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Social marketing defined

Understand how social marketing is defined by leading global social marketing practitioners and scholars.
100s of people standing together to form the shape of a target with an arrow
© Griffith University

What is social marketing? Many people think that social marketing is Facebook, Twitter and other social and digital platforms. Others think that social marketing is advertising and selling. Social marketing is so much more than communicating to people.

The International Social Marketing Association definition states:

“Social Marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviour that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.
Social Marketing practice is guided by ethical principles. It seeks to integrate research, best practice, theory, audience and partnership insight, to inform the delivery of competition sensitive and segmented social change programmes that are effective, efficient, equitable and sustainable”.

Some (of the many) things that social marketers do

A list of some of the many tools and techniques that are applied by social marketers follows. Don’t worry if you don’t understand them all. It is important for now that you start to understand that social marketing is so much more than Facebook and advertisements on television.

This is the list of activities that led to the globally accepted definition of social marketing. It will give you an idea of the scope of Social Marketing.

  • Set and measure behavioural objectives – What behaviour are we trying to change? Did our program result in a change in the behaviour we were seeking to achieve?
  • Generation of insights – What key learnings from detailed research will our program be centred on?
  • Applying market research to understand rational choices and rapid cognition – Are we using a range of techniques to understand what people think? What people do and don’t do? We can’t just rely on people to tell us what they think because actions speak louder than words!
  • Building and implementing programs that focus on delivering social good – Did our program result in positive social change? Are we thinking about the negative outcomes of our program?
  • Segmentation and targeting – We are all different, and as such, marketers need to apply complex analysis like segmentation to find groups (segments) to think about the different types of people they are trying to reach.
  • Applying data, research, evidence and behavioural theory to develop, implement and evaluate programs – Is the work evidence based? We cannot rely on people’s opinions.
  • Rigorous evaluation, which includes use of control groups and where possible randomised study design – We need to know it is our program and not something else that may be causing the changes we see.
  • Evaluation of impact, cost effectiveness and return on investment – Is our program worth investing in? Does our program deliver lasting change?
  • Applying systematic planning and marketing management methods – Time spent on reconnaissance is time well spent. We need to make sure that all people involved know what they need to do and why doing it well matters.
  • Competition analysis – What other programs are out there?
  • Benchmarking – Is our program better than other programs that are available?
  • Value creation – Is our program something that people would pay for or repeatedly give up time for?
  • Stakeholder analysis – Who else is affected by our program? What do they need and want?
  • Relationship management – How do all stakeholders feel about ongoing involvement with a program? Are they satisfied? Is their experience a good one?
  • Marketing mix (cost, convenience, communication and consumer needs and wants OR product, place, price, people and promotion) – The many different parts of a program that we need to think about in program design, implementation and evaluation.
  • Co-design – Have all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) been actively involved in the design process?
  • Co-production – Have all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) been involved in the production of the program?.
  • Collective intelligence – Have stakeholders collaborated to reach consensus on the strategies to be implemented?
  • Design thinking – Have a range of experts been brought together to create a strategy?

We will explore only the core tools and techniques in this course. These can take time to understand so don’t worry if you are feeling confused.

Your task

Search the internet, using one or two items from the list above, or find some examples of your own, to show how marketing has been used for good. Share one of your examples using the comments link below.


Andreasen, A.R. (2002). Marketing social marketing in the social change marketplace. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 21, 3–13.

© Griffith University
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