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So what is social marketing?

Social Marketing is a process – which draws on tactics deployed within commercial marketing and the social sciences – to change human behaviour to positively influence people’s lives, the communities they live in and to enrich wider society as a whole.

It first emerged as a discipline in the late 19th century. However, it was not until 1972 that the term was coined by Professor Phillip Kotler, who is often credited as its founder.

Social marketing explained

Unlike traditional marketing tactics – which aim to sell for the benefit of a company or brand – the overarching goal of social marketing is to promote behaviour, or lifestyle, for the benefit of addressing many of society’s most pressing issues, and to bring about desired societal change.

It is mainly used by non-profit organisations, charities, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs); as well as government organisations and emergency services, who run social marketing campaigns to raise awareness and promote their causes.

Examples of social marketing – could be a health promotion campaign such as anti-smoking, or a campaign raising awareness of the climate crisis to fight against plastic pollution.

The 4 Ps of Social Marketing


Within social marketing, the “product” is the desired social behaviour and the benefit this action will bring.


The “price” is what an audience believes they will have to “pay” for the desired behaviour to come about.


This involves charities (or other organisations) having to consider which audiences, or groups, they want to adopt the desired social action. Another consideration is what they will need to do to reach them, for the desired social change to take place, whilst making sure that such behaviour is more likely to be adopted over ‘competing’ undesirable behaviours.


This is where all 4 “Ps” are tied together.

According to Jay Leonard from Business 2 Community, charities use these ‘4 Ps’ – the four intrinsic elements to any marketing campaign – to communicate their messaging to their audience.

Yet before any social marketing campaign is designed, it is key that the ‘price’ is clearly identified. This may involve conducting considerable research.

According to Business 2 Community, organisations will need to reach out to their audience and survey them, whether on the phone or in print; bearing in mind that it may take several conversations to accurately pinpoint the obstacles which may hinder people from performing the desired social behaviour.

Why is Social Marketing important?

This can be thought of through a similar lens as a commercial ad for a product or service. It is only through a well-designed, engaging ad (rather than any ‘traditional’ ad), that taps into the emotions of a potential buyer and appeals to their feelings, that their attention will be grabbed enough to click on an item.

Not every ‘traditional’ ad will lead to a customer conversion (a metric used to measure the rate at which a potential customer will take a desired action). This is also the case with social marketing.

Think of it this way.

Human beings generally do not like being told what to do (which scientists have termed as ‘psychological reactance’), or they may not be aware of the scale of a particular social issue.

More so, some people may face barriers that prevent them from being able to carry out the desired behaviour; or they may be dissuaded because they think the scope of the problem is too complex, to be able to make a real difference on their own.

However, a powerful engaging social marketing campaign (with measurable outcomes), based on a clear understanding of the obstacles that may make it difficult for the audience to perform the desired behaviour, will capture attention and promote awareness of a given social problem.

More importantly, a clear, compelling message that defines the problem and informs them how they can make a difference through collective action – will be more successful in encouraging people to partake in the desired behaviour needed to foster long-term social change.

To sum this up.

Social marketing uses the methods and techniques from commercial marketing to ‘sell’ a behaviour, rather than a product, that will inspire positive change for the wider society.


Grzegorzek, J. 2022. Introduction to Social Marketing. Super Business Manager. 27 June. [Accessed 28 January 2023]. Available from: https://superbusinessmanager.com/introduction-to-social-marketing/

Leonard, J. 2022. What is Social Marketing? (With 7 Stellar Examples). Business 2 Community. 14 December. [Accessed 28 January 2023]. Available from: https://www.business2community.com/digital-marketing/what-is-social-marketing-with-7-stellar-examples-02236451

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