For our mass communication final, we were to choose two questions from a list of four and write at least a page and a half response to each question. I admit I was in more of a rush on this one than usual because of unavoidable personal circumstances and how long my first question response turned out to be. I took some risks because I didn’t have time to second-guess myself. I don’t yet know my grade. I found two typos after turning it in which I have corrected here. What will happen?
2. Summarize and critique Social Marketing. How do you see the theory’s characteristics? Provide examples.
Everett Rogers was a researcher who studied the flow of information and personal spheres of influence in the early 1960s. Rogers developed the information diffusion theory and innovation diffusion theory to explain how new ideas and technologies get distributed and adopted. He found a progression through several stages: first comes awareness, then utilization by early adopters. Opinion leaders observe the early adopters and try out the new innovations and concepts on their own. If they find the new ideas useful, the opinion leaders spread the news to opinion followers that they associate with. The last group to embrace the new innovations are the late adopters who try the new ways when they see that the majority of society has accepted them (Baran and Davis 277).
Information/diffusion theories assign some of the awareness role to the mass media, explaining that elites get the process started, then change agents whose job it is to promote actions and ideas along with early adopters who are active and knowledgeable media users take over information dissemination (Baran and Davis 278). Innovations that were not a good fit for the intended users were found to fail in the long term even if people could be persuaded to try them. A top-down approach was not satisfactory without some modifications (Baran and Davis 279).
Social marketing theory is a body of thought that deals with the promotion of practices or products that take the public good into account and are not primarily motivated by profit. To bring about desired effects in society, an information provider empowers agents with various forms of support to become opinion leaders to an active audience (Baran and Davis 279).
I belong to an organization that utilizes social marketing theory effectively – the St. Louis Master Gardener program. Our Master Gardeners spread knowledge and perform volunteer work to increase area residents’ pleasure in gardens and gardening and to provide horticultural information (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Welcome Gardeners”). How does the St. Louis Master Gardener program exemplify the seven key features of social marketing theory?
Step 1. The first requirement is to raise awareness (Baran and Davis 279). Master Gardeners sponsor horticulture related events and garden tours and send speakers out to other organizations (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Welcome Gardeners”). Members can purchase apparel with the organization’s logo to wear while performing public volunteer duties (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Master Gardener Merchandise”). The Master Gardener program also uses their web site and Facebook page to promote the organization (St. Louis Master Gardeners).
Step 2. Secondly, targeting is employed to reach those who are most susceptible to the message (Baran and Davis 280). The sponsoring organizations of the St. Louis Master Gardener Program, the University of Missouri Extension and Missouri Botanical Garden, are prominent in horticultural education. The University of Missouri Extension educates one million Missourians per year (University of Missouri Extension). Missouri Botanical Garden, also known as MOBOT, is a world leader in research and as a provider scientific plant information (Missouri Botanical Garden “Research”). MOBOT provided 121.7 million dollars to the St. Louis region’s economy in 2017 (Missouri Botanical Garden “Annual & Strategic Reports”) and is a highly rated destination for tourists (Attractions of America). Many of the public sites where Master Gardeners perform work attract audiences interested in plants, gardening, ecology and outdoor activities (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Master Gardeners in Action”).
Step 3. Messages must be repetitious and promoted through several media channels to be effective even among a targeted group (Baran and Davis 280). St. Louis Master Gardeners are required to volunteer a minimum of 40 hours and complete 10 hours of education annually to remain certified (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Become a Master Gardener”). According the St. Louis Master Gardeners annual report, in 2018 there were 346 active Master Gardeners who contributed a total of 38,100 volunteer hours and delivered 101 Speakers Bureau presentations (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Annual Report 2018” 5). That is a lot of opportunity to communicate with members of the public who are interested in gardening.
Step 4. Images and impressions of the desired behavior must be cultivated through attractive images that are easily recognizable and compelling (Baran and Davis 280). Since gardening is the most popular hobby in the US (Pearlstein and Gehringer 64) and people across many cultures find the sight of flowers pleasing (Hula and Flegr “Introduction”), there are abundant opportunities for the media and change agents to create seductive images and situations.
