Box 22.1 illustrates some issues for which nonprofit organizations can use a social marketing strategy for the most effective impact possible.


A social marketing plan is a document that justifies the needs for a social marketing campaign, as well as the process of implementation by outlining a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis, a description of the target population, the goals and objectives, an impact statement, the marketing mix strategies, an implementation plan, an evaluation plan, and a budget. A social marketing plan includes an executive summary that synthesizes key aspects of the plan so as to provide a brief overview.


The justification should provide a description of the social or community issue to be addressed by the social marketing plan. The problem-tree technique can be an effective approach to use when writing a good justification. The problem-tree technique asks the questions:

- What is the problem being taken into consideration?

- What is the impact of the problem on the target population and the larger community?

- What is the cause of that problem?

The justification should also include a purpose statement that explains how a successful social marketing campaign can help positively influence the behavior that is at the root of the problem and be beneficial for the overall community or society (Box 22.2).

Box 22.2 Sample Paragraphs from a Justification Section[1]

Alcohol use constitutes one of the most serious public health issues for young people in the United States. According to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) released in early November 2012, more that 70% of high school students have used alcohol, resulting in a high rate of underage drinking in communities across the United States. The YRBS further indicated that about 6,000 young people under the age of 21 die every year due to underage drinking. Underage drinking cost the tax payers more than $60 billion in 2012.

Underage drinking results primarily from binge drinking, which is the excessive consumption of alcohol by a group of young people, especially high school youth. During binge drinking, students may have five or more drinks of alcohol within a couple of hours. Binge drinking is the most common pattern of alcohol consumption among high school youth who drink alcohol and is strongly associated with a wide range of other health risk behaviors, such as unprotected sexual intercourse, use of illicit drugs, and suicide.

Researchers found that underage drinking cause serious problems, including homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, burns, violent and property crime, high-risk sex, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning, and need for treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence (Francois, 2010; Jean, 2011). About 40% of underage drinkers have experienced black-out spells in which they could not remember what happened the previous evening because of heavy binge drinking. Frequent binge drinkers were 10 times more likely than nonbinge drinkers to miss a class, fall behind in schoolwork, get hurt or injured, and damage property. Binge drinking is also associated with mental health disorders, such as compulsiveness, depression or anxiety, or early deviant behavior (Francois, 2010). Further, there is great potential for alcohol poisoning as a result of binge drinking. Alcohol poisoning is a severe and potentially fatal physical reaction to an alcohol overdose, which can deprive the brain of oxygen. Even moderate binge drinking carries consequences in the form of risky behaviors, such as

Sexual violence and unplanned and unprotected sexual activity: like adults, youth are most likely unable to think clearly under the influence of alcohol; alcohol abuse leads to increased unplanned and unprotected sexual intercourse.

Drinking and driving: Alcohol-related highway death rates have significantly increased among drivers under the age of 21. Fatal vehicular accidents due to drunk driving are the number one cause of death among people 15 to 24 years old (Ellea, 2011).

- Alcoholism: Research shows that drinking at an early age predisposes kids to addiction (Ann, 2010).

- Brain development: Early alcohol exposure negatively affects adult brain functioning and behavior (Jung, 2009).

Several studies have documented the effectiveness of specific school-based strategies (Al, 2004). Research also found that the benefits of school-based drug prevention outweigh the costs (Chen, 2002). Schools constitute the primary setting with access to youth under 20 years of age. It is important that schools actively participate in activities to educate students about the dangers of underage alcohol use and implement programs to prevent underage drinking. Therefore, school-based prevention is an effective strategy to influence youth alcohol consumption behaviors, and prevent risky behaviors regarding underage alcohol use.

As you may have noticed in the example in Box 22.2, the first paragraph briefly describes the problem with statistics coming from identifiable sources. It is important that the justification for a social marketing project find support in the literature. The second paragraph outlines the cause of the problem. Although it is important to describe a problem, it is also important to explain what causes such problems. For a social marketing campaign to be effective, the strategies for behavior modification must target the root or the cause of a problem in others. The third paragraph explains the impact of the problem on the target population and the overall community. This section of the justification is critical to convincing people to support a social marketing campaign. Finally, the last section makes a case for the approach that will be used, as well as a preview of what the social marketing program will help accomplish.

Purpose and Focus

The purpose is a statement that describes the benefits that will result from the implementation of a social marketing campaign. The focus states the main priority of an upcoming campaign. In other words, the purpose reflects what overall change will take place in relation to a targeted social issue. The focus specifies where specifically such change will be observed. For example, the purpose can be to reduce underage drinking in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The focus may be underage drinking of high school students in the city of Atlanta.

SWOT Analysis

A social marketing should be based on a SWOT analysis to ensure better understanding of internal and external factors that can influence positively or negatively the implementation of a social marketing plan. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The findings from a SWOT analysis can help maximize organizational strengths, minimize identified weaknesses, outline strategies to use existing opportunities, and develop contingency plans for threats (Box 22.3).

Box 22.3 SWOT Analysis

Strengths Opportunities

- Interdisciplinary programs/collaboration

- Quality improvement

- Access to diverse populations

- Regional satellite network

- New organizational structure and reporting

- Outreach

- Strong community support

- Federal support



- Limited fixed support/funding

- Economic downturn

- Outdated accounting systems

- Political changes (federal, state, local)

- Relatively small development programs

- Competition

- Small clinical program

Target Population

A social marketing campaign aims to change the behavior of a target population, in order to improve the overall well-being of a community or society. Therefore, it is obvious that this target population must be described as accurately as possible, with as much detail possible. Some of the factors that must be taken into account in describing the target population include, but are not limited to demographics, geography, psychographics, patterns of behaviors, readiness for change, and social network (Box 22.4).

Goals and Objectives

A social marketing plan should set clear goals and objectives in relation to behaviors of the target population that must be changed. The goals are broader-targeted behavior changes that you want to occur in the target population. The objectives set narrower focuses that will help achieve the goals. The objectives can be behavior oriented and focused on knowledge (what you want your audience to know), beliefs and feelings (what you want your audience to believe and how you want then to feel), action (what you want your audience to do) See Box 22.5 for sample goal and objectives.

  • [1] Authors and statistics cited are fictitious.
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