Social Marketing is a term that came into being in the 1970’s, to differentiate mainstream/traditional marketing (selling a product) from the marketing strategies used to share ideas and change behavior.
With Social Marketing, the focus is still on the consumer but rather than asking them to buy something they are being asked to become involved or change attitudes/behaviors.
Social Marketers need to know more about their target group(s) and how a particular set of behaviors affects them, either positively or negatively. Research is mandatory for successful social marketing outcomes. Marketing a luxury automobile, for example, takes far less research than changing attitudes on Obesity. When changing attitudes and behaviors on obesity the marketers must research health issues, mobility issues, food services, mental health issues and so forth before making their pitch for change.
Social Marketers have numerous avenues available to them that mainstream marketers do not. Social Marketers are typically aligned with a Not For Profit movement and therefore can take advantage of Public Service Announcements (free media time/space), media interviews, public events (like Health Fairs), public displays and government support, and so on. Social Marketers traditionally have a much smaller marketing budget so creative marketing is mandatory!
Often there are cross purposes and one group or agency can work with another on similar “causes” and issues. In Alcohol/Drug Abuse for example the number of possible partners is huge: Drug Abuse programs, PTA/PTOs and school systems, the medical profession, law enforcement, local organizations working on Quality of Life Issues, Boys and Girls Clubs, Scouts on and on. Further, the Federal Government often takes the lead on creating marketing materials for use on the local level.
One effort presently available dealing with youth alcohol/drug use is “Be The Wall” – this community Social Marketing tool is being used throughout the state of Florida by a wide variety of agencies and community organizations.