Step 5. Members of the intended audience must be interested enough to seek information (Baran and Davis 280). Master Gardeners are compelled by the program’s requirements to constantly add to their expertise (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Become a Master Gardener”). Gardening takes considerable knowledge to engage in successfully (Sweetser), so it’s not very difficult to get participants in the nation’s most popular hobby to seek and consume information. Gardening could even increase in popularity due to home trends that include maximizing use of outdoor space (Ballinger “What’s Hot: Trends in the Pipeline for 2018”), gardens that enhance wellness (Ballinger “Elements of a Residential Therapy Garden”), and the trend toward consuming more locally grown food (Ballinger “Agrihoods Feed Buyer Interest With Hip Amenities”).
Step 6. As the audience becomes more informed and engaged, influencing audience priorities and decision making are the next tasks according to social media theory (Baran and Davis 280). The media can be used to transmit messages to encourage the desired behavior and is usually more affordable than using change agents and opinion leaders (Baran and Davis 280). The St. Louis Master Gardener program has an advantage with access to a team of change agents and opinion leaders who volunteer their time and even pay for the tuition to become a Master Gardener (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Become a Master Gardener”).
Step 7. Finally, the audience is exposed to marketing techniques designed to stimulate action (Baran and Davis 280). The actions that the Master Gardener program wants to encourage in the general public are to engage in and enjoy gardening (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Welcome Gardeners”). As evidenced by the activities already mentioned, Master Gardeners provide a lot of free and low-cost advice to make gardening more successful and enjoyable to our audience. Some of the institutions that make use of Master Gardener services provide inspiration to the public with beautiful plantings (St. Louis Master Gardeners “Master Gardeners in Action”). The Master Gardener calendar of activities includes events such as plant sales, tours, holiday celebrations and classes about not only growing plants but using their harvested products (St. Louis Master Gardeners “STLMG Calendar”). Such activities help to stimulate interested persons into starting a garden or expanding their gardening activities.
Social marketing theorists try to make their information/innovation diffusion efforts more effective by requesting feedback from consumers and making changes during a campaign if necessary (Baran and Davis 281). They hope to avoid the pitfalls of information/innovation diffusion theory when applied to audiences that don’t want or don’t understand the innovations they are encouraged to adopt (Baran and Davis 278). Social marketing theory has several weaknesses, for example a campaign can fail to work as planned if there is no two-way communication between an early adopter and a party that resists the innovation (Baran and Davis 281).
I inadvertently found myself demonstrating some effective and ineffective aspects of information/innovation diffusion theory and social marketing theory when my husband and I started installing rainscaping features to prevent damage to our house and yard. As part of my Master Gardener continuing education, I attended a Project Clear presentation by the Metropolitan Sewer District, also known as MSD, on what homeowners can do to help MSD control flooding, sewer backups and poor water quality in our region (Hasenfratz). Social marketing theory assumes a benign information provider primarily interested in the general well-being of the community (Baran and Davis 279). In MSD’s case, if homeowners adopted the practices advocated by MSD, MSD would benefit by having some of the pressure taken off of them while society in general would also benefit by enduring less property damage, reducing some of its own costs and creating a healthier environment for humans and other species. I took on the role of opinion leader when I wrote about rainscaping on the Schnarr’s Hardware Company business blog and my husband and I became early adopters when we started installing rainscaping features (Baran and Davis 277). MSD was successful in convincing me to go through the social marketing theory steps all the way to Step 7, activation (Baran and Davis 279-280).
We encountered resistance to our innovation when our next-door neighbor decided that our rainscaping features were ugly when they were under construction and she called St. Louis County to complain. St. Louis County ordered us to undo our rainscaping but we decided to contest the order because we judged it to be uninformed and arbitrary, and we eventually prevailed (Winkelmann). Once back-and-forth communication with the County decision makers was established, events progressed quickly in our favor. I provided feedback about our experience to MSD so that they can make any changes they deem necessary for future success, as advocated by the hierarchy-of-effects model of social marketing theory (Baran and Davis 281). According to social marketing theorists, MSD might encounter less resistance to the innovations they are promoting by using Step 1 to raise general awareness and Step 4 to make the solutions look more attractive (Baran and Davis 279-280). Perhaps MSD could also use Step 5 to encourage information seeking by demonstrating how homeowners could solve more of their problems and save money with apparently still avant-garde rainscaping techniques (Baran and Davis 280).
