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The concept of social marketing was coined in 1971 by Kotler and Zaltman. The synonym for social marketing is “non-profit marketing,” because it is an entrepreneurial marketing concept, which is primarily goal-oriented and not profit-oriented. This includes the marketing activities of public, non-profit or otherwise non-commercial organizations, such as public administration facilities, hospitals, social services, or care facilities.
The goal of social marketing is not to generate profit but to achieve social goals and success. Classical social marketing refers to the principles and means of marketing for non-profit institutions or companies.
The goal of a social marketing campaign could be, for example, marketing a behavior such as not to smoke. This behavior describes the product and the basic benefit is the long-term reduction of health risks. Another example of a goal would be the attempt to raise the population’s willingness to donate and the promotion of education or health care.
It is important to emphasize a personal benefit of the healthy behavior, since the implementation of such behavior may involve effort or inconvenience. In the case of a non-smoking campaign it would be abstention of pleasure. The additional benefit for the corresponding target group must be specifically worked out for each product. Thus, one does not advertise purely just the health benefits of not smoking, but adapts it to the target group and the time period and promotes a certain emotional additional benefit accordingly.
A price in social marketing usually refers not a monetary reward, but the inconvenience or the effort an individual must undertake to bring about the desired behavioral change. These include, for example, pain, overcoming shame or anxiety during a screening examination, or changing one’s dietary and exercise habits to lose weight.
In order to be successful in the field of social marketing, information and persuasive strategies have to be developed that familiarize the product and make it seem desirable. The message to be conveyed as well as the right choice of sales channels are of great importance. This includes Internet, magazines or exhibitions. It should also be noted that, especially in the health sector, complex content is often being presented and it should be easily understandable. This quickly attracts attention and it remains in the mind of the beholder. However, it can happen that a complex content is greatly simplified and has to be broken down into a slogan, whereby essential and additional information gets lost.
Social marketing today
Many large profit-oriented companies increasingly integrate social factors into their marketing activities. Social marketing methods are used to cultivate their corporate identity or convey social messages. This means that short-term sales growth is not the focus of attention. An example of this are companies in the automotive sector who advertise the environmental friendliness of their cars. Nevertheless, this form of marketing can only partially be classified as classical social marketing, since it is still intended to generate economic success through long-term brand and image management.
Problems and risks
From a public health point of view, social marketing approaches are criticized in terms of worldview and the human image. In contrast to health promotion whose priority is to influence structural, political, social, and environmental conditions of health and disease, this form of marketing is directed at individual behavior. This has led to the accusation that the human being, through the linking of health with personal responsibility, is being blamed himself for his behavior and must therefore bear the resulting illness consequences.