If social marketing is the planning and implementation of programs designed to bring about social change using concepts from commercial marketing, U2 singer Bono might be the master of it.
Through his plan: “One campaign to make Poverty History” launched this year, Bono has been signing up his audience as members. He hoped to get a million people, he got 2 million members so far since March. During an interview with the SF Chronicle, Bono announced that: “By the next election, the One Campaign to make Poverty History will be larger than the National Rifle Association”. Perhaps one of the U2 singer’s most important steps is the recent cancellation of debts owed by a number of Third World countries to the world’s richest countries. In the past, Bono was successfully focusing on funding AIDS and malaria relief after volunteering in 1984 with his wife for six weeks in an Ethiopian refugee camp. The ultimate proof of his tremendous impact in the world is that he is seriously considered as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate.
A true citizen of the world, Bono is also a very fine social marketer. Social marketing was “born” as a discipline in the 1970s, when Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman realized that the same marketing principles that were being used to sell products to consumers could be used to “sell” ideas, attitudes and behaviors. Social marketing seeks to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target audience and the general society.” Bono talks to the consumer. He does not talk about the product or service. He communicates to his targeted audience during shows, through his music and lyrics, through the media and to many political and religious leaders of the world. To name a few: President Bush, Bill Gates, evangelical Christian groups, etc. He is able to touch people and achieve his goal of positive social change. As a lead singer, he is “confident and compassionate”, per Daniel King, a Chronicle staff writer. His powerful image adds to the impact of his messages and campaigns. He generates trust which is a key component of social marketing.
Today, Bono realizes that he also needs to address the corporate world. He said: “We need the marketing firepower. We have the churches, the students, the rock stars, the movie stars, the cowboys. What we need now is corporate America.” When he speaks to corporate America, he talks about countries being branded. Brand USA is in a bit of trouble. It affects the business world and leaders know it; so why not contribute to a better USA brand? People want to see again the great America that put a man on the moon. This time, Bono is asking for the “man to be put back on earth”. It is not about charity anymore, it is about justice. Corporate America can help achieve social justice in the world with its technology, its pharmaceuticals, its firepower, among many tools. If Bono turns out to be as successful targeting the business groups as he was with political and religious groups, then we might see significant social changes.