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+ Definitions of Social Marketing, marketing a profile, and how that relates/transforms traditional marketing

Social marketing has been defined in many different ways since the original offering by Kotler & Zaltman in 1971. Central to most of them is that social marketing is the application of the ideas, processes and practices of the marketing discipline to improve conditions that determine and sustain personal, social and environmental health and well-being.

People come to social marketing from different academic and profesional backgrounds. This feature of the field, combined with the complex social problems that are tackled with this approach, lead to the incorporation of many different theoretical models and social change perspectives. Examples of this multidisciplinary and eclectic tradition are reflected throughout the materials and case studies available at this site. One simple way of understanding the different influences on social marketing is to refer to social marketing as having 'two parents' [NSM Centre 2006]:
a) a social parent = social sciences / social policy / social reform and campaigning
b) a marketing parent = commericial and public sector marketing

Social marketing is constantly evolving from “influencing ideas” as presented by Kotler & Zaltman (1971) to 'large scale, broad-based,behavior change focused programs' offered by Lefebvre & Flora (1988). The essential components of social marketing outlined by Lefebvre & Flora still hold today. They are:

1. A consumer orientation to realize organizational (social) goals
2. An emphasis on the voluntary exchanges of goods and services between providers and consumers
3. Research in audience analysis and segmentation strategies
4. The use of formative research in product and message design and the pretesting of these materials
5. An analysis of distribution (or communication) channels
6. Use of the marketing mix - utilizing and blending product, price, place and promotion characteristics in intervention planning and implementation
7. A process tracking system with both integrative and control functions
8. A management process that involves problem analysis, planning, implementation and feedback functions

A definition of social marketing offered by one of its early practiioners, Richard Manoff, suggested that…it is more than research, product design and distribution, diffusion of information, or the formulation and implementation of a communication strategy. It may include introduction of a new product (e.g., oral rehydration salts), the modification of existing ones (e.g., iodized salt), restricted consumption of others (e.g., cigarettes, infant formula), and promotion of structural change in existing institutions (e.g., food stamps, hospital practices). Social marketing may be exclusively educational (e.g., restriction of sodium consumption) yet still be obliged to do missionary work with food companies for sodium-reduced products (Manoff, 1985,)

Indeed, especially in the development community, social marketing has often been defined as the procurement, distribution and promotion of health products (condoms, oral contraceptives, malaria nets for example) for sale at donor subsidized prices. This 'social marketing' approach has been contrasted with efforts to distribute commodities for free or to offer products at their full costs (plus margins) in the commercial marketplace.

One of the most commonly cited definitions is from Andreasen, (1995), positioning social marketing as:

"the application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society."

It should be noted however that Andreasen has moved on from this definition recognising that social marketing draws on more than just commerical marketing and while in the history of a developing definition this was useful, it has since been overtaken by a wider appreciation of different disciplines informing it.

Kotler, Roberto and Lee (2002) outline social marketing asthe use of marketing principles and techniques to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon a behaviour for the benefit of individuals, groups or society as a whole.

Donovan & Henley (2003) define it asthe application of the marketing concept, commercial marketing techniques and other social change techniques to achieving individual behaviour changes and social structural changes that are consistent with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

In 2006, the National Social Marketing Centre in the UK reviewed the historic development of definitions and descriptions of social marketing and produced an updated and more inclusive definition to recognise the different influences on social marketing:

"Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing, alongside other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals, for a social good".

They also go on to describe an additional element of 'health related social marketing' as:

"the systematic application of marketing, alongside other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals, to improve health and reduce inequalities". (French, Blair-Stevens 2006).

Although multiple definitions of social marketing exist, three common themes were identified by the NSM Centre in the preparation of their working definition. The commonality between the definitions are as follows:

1. Social marketing as the primary aim of achieving a particular 'social good' (rather than a specific commercial benefit), through the use of specific behavioural goals clearly identified and targeted.
2. Social marketing is a systematic process phased to address short, medium and long-term issues.
3. Social marketing utilises a range of marketing techniques and approaches

The National Social Marketing Centre have since gone on to produce an 8 point social marketing National Benchmark Criteria (building on earlier work by Alan Andreasen and Lefebvre & Flora) that is being used to help encourage and promote greater consistency in the use and application of social marketing:

1: Clear focus on behaviour and achieving specific behavioural goals
2: Centred on understanding the customer using a variety of customer and market research
3: Is theory-based and informed
4: Is 'insight' driven
5: Uses 'exchange' concept and analysis
6: Uses 'competition' concept and analysis
7: Has a more developed 'segmentation' approach (going beyond basic targeting)
8: Utilises an 'intervention mix' or 'marketing mix' (rather than relying on single methods)

Whilst differences exist between the definitions of each other, this is a feature of the dynamic nature of social marketing, and should be seen as an area of debate and discussion that is ongoing to ensure social marketing remains relevant in the social change marketplace.

