Social marketing is a form of marketing that uses commercial marketing expertise, tools and techniques to promote and execute campaigns that primarily benefit the society. It entails venturing out and truly understanding people issues.

Social marketers identify a social problem and make the target audience realize the problem. Later, they create an offering that helps buyers address the problem. The noble thought or objective drives this form of marketing and not the actual commodity. It’s a long-term process that warrants continuous monitoring and evaluation.

Not to be confused with social media marketing, social marketing’s major focus is to help the consumers and society. Merely creating awareness and knowledge is not sufficient. Influencing people behavior or encouraging them to incorporate a better lifestyle change is integral. Moreover, continuous evaluation and supervision is essential to keep tab of business environment changes and consumers’ changing preferences.


“Teen smoking” is a social concern. Social marketers keen to address the menace will stage campaigns and awareness drives to help middle school students and the likes realize smoking’s ill-effects and how it harms their physiological and mental selves. Campaigns promoting use of seat belts when on the road, drives for HIV prevention, species and ecosystem conservation, improvements in healthcare standards, etc. are other forms of social marketing.

Short-term results don’t serve social marketing purpose. The intent is to create a lifelong pattern or way of living. For instance, making people administer vaccines to prevent a particular disease’s onset isn’t social marketing. Incorporating the positive habit of undergoing annual full-body checkups into people’s lives is successful social marketing. Social marketers may help make product accessibility convenient for the consumer. For instance, they could partially cover or lower medical checkup fees.

Not a Charity

Though the primary motive is social welfare, social marketing is no charity. Stakeholders such as producers, vendors, business partners, logistic firms, etc. are also in for the financial gains. The players involved in the campaign’s design, research and implementation are regular, business-oriented firms. These are commercial agencies who are in because they also see the opportunity to make money in the process, besides doing good for the society.

Marketing Tools

The four Ps of marketing are fundamental to this marketing campaign:

  • Product: a physical item (contraceptive) or non-tangible service (disease awareness).
  • Price: entails financial cost, besides effort, time or potential risk (or the costs involved in acquiring the product).
  • Place: the manner or mode in which the product reaches the consumer.
  • Promotion: media support, publicity, personal sales methods, etc.

Besides, there are other key components to social marketing:

  • Public: Social marketing entails addressing or catering to a range of audiences. This includes primary audience, secondary audience (individuals influencing primary audience – for instance, parents influencing kids), policymakers (government, legislature), and gatekeepers (civic bodies, religious groups).
  • Partners: Social issues cannot be rallied by a single organization. Partners are needed to make the campaign truly effective. Working with like-minded companies is the key.
  • Funding: Generally, organizations creating social marketing campaigns rely on external funds sourced via or in the form of governmental grants, charitable foundations, or donations.

The Roots

Social marketing took birth during the 1970s, when Gerald Zaltman and Philip Kotler realized traditional marketing techniques could also be used to sell concepts, behaviors, feelings and ideas to consumers, just like selling commercial goods and services.

In the 21st century, social marketing is an excellent method to improve public health and safety, and develop the community and environment. However, its infiltration is higher in developing nations than developed economies, for obvious reasons.