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Lessons to be learnt from ‘L-Plate’ and ‘P-Plate’ Social Marketers-PhD Student Rory Mulcahy

As a learner in social marketing, I would like to firstly raise my hand and say I do not know all and I will not pretend I do. However, even in my short two years as a research student in social marketing I have noticed one or two things that we as both academic researchers and practitioners must address. First, it always best to lead off from where it all began….

My journey into social marketing started in an undergraduate elective unit at Queensland University of Technology. The first lesson that was drilled into my young Gen Y mind was that social marketers are different to commercial marketers. Luckily enough I paid attention in this lecture as this was the topic of our final exam. After answering an essay question about the difference between social and commercial marketing and nearly permanently injuring my hand from all the examples of differences I had given, I thought this would be the last time I would have to address this subject in social marketing. However, after being in awe of how marketers could actually be the good guy rather than the bad guy for a semester, I then decided to further my studies as an honours student and later as a PhD student in social marketing.

Alas, however I was soon to find out as a research student that defending and explaining the difference between social marketing and other areas of marketing and social change was a regular battle. This was no more evident than my recent visit to Toronto for the World Social Marketing Conference where ‘Open License’ social marketers were fighting the ‘good’ fight to differentiate the discipline. However, it was from the young and up and coming social marketing panel discussion, aka social marketing ‘P-Plater’ discussion that I began to notice (along with others) that we (social marketers) were guilty of equipping ourselves with the wrong weaponry to defend our discipline.

As a whole I believe both researching and practising social marketers (at times) are guilty of simply arming themselves with Dark Age weaponry of discussions and theoretical arguments that defend the differences of social marketing. As Dr Ross Gordon put forth at the World Social Marketing Conference this year, we as social marketers need to stop this repetitive defence of social marketing. We now need to move to advance modern warfare by arming ourselves with effective interventions with support from practical case studies and rigorous academic research that exemplifies our worth as a discipline. Simply, the time for debating is over, social marketing has progressed from its ‘Learner’ and ‘P-Plater’ license, the time for doing is now, social marketing well and truly has its Open license.

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