Social Marketing – A Definition.

Social marketing must not be confused with social media marketing. It is a process used to influence the general public to change their behaviour to benefit society as a whole. These changes may relate to health, the environment, safety and the community.

It utilises traditional marketing techniques without the need for monetary payments. Individuals exchange behavioural patterns to achieve a certain goal. Some campaigns may even become statute: in this case the behavioural change will stop an individual being prosecuted or fined.

Examples of social marketing campaigns include:

  • Healthy eating, having 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day (health).
  • Recycling of rubbish (environment).
  • Crossing the road (safety).
  • Supporting a clean-up operation after a natural disaster (community).

Examples of social marketing campaigns relating to statute changes include:

  • Wearing a seat belt whilst driving.
  • Drinking and driving.
  • Smoking in public places.

Social marketers may also target Governments, the private and/or other public bodies to support their campaigns. They would generally utilise lobbyist who would have the aim of changing legislation. Examples include:

  • The banning of tobacco advertising at sports events.
  • The screening of babies for certain medical conditions.
  • Parental responsibilities on truanting children.



Kotler, P. (1975), Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Kotler, P. and Roberto, E. (1989), Social Marketing: Strategies for Changing Public Behavior, The Free Press, New York, NY.


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Dr Alan Shaw is a Senior Lecturer and Marketing consultant focusing on a range of sectors. His main interests are in strategy development, social marketing, digital marketing, advertising, consumer behaviour and marketing application.