Branding your Social Network Profiles

Why Social Marketing is a MUST. (intermediate video)

Key points of the social marketing video

  • Interact with your market place. - Learn more about your consumer
  • Easy and affordable way to get and keep quality traffic coming to your site.
  • Develop a relationship with your customer
  • Establish trust remotely
  • Quality vs. Quantity of time.
  • Search Engines LOVE social marketing
    • Based on a mathematical algorithm and bookmarking, networking sites give the index more information on who likes you and your company.
    • Helps to define the web market place

How social media/networking/marketing is changing traditional marketing and media for beginners.

Commercial Marketing Principles Used in Social Marketing


Positioning is a key concept of commercial marketing which has particular relevance in social marketing. As a marketing term positioning was coined by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin in 1971 in an article in Industrial Marketing magazine. In that article they defined positioning “not as what you do to the product but what you do to the mind.” It was their argument that the mind is the “ultimate marketing battleground” and the better one understands the mind, the better able s/he will understand how positioning works.

In the commercial realm positioning refers to how potential buyers perceive a product, especially in relation to its competition. Consumers almost always have a choice when it comes to purchasing products and how different brands compare to one another – how they position themselves in relation to each other – has a significant impact on which product a consumer chooses to buy. Highlighting a product’s unique benefits and reducing the costs associated with choosing it will enhance a product's positioning in the mind of the consumer thereby increasing the likelihood s/he will choose it. Similarly, reducing the benefits associated with the competition and stressing/increasing the costs associated with it will hurt the positioning of the competition, making it more likely that the consumer will reject it. Ultimately, in order to become a product the consumer wants, the benefits associated with it must exceed (or at a minimum equal) those of its competition.

The focus on the mind and one’s perception of a product is key to social marketing where often there is no tangible product that is being promoted and instead marketers are attempting to change how people perceive – their attitudes and beliefs – a particular behavior.


According to Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong a brand is "a name, term, sign symbol or a combination of these, that identifies the maker or seller of the product."1

More recently, Kotler has stated that a brand is more than just an image. As he puts its, "The key need is to develop a distinctive offering, not simply a distinctive image. The offering can be distinctive in features, styling, services, service support, guarantees, and a host of other factors that will make one value proposition superior to another in the eyes of the beholders. I am in favor of building a superior value proposition, not just massaging an image."2

Connecting with the Audience

On her social marketing blog, “Spare Change,” Nedra Kline Weinreich describes how branding can create a connection with an audience: “Your brand is how your audience thinks about your product and connects with it emotionally. It is the combination of how you market your product and how the audience experiences it. It's the feeling that by using the product someone becomes part of an elite group, and membership in that group reflects the image of who that person aspires to be.”3 This relates to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which divides the motivators of human behavior into five levels: physiology, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization.4 Branding fulfills needs on two levels: love/belonging and esteem. In other words, branding can appeal to a person’s need for belonging and respect.

Branding in Social Marketing

Applying the branding concept to social marketing, Weinreich suggests that successful social marketing brands are change-oriented, competitive, compatible, caring and culturally appropriate.5


The brand should reflect the social marketing program’s goal of behavior change.

Branding In-Action: With the VerbTM campaign, the brand name, which by definition means action, is a direct reflection of the behavior that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wanted to influence.


The brand should be as appealing as the competition’s brand.

Branding In-Action: In order to appeal to their target audience, the VerbTM campaign offered children the ability to create a cartoon character version of themselves and generate games on the VerbTM Web site. In this way, their offering was able to compete with sedentary activities that appealed to children like watching cartoons and playing video games.


The brand must be compatible with the behavior the social marketing program is trying to introduce or change.

Branding In-Action: To be compatible with the behavior they wanted to change, the VerbTM offering had to be more than just a Web site. Providing children a way to be physically active, the VerbTM campaign gave out 500,000 yellow balls and encouraged children to play with the balls then pass them on.


The brand should show the target audience, “what is in it for me” (WIFM).

Branding In-Action: Describing the WIFM factor of the VerbTM campaign’s Yellowball offering, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated, “Yellowball ignites desire for physical activity freeing kids to play out their dreams.” 6

Culturally Appropriate

The brand must reflect the target audience’s values to ensure that it will resonant with them.

Branding In-Action: One glance at the Verb’s promotion materials makes it clear that their target audience is children. From the type of language used to the selection of colors and fonts, the materials are a reflection of their target audience’s values.

Tips for Branding

Simplicity matters

Brand value should be clear. An organization or campaign can’t be everything to everybody. An organization should focus on a key set of brand values that directly relate to values of the customer.7

Emphasize what you do, not who you are
This concept relates to Kotler’s statement about the offering. What an organization offers to the consumer is more important than who they are.8

Protect your brand

Protecting an organization’s brand involves maintaining credibility by being honest with the customer and delivering on promises. In her article, "Are you Following the 4 C’s of Branding," Elizabeth Brown explained, "Ensure that everything your organization does reinforces the expectations that the brand creates. It doesn’t do any good to have a ‘friendly’ brand if people don’t answer the phone in a friendly way." 9

Be consistent An organization needs to be dedicated to its brand identity. In his article "The 10 Cs of Branding," branding guru William Arruda states, "In addition to being clear about who they are, strong brands are also consistent. They are always what they say they are. In everything they do, they bolster their brand attributes."

