What is Social Marketing?

Nowadays, social marketing is very common in lots of places, for example government agencies, private nonprofit organizations, private for-profit firms and universities. However, many people don’t know what does social marketing is and how it differs from similar fields such as communications and behavior mobilization, it is being confused with generic marketing like ‘societal marketing’ and ‘socially responsible marketing’. There are some practitioners are doing social advertising but they think they are doing social marketing. Social marketing is to understand how to influence people’s behavior in a good way and make better standard of living for human, so it is necessarily to make all these marketing concept clear and to understand them more deeply.

To discuss the concept of social marketing, we first have to know the definition of it. Social marketing is defined as the 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. There is a revised definition is proposed by Alan R. Andreasen, he proposes the following definition: “Social marketing is the adaptation of commercial marketing technologies to programs designed to influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences to improve their personal welfare and that of the society of which they are a part.” His definition let the social marketers focus on the result that they influenced and keep the discipline of social marketing distinguishable for the others and also separate social marketing from the areas that is easy to fail.

The idea of social marketing is to use the same marketing principles to propaganda ideas, attitudes and behaviors as that were being used to sell products to consumers. There is confusion whether social marketing was limited to public and nonprofit marketers. Actually, they are not necessarily social marketing, this can be very important that public sector bodies to improve the promotion of their relevant services and organizational aims by using standard marketing approaches, it influence social behaviors not to benefit the social marketer, but to benefit either individuals or society as a whole in long run. There are also some private sector hold many activities aim to change beliefs, attitudes and values, but the only reason they are doing that is to increase sales by prevent change e.g. customers switching to another brand.

Social marketing can improve the behavior and life style of the public to achieve a social good, but there are some difficulties while doing it, the problem is not the lack of information that people receive but the confusion of getting too much different information from different sources which are inconsistent or uncoordinated. For some small firms, their managers think that they are also part of the social marketers, then it will be difficult for them to keep their eye on the bottom line – to change behavior, and also some firm get into trouble because they see the action side of social marketing instead of the planning side and also social marketing effectiveness may be limited if the marketer apply the concept wrongly, and people may blame the social marketing for failures.

To apply the social marketing concept, social marketers also need to know the key features and the 4P’s of Marketing Mix (product, price, place and promotion) in order to help them achieve their social marketing goals.

Key features of social marketing are:

  1. Customer orientation – A key element of all forms of marketing, understand the situation of the target customer, where they start from, their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, also their background of where they live and work. It can make the progress easily and smoothly.
  2. An exchange – Defined as an exchange of resources or values between two or more parties with the expectation of some benefits. Social marketers really have to know what is being expected of people and what is their cost to exchange, otherwise, there may be no one are willing to exchange and lead to failure of social marketing.
  3. Long-term Planning Approach – Continuing programs for a long time instead of one-off campaigns, it should be strategic rather than tactical. Starts and finishes with research and use a long time to plan, because we have to know that behavior is not easy to change, people are used to it in their daily life, so we need to understand why people act as they do and therefore how best to support them in their life choices, therefore, we can “reeducate” them to change their mind.
  4. Moving Beyond the Individual Consumer – It will be pointless if we change the behavior or lifestyle of an individual consumer if they are still operating in the same environment, so, it might be very useful to change a group of people or the entire society to achieve the aim of social marketing.

There are some special features to distinguish social marketing, it is the systematic application of marketing along with other concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good, it is an over-simplification although it sometimes seen only as to achieve non-commercial goals by using standard commercial marketing practices

‘Social good’ is the primary aim of ‘social marketing’ and it is its first outcome while ‘financial’ is the primary aim in ‘commercial marketing’. But social good can still be contributed to achieve by commercial marketers. Gradually, people describe social marketing as having a ‘social parent’ which is social sciences and social policy, and a ‘marketing parent’ which is commercial and public sector marketing approaches. Social marketing is differing from other areas of marketing only with respect to the objectives of the marketer and his or her organization.

Social marketing applies a “customer orientated” approach, it can be applied to promotion by making the society to buy merit goods and dissuade the use of demerit goods and also to tell the society that they consider the society’s well-being as a whole, for example ask people not to smoke in public areas, reducing cigarette smoking, ask people to use seat belts, prompt them to follow speed limits etc.

Social marketing knows that commerce brings many benefits, but it can cause harm to individual and society. Tobacco is an extreme example of this, it kills half of its long term users. So, ‘social marketing’ can do the reverse like tobacco company use marketing to encourage people smoke.

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