5 Things You Can’t Miss at the 2017 World Social Marketing Conference

In just two weeks, the 2017 World Social Marketing Conference will be taking place in Washington, D.C., and I am beyond excited to attend! My first experience with social marketing was back in 2013, when I was lucky enough to volunteer at the World Social Marketing Conference in Toronto. The pre-workshop with Jim Mintz introduced me to some of the basic principles of changing behaviour, and I spent the next two days attending sessions that discussed cutting edge research in social marketing. I was even lucky enough to receive a copy of Doug McKenzie-Mohr’s textbook which he handed out at the end of his session.

The World Social Marketing Conference is an opportunity to see what others are doing in the field, have big discussions about where the field is going, and of course, to meet like-minded individuals who are trying to use their marketing skills to make the world a better place. The official conference programme was released about a month ago, but I have only recently had a chance to sit down and read it. Studio E is the place to be for my fellow #socmar greenies, it hosts the best conference track, ‘Climate change, environmental protection and sustainability’. Although there are a variety of presentations for academics and practitioners in all areas, below are the 5 sessions you can’t miss if you are interested in sustainability.

#5: iAnimal – Using Virtual Reality to Increase Plant-Based Eating: Can 360 virtual reality help your organization change behavior?

Day 1 | Session 3 | Studio E

Alright, so I started with the flashiest, and possibly the least helpful for you with your current interventions.Eating meat is something that is really gaining traction as a sustainability issue, and I think that is also an interesting discussion of what message is being used. This technology is something to keep in mind for more difficult cultural and social changes. Although it may seem impractical now, it may soon be in every household. Mostly I am just curious how this works. Is it effective? Will it be feasible? Will there be a live example? I can’t wait to get the answers to these questions and more!

#4: Social Marketing- The Next Generation 

Day 1 | Plenary Session | 1:15pm

This session features four panelists, a mix of academics and practitioners, to discuss important issues and challenges in the field. This is a bit of an odd one out on our list, because it is the only one not in Studio E. However, the environmental issues are still represented by Diogo Veríssimo from Rare, an incredibly inspiring organisation with their own Theory of Change. Diogo will be discussing biodiversity in the age of learning, and I look forward to the lessons learned from Rare’s conservation work. The other panelists also look interesting, and new social marketers to the field cannot miss Saud Alrakhayes discuss the ‘unpaved’ road of social marketing and ‘career initiation’. If you are like me and just getting your career started, this is certainly the place to be.

#3: Saving The World Isn’t Just For The Movies: How The Scottish Government Convinced Their Citizens To Help Them Fight Climate Change

Day 2 | Session 1 | Studio E

Personally, I am most excited about this presentation, and not just because I am currently living in Scotland! Engaging and empowering citizens to get involved is important for mitigating and adapting to climate change, and I think it will be interesting to see how exactly the Scottish government has attempted to do this. There seems to be so many sustainable initiatives going on for such a small population in Scotland, so I think it will be interesting to see how the government has been involved in this. Also, I think that lessons can be drawn from this for interventions in many different areas, including non-profits, businesses, and even universities.

#2: When Social Marketing Campaigns Fall Short: A Discussion of Lessons Learned

Day 2 | Session 3 | Studio E

While the rest of the conference is discussing the most successful campaigns over the past 2 years, it is important that we don’t forget about the failures, and that we commit to learning from them. This session is being hosted by Jennifer Lynes, a valued member of the ictrlshift community, but we aren’t being biased by putting it on our list! Discussing failure in the scientific field is important not only to ensuring the credibility of the findings, but also to ensuring that we are creating an accurate representation of how the world works. This issue is being discussed across all scientific disciplines, but is particularly relevant to social marketing where our goal is to create a better world by improving the health and sustainability of our fellow citizens. We need to be open about our failed campaigns, talk about them, and learn from them so our colleagues aren’t repeating the same mistakes.

#1: Social Marketing for our Climate

Day 2 | Session 2 | Studio E

This is the obvious highlight for sustainable social marketers in Washington. If you are like me you know Doug McKenzie-Mohr’s textbook by heart (and if you don’t, you can always read or re-read Community-Based Social Marketing for free online). The talk also includes clean energy, which is something not discussed in his textbook, and actually I am not aware of any of his projects in this area, so it will be interesting to hear his perspectives on this issue. I am not as familiar with the other speakers, however a quick review shows that June Flora has done a lot of work on education and energy efficiency, while Midori Aoyagi has some interesting looking research on the role of media in climate change literacy. This should be an especially interesting panel and I hope to see you there!

Don’t Miss Out!

So there you have it. The World Social Marketing Conference has a lot to offer academics and practitioners and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to attend. If you are interested in going, but haven’t registered yet, there is still time!

World Social Marketing Conference

Sometimes it can feel like the field of health dominates the social marketing conversation, however this year’s conference has a lot to offer my fellow #socmar greenies.

I hope to see you all in Studio E!


Alison Carlyle is an environmental enthusiast who has just finished working on a research project at the University of Edinburgh. She is therefore using this as a shameless opportunity to look for her next project. Follow her on Twitter @ajcarlyle LinkIn with her, or find her in Studio E to discuss opportunities, or anything sustainability and social marketing related!

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