Listen to your target Audience

As Arruda explains, "You must remain relevant to your target audience and become relevant to new target audiences as the world demographics change. The only constant is change. Don't let your brand be stuck in the past; ensure it remains relevant and compelling." 10


The Four Ps of commercial marketing refer to Produce, Price, Place (distribution), and Promotion. Together, these four elements make up the traditional “marketing mix” that many of first learned about in a basic college business course. In the commercial world, these four elements are manipulated in order to reach target audiences, sell products or services and generate income. How and to what extent one or all of these elements are manipulated will depend on company resources, target audience profiles, and the external marketing environment.

"Product" are the things that are sold or the services that are provided to people. For example, food, tires, clothes, and phones are all products. Services include a car wash, tax preparation, and housecleaning. As you can imagine, there are virtually an unlimited number of “products.” When manipulating this element, it is important to remember that “product” includes all aspects of the thing or service being sold – such as the brand name, packaging, quality, and guarantee/warranty. The product or service should be developed based on what your target audience(s) need and/or want.

"Place (Distribution)" refers to how the “product” gets to your buyers. It includes variables such as transportation, storage, inventory logistics, and distribution centers. This element is critical to the marketing mix, but it is often times not given adequate time and consideration.

"Promotion" is how commercial marketers inform people about the “product.” It typically includes a combination of various tactics such as advertising, public relations, direct mailing, electronic communications, personal sales calls and sales promotions. The purpose of promotion is to help people to know and understand your product so that they can eventually make the decision to try it or not. The “promotion” element must also let people know where they can get the product and how it differs from competitive products.

"Price" is the monetary value that people are willing to pay for your “product.” When establishing the price of a product, it is important to recognize that sales volume can be directly impacted by price. In general, “price” should take into account the total cost of the “product” including the cost of the other three Ps plus overhead and profit.

An important thing to remember is that the commercial marketer can control the Four Ps, subject to internal and external constraints.


EXCHANGE THEORY: Exchange is a concept that originated in the study of economics and is now an underpinning of all modern marketing practice, including social marketing. In fact, many consider exchange a fundamental form of human interaction. The basic elements of the exchange model that are common across its various definitions are:

It requires at least two “social actors” (can be individuals, organizations, or other groups); in commercial marketing these are identified at the most basic level as the “seller” (the marketer or organization of change in social marketing) and the “consumer” (target audience from which behavioral change is sought in social marketing)
It is reciprocal or mutual in nature with each actor giving to and receiving from the other party
It is voluntary, and not coerced
There are elements of both cost and benefit for all parties involved in the exchange interaction; cost can be defined broadly to include money, time, effort, loss of existing behavior, embarrassment, uncertainty, conflict with social norms or peer groups, etc.; benefit is some perceived value, tangible or intangible, which could comprise fulfillment of a need or want, solution to a problem, satisfaction of a desired outcome, and/or desired change in behavior
In order for an exchange to be successful, the perceived benefit or value for all parties must be greater than (or at least equal to) the perceived cost ; this equation precipitates a purchase of a good or service in commercial marketing, and a behavior change in social marketing

The exchange philosophy is particularly relevant to the constant consideration of consumer mindset in social marketing. Because social marketing focuses on change in a behavior that is often highly intuitive, innate, and/or longstanding, and behaviors are based on many factors in addition to individual preference (e.g., social norms, cultural beliefs/values/perceptions, lack of access to other options, or other barriers to diffusion of a change concept), there is a great deal of competition for social marketers to establish a benefit/value for the consumer that is greater than the value of continuing with the current behavior. Also, because measurable change in behavior often involves a long-term evaluation of success, a commitment to ongoing exchange and continued perception of value is necessary in order for an “innovative” behavior to become part of the social norm. “Initial commitments [or intentions/early contemplation] are necessary for the development of social norms,” according to Gundlach, et al, “but in turn social norms become a key force sustaining and strengthening commitment [to a behavior change] over time.”

Scholarly Article References:

* “Social Marketing: An Evolving Definition,” William A. Smith, EdD, American Journal of Health Behavior, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp. 11-17, 2000
* “The Structure of Commitment in Exchange,” Gregory T. Gundlach, Ravi S. Arhrol, & John T. Mentzer, Journal of Marketing, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp. 78-93, Jan. 1995
* “Marketing and Exchange,” Franklin s. Houston & Jule B. Gassenheimer, Journal of Health Communication, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp. 3-18, Oct. 1987
* “Marketing as Exchange,” Richard P. Bagozzi, Journal of Marketing, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp. 32-39, Oct. 1975
* “Marketing as an Organized Behavioral System of Exchange,” Richard P. Bagozzi, Journal of Health Communication, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp. 77-81, Oct. 1974

Other References:

* Wikipedia (
* The Communication Initiative (
* + References


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