4. Explain Cultivation Analysis. How do you see the theory? Be sure to include examples.
Cultivation Analysis is the theory that television presents a view that does not necessarily reflect reality, but because people believe it does, reality changes to conform to television (Baran and Davis 287). The originator of the theory, George Gerbner, worked on projects along with colleagues as they attempted to explain whether perceptions created by television create parallel realities in the lives of viewers (Baran and Davis 288). In the Violence Index they explored the effects of televised violence on real-life aggressive behavior. Their Cultural Indicators Project expanded the social issues studied beyond only violence (Baran and Davis 288).
One of the assumptions made by the researchers in the Cultural Indicators Project was that television has unique qualities that make it exceptionally dominant and worthy of study. Nearly all homes in the US are equipped with television. There are few barriers to the medium’s consumption. For most users, one is not required to be able to read, pay a lot of money, or leave the home to use it. Television combines sound with pictures and appeals to nearly all age groups (Baran and Davis 288-289).
The earliest critics of mass media, the mass society theorists, feared that media would usurp the role of social institutions they considered reassuring and stabilizing such as the family, education, the military, religion, business and politics (Baran and Davis 33). Research by Gerbner in 1990 seems to confirm earlier critics’ predictions. Television, a form of mass media not yet imagined by mass society thinkers, had come to replace the influence of real-life institutions, at least among heavy users (Baran and Davis 290).
In Post-World War II America, many citizens were learning new ways of living and attempting to conform to the ideal lifestyles displayed via the newly prevalent medium of television (Hine 9). Television sets enjoyed rapid adoption between 1950 and the middle of the decade, increasing from 3.1 million sets sold per year to 32 million (Heimann 5). Television sitcom families became role models for people seeking reassurance as they navigated a society that was very different from that of their parents (Hine 10).
Moving from the cities to the suburbs was trendy and caused people to become more isolated from each other as they lived with more actual space between homes and drove their own cars instead of using public transportation (Hine 23). Suburban dwellers were considered malleable and desirable by marketers in part because of their reliance on media for information instead of traditional social institutions such as the family (Hine 24). Media based authorities assumed a parental role as they advised the nation on how to manage and enjoy life (Hine 27).
Some designers of physical spaces recognized that a vision seen on a screen was something that many movie and television viewers wanted to experience for themselves. Architect Morris Lapidus designed outrageous buildings designed to appeal to tastes derived from Hollywood rather than elite classic architecture. Disneyland the theme park was a companion piece to Disneyland the TV show, and was deliberately designed to give visitors an experience that reflected the expectations developed through television viewing (Hine 150-152). The works of Walt Disney and Morris Lapidus are examples of yet another cultivation analysis premise that appears to be correct – Gerbner’s 3 Bs of Television, “the idea that television blurs, blends and bends reality” (Baran and Davis 290, 292).
Attractions of America. “Top 10 Tourist Attractions in St. Louis, Missouri.” AttractionsofAmerica.Com, 2012-2017, https://www.attractionsofamerica.com/attractions/top-10-tourist-attractions-in-st-louis-missouri.php. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Ballinger, Barbara. REALTOR Magazine, “Home & Design.” National Association of Realtors, 2019. magazine.realtor/home-and-design. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.
Hasenfratz, Carolyn. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Heimann, Jim. The Golden Age of Advertising – the 50s. Taschen, 2005.
Hine, Thomas. Populuxe: From Tailfins and TV Dinners To Barbie Dolls and Fallout Shelters. MJF Books, 1986 and 1999.
Hula, Martin, and Jaroslav Flegr. “What flowers do we like? The influence of shape and color on the rating of flower beauty.” PeerJ vol. 4 e2106. 7 Jun. 2016, doi:10.7717/peerj.2106. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plant-science/plant-science/research.aspx. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Pearlstein, Karen, and George Gehringer. “Indoors Out/Outdoors In.” Casual Living, vol. 51, no. 5, May 2011, pp. 64-66. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=60680069&site=ehost-live. Accessed 14 October 2019.
St. Louis Master Gardeners, 2018-2019, stlmg.org/. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Sweetser, Robin, “10 Tips For Beginner Gardeners: Things To Consider When Starting A
Vegetable Garden.” Yankee Publishing, Inc, 2019, www.almanac.com/news/gardening/gardening-advice/10-tips-beginner-gardeners. Accessed 15 October 2019.
University of Missouri Extension, “Pride Points.” Curators of the University of Missouri, 1993 to 2019, http://extension.missouri.edu/about/pride-points.aspx. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/. Accessed 15 October 2019.
Further reading: If you like the topics I wrote about above, you might enjoy more resources that I found but did not use.