And now, a news graphic to make you sad. But not for long!
It doesn't happen often, but sometimes marketing can effectively address an actual social ill, and do so in a way that isn't crass in its commercialism. (I know it's facile of me criticize a marketing campaign for being commercial, but let me continue ...)
Romania has a problem. As you can see from the rather depressing image above, they have a large population of elderly people, 40%, living alone. So Vodafone, via McCann Erickson Bucharest, created a marketing campaign around two Romanian widows who were still in the habit of cooking enough food for a full family dinner.
Using social media, the campaign invited students, a group often desperate for a home-cooked meal, to join the 'Sunday Grannies' for food. And things took off from there. The grannies' Facebook page garnered nearly half-a-million likes, they were covered on the evening news, they got a TV show, were visited by Romanian celebs, and, most importantly, they seem to have started a trend.
A Facebook app was created allowing any similarly situated Romanian to open up his or her kitchen to others to share recipes, contact others, and invite people over for dinner. And people from all over the country signed up.
Screengrab via the below video
Surely some of this is a successful marketing campaign tooting its own horn, but this is marketing in its best form. It is marketing that works not by jumping on the bandwagon of a current event or problematic social issue in order to get attention and likes, but instead by using the actual value of a product, the convenience of mobile technology with internet connectivity, to help.
Very important to its success was the campaign's integration of Facebook to get the word out about the grannies. Facebook has seen great success in appealing to older populations who can use the social network to stay in contact with relatives, especially younger ones who are less likely to use more traditional forms of communication. (As the joke goes, you can tell someone's older because they use their phone as a phone.)
I think the key of the campaign is a subtle restriction that it placed on itself. Having a large and socially isolated elderly population is a demographic problem that would take great effort for a well-funded government to solve, let alone a marketing department. So the Vodafone campaign decided to address something much more specific: Loneliness. And in that it seems to have done quite well.
According to the video below, which summarizes the campaign, the social media adoption rate among seniors tripled, leading to a 20% increase in Facebook accounts for Romanians over 65. (All while 4G smart phone sales went up 78%.) It isn't exactly a miraculous change, but it's pretty good for a campaign designed to increase the sales for cell phones.