Will The Coronavirus Make Us Better People (More Societal)?

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This is the first in a series of posts exploring how the coronavirus and the government’s response to it will affect our society long term. After the Prime Minister put the UK on lockdown on Monday evening, it’s interesting that the response was an increase in people agreeing with this stance. More about this in our second post later this week. 

This post explains what we mean by #better people’ and societal.

1. What Do We Mean By 'Better People'?

We don’t mean not swearing so much or cutting down on smoking / drinking (although these might be good things!). Our portal is all about improving ourselves, but that’s not what we mean here. We used the word ‘societal’, and we hope this word starts to get more use over the next few years.

We’re talking about the greater good.

So, what’s ‘societal’, and how is it different from ‘social’?

What is societal?

Societal means relating to society or social relations. Social is broader and can mean a society, or a family, or can refer to a person who interacts more with other people (rather than a less social person). Is this why ‘societal’ is becoming a bit buzzy again – people want to be clear that they are talking about things pertaining to society as a whole.

Let’s give an example:

Societal marketing is a good example of the difference

Marketing is a good place to start. Traditionally companies (especially publicly listed corporates which need to manage expectations for growth and profit) balance profit and consumer needs to develop a ‘win – win’.

Lobby groups, activists, increased media focus and some government and industry regulation have forced a rethink. More companies are realising they need to be more aware how their products and processes affect overall society. This includes ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ and green initiatives.

This leads to the ‘societal marketing’ concept, where the idea is that the company puts human welfare and social responsibilities above or alongside shareholder profits to sustain long term success. So the company considers what its customers want, what the company needs and society’s long term interests.

This is completely different to social marketing, which is just a branch of the marketing discipline.

Any examples of companies using societal marketing?

Examples of companies taking this approach have been around for a while:

  • Body Shop have campaigned against animal cruelty since 1989
  • Avon launched a breast cancer awareness campaign in 1993 in partnership with NABCO selling pink ribbons and they have raised billions of dollars – they also trained 45,000 of their reps in the US to discuss breast cancer early detection
  • Patagonia are an outdoor and sports clothing company, and they focus on sustainability and pollution 
  • Ariel the Proctor and Gamble detergent run a special fund raising campaign mainly for developing countries, and work in conjunction with WWF 
  • Danone focus on green issues and health
  • • Coca-Cola has more than 3,1000 sustainability projects around the world. One is ‘Every bottle has a story’ which allows people to tell their own stories – this one is from an Australian cane farmer trying to save the Great Barrier Reef.

What do societal adverts look like?

These adverts are making a point which has a beneficial effect on society as a whole. That may be attacking a widely held prejudice, or looking at some important ecological issues, or changing people’s views to a more positive one. Here are some examples.

A great example is Kia’s ‘Hero’s Journey’ commercial with Melissa McCarthy for their Niro. It pokes fun but has a series of ecologcal themes.

Channel 5 did an advert on ‘Meet The Superhumans’ for the 2012 Paralypics which helped change our perceptions of disability significantly and hopefully forever. TV coverage peaked at 11.6 million for the opening ceremony and 87% of people who saw the campaign went on to watch the paralympics.

Budweiser used the Super Bowl in 2017 to show their ‘Born The Hard Way’ advert, showing how the company was started by its immigrant founder  It was intended to make a point only about the “pursuit, the effort, the passion, the drive, the hard work, the ambition” of immigrants.

This is the Honda Grrr advert from some time ago – it focussed on getting people to think about the environment.  It has some nice ecological messages and is a well made little cartoon.

Lean Cuisine did an advert encouraging people to change their priorities called ‘Weigh This’. It looked at many valuable things that couldn’t be weighed, including seeing different cultures, being a single mother and being happily married (among others).

But is this just marketing??

The next post will explore people’s attitudes and why this is becoming more important.
Then we’ll look at what’s changed recently in society, before putting it all together to see whether the coronavirus and our social isolation will make us change some attitudes and become better people.

YouDrive thinks…

Although some of the examples are dated, they show there is a good case for thinking about the right things – making society more sustainable and societal. 

Dare we say…. Greta Thunberg is very much in the public consciousness with a sustainable message. Similar lines with a different theme.

The coronavirus has made this much more immediate and ‘in our faces’! 

The next post looks at our attitudes and vales and how these can change.

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