What is social marketing?
Social marketing is an approach used to develop activities aimed at changing or maintaining people’s behaviour for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.
Combining ideas from commercial marketing and the social sciences, social marketing is a proven tool for influencing behaviour in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
It helps you to decide:
- Which people to work with
- What behaviour to influence
- How to go about it
- How to measure it
Social marketing is not the same as social media marketing. Find out more.
Social marketing is a systematic and planned process. It follows six steps
The goal of social marketing is always to change or maintain how people behave – not what they think or how aware they are about an issue. If your goal is only to increase awareness or knowledge, or change attitudes, you are not doing social marketing.
Benefits people and society
This is the value – perceived or actual – as it is defined by the people who are targeted by a social marketing intervention. It is not what is assumed to benefit them by the organisation that is trying to encourage the behaviour change.
A social marketing approach
Even if you don’t take social marketing any further, just considering these four questions will add value to your projects and policies.
- Do I really understand my target audience and see things from their perspective?
- Am I clear about what I would like my target audience to do?
- For my target audience, do the benefits of doing what I would like them to do outweigh the costs or barriers to doing it?
- Am I using a combination of activities in order to encourage people to achieve the desired action?
How social marketing helps
Policy: social marketing helps to ensure policy is based on an understanding of people’s lives, making policy goals realistic and achievable. Policy example: water rationing in Jordan
Strategy: social marketing enables you to target your resources cost-effectively, and select interventions that have the best impact over time. Strategy example: lung disease strategy in England
Implementation and delivery: social marketing enables you to develop products, services and communications that fit people’s needs and motivations. Delivery example: child car seats in Texas
Social marketing is the use of marketing theory, skills and practices to achieve social change. It has the primary goal of achieving “social good“. Traditional commercial marketing aims are primarily financial, though they can have positive social affects as well. In the context of public health, social marketing would promote general health, raise awareness and induce changes in behaviour. To see social marketing as only the use of standard commercial marketing practices to achieve non-commercial goals is an oversimplified view.
Social marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to social change. Social marketing aims to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good. The goal is to deliver competition-sensitive and segmented social change programs that are effective, efficient, equitable and sustainable.
Increasingly, social marketing is described as having “two parents.” The “social parent” uses social science and social policy approaches. The “marketing parent” uses commercial and public sector marketing approaches. Recent years have also witnessed a broader focus. Social marketing now goes beyond influencing individual behaviour. It promotes socio-cultural and structural change relevant to social issues. Consequently, social marketing scholars are beginning to advocate for a broader definition of social marketing: “social marketing is the application of marketing principles to enable individual and collective ideas and actions in the pursuit of effective, efficient, equitable, fair and sustained social transformation”. The new emphasis gives equal weight to the effects (efficiency and effectiveness) and the process (equity, fairness and sustainability) of social marketing programs.