that if people just knew how bad something was for them, they’d stop doing it almost automatically.

Jeff points out that people aren’t really that logical, and that a lot of what determines the choices we make and the behaviours we engage in is our environment and peer group.

TWO:  Engagement does not mean success.

Although measuring the number of Facebook shares we get for a clever health meme might feel really nice, it’s not an impact metric. Just because a lot of people have seen or ‘liked’ a post doesn’t mean they have been influenced by its message.


THREE: Too often public health tries to reach everyone with one campaign.


The public health sector is way behind the commercial marketing world when it comes to monopolising on lifestyle adherence. Many cigarette brands, for instance, are actually “rebrands” of the same product, packaged differently to match the audience they’re targeting.

This is in contrast to most social marketing that treats everyone within a demographic subset as a single audience, with a single message delivered in a single way.


FOUR:  To reach young people, we must understand peer groups.

The social groups and scenes that young people identify with is a powerful indicator and determinant of their behaviours. Rescue SCG is known for its targeted social branding strategies based on research into socio-cultural peer crowds, and this means they have a powerful ability to create marketing that matches what young people value.


FIVE:  Social marketing brands do not need to point to the behaviour change.

Many social marketing programmes don brands centred around the behaviours they seek to discourage or promote. These brands are consequently interesting only to those who already support the message being offered up. To everyone else they inevitably feel incongruous with their lifestyle and values.

Jeff talked about the need to form brands based on the lifestyles and identities (peer crowds) of the people you are trying to reach because, quite simply, these are the only brands that a programme’s target audience will care about.


SIX:  Find those in a community who already agree with you and amplify them.

People inside of a subculture already know the scene and have a place in it.

By finding respected people within a scene who want the outcome you’re trying to achieve, and supporting them to be leaders of that change, your message gets way more impactful.


SEVEN:  Understand the behaviour before you choose your strategy.

We need to assume that for an individual engaging in a behaviour we want to change, there’s some positive benefit they’re getting from it. There’s a reason they’re doing it, even if we don’t agree with that reason.

It’s important that we understand and respect the behaviour that we want to change. We need to find out why the “bad behaviour” is a good idea. Then we are better equipped to offer an alternative, better strategy for getting the same benefit.


EIGHT:  (Re)frame the desired outcome as a better way to be who they already want to be.

People act in alignment with what they value and how they see themselves. Encouraging them to change their behaviour in ways that don’t fit their values and identity simply doesn’t work.

However, showing how a preferred behaviour (like not smoking) allows individuals to express what’s important to them (like not testing on animals) more effectively than what they’re already doing is way more likely to succeed.


Edward from Curative has written a blog about his takeaways from Jeff’s workshop too – read it here and handouts from the workshops are available for view and download here.