Social marketing has been around for a long time. It was established as a discipline over 40 years ago and since then academics and experts have formulated numerous definitions and guiding principles, most of which are variations on a common theme – social marketing is the use of marketing for good, not profit.
Thanks to its proven ability to bring about positive behaviour change social marketing has gained considerable traction, particularly in areas such as preventative health, environmental protection and public safety. The publication of books like “Nudge” and “Freakonomics” have also led to a surge in interest. But despite the popularity of “nudging” it’s worth noting that choice architecture is only one tool in the social marketing toolkit.
Social marketers use traditional and contemporary marketing techniques and combine these with understandings from a range of other disciplines including sociology, psychology and behavioural economics to name just a few.
Social marketers may use social media to increase the effectiveness of their programmes because of its reach and ability to engage end-users. But social marketing is not social media marketing.
Social marketing is used to maintain existing; change unwanted and encourage desired behaviours. When applied correctly it delivers sustainable behaviour change and excellent financial and social returns on investment.
In addition to public health, social marketing is used by governments, NGO’s and business in a variety of settings including public transport, community development, agriculture and education. However, despite all its merits, social marketing remains significantly under-utilised.
Perhaps this is because most social marketers are more concerned about improving lives than they are about promoting the discipline they use to do so. Thank goodness then for social media.