What Is Social Marketing?

One approach applied when changing or maintaining peoples behaviour for the benefit of society is social marketing. By merging ideas from social sciences and commercial marketing, social marketing is a successful instrument in influencing behaviour in a manner that is cost-effective and sustainable.

It helps you to decide:

  1. What behaviour to influence
  2. Which people to do work with
  3. How to measure it
  4. How to go about it

A lot of people including newbie marketers often think social marketing is the same as social media marketing, which is incorrect.

Focusing On Benefitting Society

Not at all like other marketing efforts where a definitive gainer is the marketer/advertiser, benefiting the society as a whole is what social marketing efforts are being directed at. This is most essential for social marketing.

The main goal of social marketing is all about influencing behaviors of the target audience. The marketing efforts might be utilized to:

  • Learning new skills (e.g. online courses)
  • Avoid undesirable behavior (e.g. don’t smoke & do drugs)
  • A Green environment (e.g. recycling)
  • Risk retaliation (e.g., stick to the speed limit)
  • Prevent long-term consequences (e.g. wear sunblock to prevent skin cancer)

4 P’s of Social Marketing

social marketing


What consumers must undertake or do in order to acquire the social marketing product is referred to as “price”. This “price” could be monetary, or could be intangible involving time, effort or risk.

The perceived value of the offering can be considered low and will not be adopted if the costs tend to outweigh the benefits for an individual. Yet, chances of the product being adopted post-trial are greater if the benefits are perceived as greater than their costs.

In setting the cost, especially for a physical product, for example, contraceptives, there are numerous issues to consider. On the off chance that the product is estimated excessively low, or gave for nothing out of pocket, the shopper may see it as being low in quality. Then again, if the cost is excessively high, some won’t almost certainly bear the cost of it.

Social marketers must adjust these considerationss and frequently end up charging no less than an ostensible expense to expand impression of value and to present a feeling of “dignity” to the transaction. These view of expenses and advantages can be resolved through research, and utilized in situating the item.


The “product” in social marketing may not necessarily be a physical offering. It ranges from tangible products (such as condoms), to services (such as medical exams), to certain practices (such as breastfeeding), to lastly, categorically intangible ideas (such as the protection of the environment).

For the product offering to be perceived as a good solution to a problem, it is necessary for people to first perceive they truly have a problem. In order to determine the consumers’ perception of the problem and the product, research can be employed to ascertain how important they feel it is to undertake action to resolve the problem.


Promotion is often mistakenly thought of as comprising the whole of social marketing, because of its visibility. Promotion consists of the integrated use of promotions, advertising,  media advocacy, public relations, entertainment vehicles, and personal selling. The focus is on creating and sustaining demand for the product.

Public service announcements or paid ads are one way, but there are other methods such as editorials, coupons, media events, “Tupperware”-style parties or in-store displays. Research is crucial to determine the most efficient and effective vehicles to reach the target audience and increase demand. The primary research findings themselves can also be used to gain publicity for the program in news stories and at media events.


The way a product reaches the consumer can be referred to as “place”. When considering tangible products, “place” refers to the distribution system employed (retail outlets where the product is sold or provided, sales force, trucks and warehouses).

When considering intangible products, “place” is often less clearly determined and refers to the decisions revolving the channels through which information or training reaches the consumer. This could refer to in-home demonstrations, mass media vehicles, shopping malls, or doctors’ offices.

“Place” also encompasses determining how to ensure accessibility of the offering and the quality of the service delivery. By ascertaining the habits of the target audience, including their satisfaction with the experience and delivery system, research can help determine the most optimal means of distribution for said offering.

Who is effectively reached by Social Marketing?

Social marketing has the broadest of audiences: everyone in a society. However, the target for social marketing varies with the “society” that the advertiser is aiming to change. Some campaigns simply raise awareness for local issues, while others have the lofty goal of changing the world.

For most, it’s human nature to want to do good, and positive social marketing campaigns offer the opportunity to make a difference—even if it’s on a small scale. Contributing to society can deliver individual, intangible benefits in the form of self-worth and self-esteem.

See also: Cause Marketing

Social marketing campaigns that are also impactful include campaigns that are negative, involving warnings about consequences, some could be personal such as drug use or could be more generalized such as protecting the environment. When undertaking negative social marketing, a key element is awareness.

For example: as masses of people are oblivious to the detrimental effects of their daily plastic shopping bags, and how it endangers aquatic wildlife, multiple campaigns have been created to shed light on this. The result is many people now using reusable cloth bags or choosing paper over plastic.

Examples Of Social Marketing

Public Health England

social marketing

Image source via Youtube

According to Public Health England, lung cancer, lung disease, and heart disease are all leading causes of death in England around 1.7 million people in England are living with undiagnosed lung cancer, heart disease or lung disease.

The campaign ran a few years ago for several months across TV, radio, press, digital, outdoor advertising and a programme of events in shopping centres across the country.  It targeted men & women aged 50 +, as older people are most at risk of lung cancer, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and heart disease. It also targets those in a position of influence, such as family and friends.

Volkswagen – Piano Stairs

what is social marketing_volkswagen

Image source via Youtube

Volkswagen employed the Piano Staircase initiative that attempted to adjust people’s behaviour by converting a staircase of a subway station into a piano keyboard. The initiative stimulated 66% more people to take the stairs in lieu of escalators.


Social marketing as a discipline is still at its growing stage. It is not yet established as a full-fledged discipline. Social marketing has to assimilate the theories of commercial marketing such as 4P marketing mix (Product, Price, Promotion and Place) in its own way and develop its own variants.

Credit to the NSMC & Feedough and you can follow them @NSMC & @feedoughcom