Social Marketing is an approach used to develop activities aimed at changing or maintaining people’s behaviour.
Whereas marketing in the commercial world ultimately seeks to influence consumer behaviour for profit, social marketing encourages behaviours that provide benefit for individuals and society as a whole.
In the UK The NSMC has developed a set of Benchmark Criteria for social marketing, (available here). This is an eight-point guide with which to identify the key elements of social marketing, to ensure a consistent approach to behaviour change. It has also developed a planning process in order to guide implementation of social marketing programmes.
In early 2005 the Department of Health in England established a strategic partnership with the National Consumer Council (NCC). It set up a ‘National Social Marketing Strategy’ team to undertake a two-year independent review into social marketing and health-related behavioural programmes across government.
The independent review was published in June 2006 as an NCC report ‘It’s our health!’ Its findings confirmed the potential of social marketing to improve behavioural interventions. One of the report’s main recommendations was to establish a ‘National Social Marketing Centre’ to build national and local capacity and skills in social marketing.
The then Minister for Public Health, Caroline Flint, formally launched The NSMC in December 2006, alongside its founders Ed Mayo, Chief Executive of the NCC, John Bromley of the Department of Health and Professor Jeff French.
Although social marketing borrows many tools from commercial marketing, its aim is social good rather than profitability.
As a discipline, it also draws upon social and behavioural sciences as well as social policy, along with an understanding of the environmental determinants which affect the ways in which people behave.
Registering as an NHS member gives you free access to many of our resources until March 2012.
Although you will be asked to 'checkout' items in your shopping basket, you will not be asked for credit card or payment details. Simply complete the transaction with your contact information and a confirmation will be e-mailed to you.
Please note: This only applies to the NHS in England.
Though much of our work is funded by the Department of Health, we do have a remit to work across government and across sectors. The NSMC has worked with organisations in the financial services, environmental health, sustainability and charity sectors. As a measure of the interest across government, the NSMC has been asked to provide expertise of social marketing to the following departments.
See our Who we work with page for details of the organisations that we have worked with.
Increasingly, marketing agencies are looking for opportunities to use Social Networking tools and Social Media Marketing to reach their target audiences. Many, however, are incorrectly offering these new channels and technologies as Social Marketing.
Although social marketers will increasingly see these technologies as part of their toolkit for reaching certain audiences, it is important that the terms do not become conflated. For those of us working in social marketing this presents serious issues around integrity, authority, and possibly even ethics, which need to be addressed.
As a discipline, social marketing is now found in:
The NSMC cannot directly recommend agencies.
We have published a Procurement Guide for Social Marketing Services. This is aimed at public health professionals, communication and public engagement leads and other public sector commissioners who intend to use social marketing in a behaviour-change campaign, but who don't have in-house capacity for delivery.
The guide is available to download here.
In order to remain impartial, we donít list links to commercial organisations offering social marketing services. We are, however, happy to link to public sector and government organisations who offer information and resources.
See our links page for details.
In recent years a number of books, including Nudge,Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, The Spirit Level etc., have been picked up by policy makers and political parties. These are seen as offering new thinking and approaches to behaviour change and health inequalities and as possibly offering answers to some of the challenges facing society.
These offer a view of society through the lens of behavioural economics, which attempts to address the shortcomings of traditional, or neoclassical economics, with more of an emphasis on insight and a psychological of the often irrational behaviour of individuals and groups.
As such, behavioural economists are increasingly seeing social marketing's emphasis on behavioural theory as a key tool for dealing with many issues.
Social marketing is an approach that is used to address strategic (upstream), as well as operational (downstream) issues.
Social marketers typically concentrate their efforts downstream on individual behaviour change. But, often, until norms are shifted and the desired behaviour is seen as acceptable and even desirable, the changes sought can have a limited impact.
By moving further upstream and involving policy makers, organisations or community groups to remove the environmental barriers, social marketers stand a better chance of making more of a sustained and impactful change.
The WHO defines health promotion as:
“...the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.”
Clearly there are many overlaps between the aims of health promotion and social marketing for health. In 2008, The NSMC and RSPH published a discussion paper, Stronger Together, Weaker Apart, which explored ways in which to combine the two disciplines to have greater effect.
Social marketing is however, now increasingly being used to tackle many different areas of behaviour including: sustainability, finance, crime, road safety and employment. Many examples of these can be found on ShowCase.
The systematic application of marketing, alongside other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals, for a social good.
The NSMC, 2006
A good source of material, exchange of knowledge and stimulating ideas.
NSMC online survey respondee