Social Marketing Essay

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Social marketing is a framework that aims to change human behavior within a population. Although social marketing has been used to address many problems, it has been used primarily in health promotion and disease prevention (for examples, see Edgar et al. 2011; Lee & Kotler 2011).

Social marketing is characterized by six defining criteria (Andreasen 2002): (1) behavior change is the end goal; (2) audience research drives strategy; (3) audiences are segmented to insure maximum efficiency; (4) social marketers create attractive motivational exchanges with target audiences; (5) interventionists assess the competition faced by the desired behavior; and (6) strategy relies on all four Ps of the marketing mix, as described below.

The last criterion is the central element of social marketing. The first of the four Ps is product. The product can be a physical object such as a condom that facilitates one’s ability to engage in a desired action, but most commonly social marketers attempt to ‘sell’ a change of behavior (e.g., using seatbelts). Price refers to the barriers that an individual must overcome to adopt the proposed action. Price, however, also involves identifying the incentives one can enjoy from adopting a new behavior (e.g., increased self-esteem after losing weight). Place refers to the strategy for making the desired behavior as convenient as possible such as placing hand sanitizer dispensers in front of elevators.

Promotion is the social marketing element most directly linked to communication. The communication options available to a social marketer can include, for instance, promoting a product through advertising, public relations, consumer promotions, education, interpersonal networks, direct mail, signage, printed materials, social media, and the Internet. For an initiative to be labeled accurately as social marketing, the process should include the entire mix.


  1. Andreasen, A. R. (2002). Marketing social marketing in the social change marketplace. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 21, 3–13.
  2. Edgar, T., Volkman, J., & Logan, A. (2011). Social marketing: Its meaning, use, and application for health communication. In T. Thompson, R. Parrott, & J. Nussbaum (eds.), Handbook of health communication, 2nd edn. London: Routledge, pp. 235–251.
  3. Lee, N. R. & Kotler, P. (2011). Social marketing: Influencing behaviors for good, 4th edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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