Change is hard. In fact, it’s really hard. There is a valid reason for clichés like “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks;” they are tried and true.  In late January, ask nine out of every ten people who less than a month earlier had made New Year’s resolutions if you don’t believe me.

Why do so many diet plans, exercise regimes, smoking cessation quests and personality makeovers fail? Why is it so hard to teach an old dog that new trick? We are not psychologists and we don’t pretend for a moment to understand the inner workings of people’s psyches, but we do know something about behavior change. For the most part, voluntary behavior change can only work when the person trying to change takes on one doable behavior change at a time. People who try to take on too much too soon usually fail. Now you know why that wise mother, father, aunt, uncle, or sibling told you growing up to take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and one pant leg at a time. It’s human nature for a person who is successful at one thing to be more willing to take on something else. Success breeds success and failure breeds failure. Social marketing success means setting your target audience up for behavior change success.

Social marketing is a powerful approach to addressing a wide range of today’s social problems. Its goal: to bring about voluntary behavior change in the lives of individuals that can have meaningful benefits, both for those individuals and for society as a whole.  Social marketing uses many of the successful techniques of commercial marketing. However, rather than being product oriented, social marketing is people oriented. Put simply, social marketers sell positive behaviors.

Social marketing consists of two basic components: marketing messages and strategic partnerships with community resources. Those two components are wrapped into a well-planned, strategic campaign that centers around specific target audiences. A social marketer starts by using qualitative and quantitative audience research to answer fundamental questions people often have when you ask them to change: What's in it for me? Why should I. To be successful at social marketing you need to give people a reason to change that has little to do with what's right and what's wrong, and everything to do with how it will benefit the end user.