Social Marketing and Financial Sustainability

This chapter is designed to provide an introduction of the principles and practices of social marketing and their applicability to nonprofit organizations. It emphasizes the need for strategic planning in the marketing, not only of products, but also of programs and services. It is intended to enable nonprofit managers to manage their social marketing efforts strategically.


The term "social marketing" has been used for several decades to refer to a systematic process of using marketing strategy to influence current behaviors of a target population into a desired behavior in order to positively change a social or community issue. As the two words "social" and "marketing" imply, social marketing is modeled on commercial or business marketing principles and techniques used to induce changes in behavior that have the potential to contribute to the well-being of a target population. According to Weinreich (2011), social marketing uses marketing principles and techniques to influence a target population in the adoption of behaviors that can help improve health and community outcomes. As you may notice, this definition emphasizes health outcomes, because social marketing has been used considerably in public and community health. There are a variety of definitions for the concept of social marketing, as illustrated in Table 22.1. All of them have the commonality of being rooted in marketing principles and techniques.

TABLE 22.1 Sample Definitions of "Social Marketing"

Author (Date)


Andreasen (2006)

The application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence voluntary behavior of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of society (p. 7).

Smith (2000)

Process for influencing human behavior on a large scale, using marketing principles for the purpose of societal benefit rather than commercial profit (p.12).

[Donovan (2011)

Social marketing is the application of commercial marketing principles and tools where the primary goal is the public good (p. 9).

French (2011)

Social marketing is a set of evidence- and experience-based concepts and principles that provide a systematic approach to understanding behavior and modifying it for social good. It is not a science but rather a form of "technik" [sic]; a fusion of science, practical know-how, and reflective practice focusing on continuously improving the performance of programmmes aimed at producing net social good (p. 155).

Lefebvre (2011)

Social marketing is the application of marketing principles to shape markets that are more effective, efficient, sustainable, and just in advancing people's well-being and social welfare (p. 55).

McKenzie-Mohr (2011)

Social marketing is a process that involves (a) carefully selecting which behaviors and segments to target, (b) identifying the barriers and benefits to these behaviors, (c) developing and pilot testing strategies to address these barriers and benefits, and, finally, (d) broad scale implementation of successful programs (pp. 8-10).


Social marketing dates back to the late 1950s and early 1960s with the emergence of the use of mass media in business as a strategy to use commercial marketing principles for social issues, and evolved to become more of a behavior-change approach during the 1990s (Andreasen, 2006). The term "social marketing" itself was coined by Kotler and Zaltman (1971) to refer to a strategy that would make it possible to promote a customer's welfare, using the most effective marketing mix, (i.e., product, price, place, and promotion). Contrary to commercial marketing, social marketing was designed to create social change through education and increased awareness (Coffman, 2002). Social marketing focuses on client wants and needs to implement community-based projects and programs. The approach is integrated, rooted in the client s community, social, and cultural experiences. This inside-out approach can be very well received in struggling communities and target groups dealing with challenging issues. The use and integration of the overall client behaviors and experiences can provide knowledge and information that can be essential to the success of a community program intended for behavior or social change. As Andreasen (2006) indicated, social marketing uses an "upstream application" of client social behaviors that focuses on the source of behaviors and appropriate strategies to influence the change of such targeted behaviors. For example, in a campaign on alcohol, commercial marketing would focus on a downstream approach to identifying factors that influence people to buy alcohol and use such knowledge and information to sell more alcohol products. On the other hand, in social marketing, an upstream approach is used to identify factors influencing alcohol consumption and abuse behaviors, and use such knowledge to influence positive change or modification in such behavior, and thus cause people not to buy or abuse alcohol. Although Hornik (2001) had questioned the

Box 22.1 Issues That Can Be Tackled with Social Marketing

- Obesity

- Binge drinking

- Breast-feeding

- Breast cancer

- Prostate cancer

- Colorectal cancer

- College campus suicide

- Domestic violence

- Bullying

- Teen pregnancy


- Drinking and driving

- Wildlife habitat protection

isolated effect of social marketing in behavior change, various studies found that the use of social marketing has been very effective at positively influencing social and community changes (Stead, Gordon, Angus, & McDermott, 2007).

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