Can general marketing models and methods be effective when applied to promoting positive social change? This question has been researched since the early 50s. The theoretical answer to this question has generally been, yes, but the discussion continues to this day, to figure out the specific power and limitations of social marketing in application. In 1951, G.D. Wiebe researched four different social campaigns and discussed the limitations and success of each. “He found that that more the conditions of the social campaign resembled those of a product campaign, the more successful the social campaign (Kotler & Zaltman, 1971).” However, Wiebe also noted that since most social campaigns are not structured as a marketable campaign due to the “un-market-like circumstances” of most social topics, clear limitations exist in the “practice of social marketing (Kotler & Zaltman, 1971).” In this day and age, social marketing agencies have been able to promote social change campaigns to various organizations that share a common vision, as Rescue has been able to do since 2001 (rescueagency.com). This paper will discuss and define social marketing, define the barriers present, and finally how to promote its advancements.
Social marketing is defined as “a design, implementation, and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of social ideas and involving considerations of product planning, pricing, communication, distribution, and marketing research (Kotler & Zaltman, 1971).” So, in other words, social marketing is a lot more than just social advertising as it includes many different marketing techniques that drive the knowledge needed for social change to occur with implementation of the particular social change in the community (Kotler & Zaltman, 1971). “Social marketers, both scholars, and practitioners, have come to accept that the fundamental objective of social marketing is not promoting ideas but influencing behavior (Andreasen, 2002).” Social marketers understand the need to engender more than just smart social advertising like, Smokey the Bear’s famous slogan, “Remember Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”, but also need to also engender social change in communities, which will take a lot more that smart, catchy advertisement. The balance between the two are difficult to attain as it takes work and dedication to execute both.
In 1999, the Social Marketing Institute was founded and they were able to identify barriers that hinder the growth of the social marketing movement (Andreasen, 2002). These barriers include: 1) lack of appreciation of top management officials, 2) meager “brand positioning due to social marketing’s lack of clear goals, 3) nonexistent publicity of various social marketing successes, and finally 4) the field’s lack of academic prominence (Andreasen, 2002). All of these barriers affect the field’s ability to grow and implement change to improve its appearance in the media and academia but the major issue is actually how all of these barriers feed into each other influencing one another and hindering the field’s potential (Andreasen, 2002).
All barriers aside, social marketing can be applied successfully “in any situation in which a socially critical individual behavior needs to be addressed for a target audience (Andreasen, 2002). As Rescue explained, their program can be used to reduce teen smoking or help improve community healthcare (rescueagency.com). However, it is important to realize that social marketing can also influence behavioral changes in the media, policymakers, funders, and legislators (Andreasen, 2002). Social marketers need to know how to actually market social marketing to organizations and agencies in the best way possible.
The best way to market the social marketing campaign is in stages. First stage is pre-contemplation, where the “decision maker do not consider social marketing because they have never heard of it” (Andreasen, 2002). At this stage, it is the job of the social marketer to influence and educate the decision maker that social marketing is not “too expensive” and this style of marketing is not “manipulative” (Andreasen, 2002). Second stage, is the contemplation stage, whereby the decision maker is considering social marketing (Andreasen, 2002). Here it is extremely important to focus on social marketing benefits, costs, support received from others, and self-efficacy skills executed by social marketers (Andreasen, 2002). Thirdly is the action stage, whereby decision makers are ready to implement social marketing (Andreasen, 2002). In this stage, it is extremely important to help re-inforce the decision makers decision to use social marketing (Andreasen, 2002). The final stage is maintenance, whereby social marketing was implemented by the company but they are not yet regulars (Andreasen, 2002). Here, like the third stage, reinforcement is key (Andreasen, 2002). The social marketer should reinforce the decision maker “about the wisdom of their actions” (Andreasen, 2002).
Social marketing is a tool that can be used to influence positive changes in individuals and communities around the nation. Since this is a new discipline it is of the utmost importance to have social marketers like Rescue that are implementing their strategies and continue to grow yearly. “There is a chance to help [social marking] grow and to position marketing as a benevolent force in society, doing good in ways that are beyond filling people’s homes and lives with new products and services” (Andreasen, 2002). It would be a disservice if the barriers stated in this paper block the field’s growth.
Rescue, The Behavioral Change Agency. Retrieved From: http://rescueagency.com
Andreasen, Alan, Marketing Social Marketing in the Social Change Marketplace, Ebsco Publishing, 2003. Retrieved From: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f258/fc1aaf0d0a95cdc2832e606f5fab3694ffaf.pdf
Kotler, Philip; Zaltman, Gerald, Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change, Journal of Marketing Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 3-12, 1971. Retrieved From: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1249783?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents