Ph.D. candidate at Azerbaijan Tourism and Management University

Email: habib.mahmudov@atmu.edu.az


Abstract. The social marketing was first brought to discussion by Wiebe in 1951 and later the first definition of social marketing was originated by Kotler and Zaltman in 1971. Within significant research in the field of sociology many other researchers came with their own definition of the term. Today social marketing is aim towards resolution of specific social problems and causes in different parts of society to improve the level of live and reach a common good for the better part of population. Within particular social marketing programs private institutions and government bodies reach to their set aims and objectives in the field of social marketing. The synergy between social marketing research essentials, being the available literature and knowledge on the topic and diverse approaches for implementation in forms of social programs and channels of distribution and economic determinants in form of social indexes and statistics is creating a strong basis for an in-depth investigation of certain social problems and causes.

Keywords: Sociology, social problem, social marketing, social marketing program, target audience, communication, behavioural change, society



Social marketing has become one of the most analysed topics within last two decades. The study researched by several authors and experts of the field has turned itself into an independent discipline, showcasing crucial results in the expertise of sociology and social studies in several countries. The key to the obtained popularity and results is the possibility of implementation of social marketing approaches in resolution of numerous serious social problems and causes by installing specific social marketing programs tailored to the respective situation of the country, society, or target audience. Moreover, the application of these specific social marketing programs involves several stages of promotion and communication of a key message to the target audience as well as evaluation and analysis for the future implementation of the set social marketing program regarding available social problem or cause.



The notion of social marketing term was first noted in 1951 when Wiebe asked the question of “Can brotherhood be sold like soap?”. Within significant research in the field and extended interest in the topic the first definition of the term was published in the work of Kotler and Zaltman in 1971 as: “Social marketing is the design, implementation, and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of social ideas and involving considerations of product planning, pricing, communication, distribution, and marketing research” [14, 3-12]. It was identified that social marketing involves a set of activities to reach the resolution of a specific social problem or cause for the general or a specified target audience.

Another initiative of defining the term was related to the connection of social marketing to the economic aspects of social activities. Lazer and Kelley state that: “Social marketing is concerned with the application of marketing knowledge, concepts, and techniques to enhance social as well as economic ends. It is also concerned with analysis of the social consequence of marketing policies, decisions, and activities” [15]. The synergy between social marketing research essentials, being the available literature and knowledge on the topic and diverse approaches for implementation in forms of social programs and channels of distribution and economic determinants in form of social indexes and statistics is creating a strong basis for an in-depth investigation of certain social problems and causes.

A strong connection between the social marketing and commercial marketing is set to be present. In theory social marketing approaches are based on the ground principles of commercial marketing methods being oriented not on promotion of a particular product or service but rather on delivering a concrete message for selected target audiences in purpose of resolution of their respective social problems. In this matter Andreasen clarifies the term in the following manner: “The application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society” [1].

In more general terms social marketing is based on diverse tactics and techniques to affect the lives of a certain group of people in a positive direction and sustain a healthy form of life. Concerning this aspect Kotler redefined the definition of social marketing in the following way: “Social marketing is the use of marketing principles and techniques to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon a behaviour for the benefit of individuals, groups, or society as a whole” [13]. It is important to mention that the actions towards a certation change should be made in a voluntary setting, as it is designed to improve the state of life of a particular individual or group of people.

On the other hand, the social marketing term is corelated not only to commercial marketing but also critical marketing. Critical marketing investigates the application of critical marketing theory in marketing programs and studies to influence a certain group of people or target audience. Saren and Hastings suggest that: “Social marketing combines the phenomena of social, commercial and critical marketing thought and uses marketing principles to address social problems” [19, 305-322]. The right formulation of social problem’s specifics and key points on its resolution process is vital in generation of successful social marketing programs and tactics to reach the desired goal of the social cause being solved for a certain part of the population.

Moreover, the right balance in between the target audience and society should be in place, as the resolution of a social problem is related not only to the portion of the society, being the target audience, but also to the other segments as it holds a broader meaning and mission to the general society and their everyday lives. According to French and Blair social marketing is: ” A process that applies marketing principles and techniques to create, communicate and deliver value in order to influence target audience behaviour that benefit the society as well as the target audience” [7]. In this sense the application of social marketing programs becomes more crucial and beneficial to the larger groups of people with the same problems and difficulties that can be shaped under a common social problem or cause.

In the sense of research social marketing is mainly oriented on a particular profile of a consumer with her or his respective beliefs, values, interests, and problems. Thus, each social marketing initiative involves a deep investigation the target group and its social problems and causes. As per Grier and Bryant: “Social marketing is a consumer-centred, research driven approach to promote voluntary behaviour change in a priority population” [8, 319-339]. The understanding of the consumer, being an individual in the research setting, is decisive for further formulation of the social problem and directions in its resolution process for the benefit of the society or target group.

As in any research process a systematic approach should be in place to carefully understand and implement the body of knowledge regarding the topic and sustain the research process to draw meaningful conclusions and suggestions. Considering the topic of social marketing the National Social Marketing Centre has suggested the following: “Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing alongside other concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals, for social or public good” [18]. The right identification of social marketing tactics and techniques is vital for a successful generation of a social marketing program and further resolution of set social problems.

Stead et al., also implies that: “The salient characteristic of social marketing is that it takes learning from commercial marketing and applies it to the resolution of social problems” [20, 126-191]. Commercial marketing in relation to the social marketing stands on certain ground rules of promotion and communication of key messages and transition of the main message to the target audience to affect their behaviour to the positive change. This approach helps to simplify the overall process of running the social marketing program and harvesting positive outcomes for the better part of the society. It is also crucial in understanding of which part of the social marketing program did not result in a successful outcome and what steps are needed to be taken to avoid such cases in the future positioning of the respective social marketing program.

In the process of formulation of a right and successful social marketing program the role of overall created value to the specific target audience or society in general is crucial. The analysis of all traits of characteristics of the target audience and key aspects of the social problem or cause leads to the ultimate solution proposition of the social problem for the set target audience. In their research Kotler and Lee identify social marketing as: “Process that applies marketing principles and techniques to create, communicate, and deliver value in order to influence target audience behaviour that benefit society (public health, safety, the environment, and communities) as well as the target audience” [12]. With this approach the social problem is not only eliminated but also the deeper connection with the respective target audience is created, which results in more information provided and better visualisation of the situation is being displayed.

In words of Dann social marketing also can be termed as: “The adaptation and adoption of commercial marketing activities, institutions and processes as a means to induce behavioural change in a targeted audience on a temporary or permanent basis to achieve a social goal” [4, 147-153]. In this case the role of institutions is also underlined. Many social problems need to be addressed on a higher level to be solved in appropriate manner. For these specialized institutions come to scene to take the relevant actions and sustain a productive execution of identified social marketing program. Also, they play a vital role in monitoring and evaluating the success of the social marketing program alongside providing insights for the future runs of the respective social marketing program.

Most of the early social marketing initiatives were mainly concerned with the well-being industry and social security of general society. From that perspective many social marketing programs were originated to resolve the social problems and causes of well-being sphere and partly were related to medical research and analysis. In this scenario a bigger target audience was selected within the research process, mainly a particular market, European, Asian, African, or American, to generalize the outcomes of the research and provide extended research data. From this a definition of social marketing by Lefebvre comes along in the following manner: “The application of marketing principles to shape markets that are more effective, sustainable, and just in advancing people’s well-being and social welfare” [17, 54-72].

According to Lee et al., the definition of the term can be described as: “Social Marketing is a process that uses marketing principles and techniques to influence target audience behaviours that will benefit society as well as the individual. This strategically oriented discipline relies on creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have positive value for individuals, clients, partners, and society at large” [16]. Especially it is important to mention the exchange in the social marketing action. It helps to minimize the barriers between certain groups of people that have same or similar social problems or causes and simplifies the procedures that are taken to find necessary solutions for the better of the society. Many differences can be identified within the research process of the targeted group’s behaviours and values which expands the understanding of the social problem or cause at the initial level of the research process. By carefully analysing the cores of each behavioural pattern it is easier to come up with a point on how to minimize the harm of the set social problem or in best case scenario to eliminate it.

The research provided by Hastings and Angus also agrees that: “Social Marketing critically examines commercial marketing to learn from its successes and curb its excesses” [9, 45-53]. By improving the results of an actual social marketing program institutions can achieve fruitful results in understanding the basic needs of the target group as well as connect with it on a more personal basis where hidden aspects of individual characteristics can present meaningful information for the researchers as well as the officials of the respective institutions. This process has been used in several studies and has shown that general research conveys only a small portion of the whole situation within a researched target group and part the general society.

By the time of the initial research made in the field of social marketing several institutions that are dealing with the social marketing changes, innovations and guidelines were founded. Many of them have contributed to the development of the term and its popularisation worldwide transforming it into to an international study and point of interest for majority of countries and their respective institutions dealing with social problems and causes. The organisations of the International Social Marketing Association (ISMA), the European Social Marketing Association (ESMA) and the Australian Association of Social Marketing (AASM) have also contributed to the formulation of a definition of the term as following: “Social Marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good. Social Marketing practice is guided by ethical principles. It seeks to integrate research, best practice, theory, audience, and partnership insight, to inform the delivery of competition sensitive and segmented social change programmes that are effective, efficient, equitable and sustainable” [10,1].

Another definition constituting the importance of behavioural changes in the social marketing studies was made by Eagle et al., in the following statement: “Social marketing refers to the application of marketing principles to facilitate behavioural change necessary for the achievement of a public or social good” [6, 324-332]. Significantly, the presence of behaviour study in the social marketing field is reflected in the daily lives of the individuals concerned in a particular study. The elements of personal traits and decision-making process of the selected target audience assists the researchers in better understanding of core of the situation with the identified social problem or cause and narrows down the possible outcomes of the further development of the respective social problem or cause in the case of the selected target audience.

When drawing analysis on the definition of the social marketing term it is also important to differentiate its purpose from the general understanding of a marketer’s perspective. A traditional marketer is more driven towards generation of popularity a certain income from the promoted product or service to the public or targeted audience while an individual involved with the social marketing is more concentrated on the benefit of society in general. This differentiation also finds itself in the definition of social marketing by Duane et al., as: “The salient difference between social marketing and all other subareas of marketing is that social marketers’ objectives are the wellbeing of the society whilst other marketers’ aims are stakeholders’ maximum wealth” [5, 856-876].

The social marketing process involves several steps in its interpretation as planning, research, analysis, implementation, evaluation, and a sustainability aspect for further development. The key objective in all research by the individuals and institutions is to identify the crucial points in the analysis of the social problem or social cause and identify its many resolution ways for the selected target audience or part of the society. Further the definition of social marketing was redefined by ISMA, ESMA, AASM, and SMANA in the following sense: “Social marketing is used to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviour that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good” [11].

Social marketing as study examines several aspects of sociology and deals with such spheres as economics, environment, health, education, and sustainability. Each study has its reflections in social marketing programs to a certain extent and concludes meaningful solutions for the target audience. A more recent definition of the term was suggested by Baptista et al., in the following way: “Social marketing is not intended to benefit the organization that promotes the marketing actions, but rather to benefit individuals’ welfare or promote societal good” [2]. In the organization setting the goal normally is meet expectations of the executive board and reach the set aims and objectives of the proposed social marketing program, which later presented to the respective executive board alongside with the outcomes of the social marketing program.

Another definition of social marketing term in relation to institutions was generated by Baptista, Pinho, and Alves and noted as: “It can apply not only to the behaviour of individuals but also to that of professionals, organizations, and policymakers, meaning the contextual actors that can influence individuals’ behaviour change” [3, 57-94]. In this case the role of government is important to be mentioned. Many social marketing programs and initiatives in the recent years are originated by the government as the results from the theory and research alongside the experience of private institutions shows positive perspective of implementation of social marketing programs in towards resolution of social problems and causes. The findings from the respective studies in the field can assist the initiatives of certain governments better understanding their situation in the society and how they can target the identified social problems and causes to improve the life of the better part of the population.



All in all, the available literature and data on social marketing and social marketing programs and tactics shows on the huge potential of the study in terms of how it can affect many lives of individuals and groups of people towards a positive change and a sort of transformation of the society where a particular social problem or cause is set to be existent. Moreover, the researchers in this field demonstrated that the findings can be used for a brighter description of certain unfamiliar areas for the private institutions and government bodies that are eager for formulation of a successful plan for execution of the current social problems and causes in their respective societies within application of social marketing methodology and programs.


Literature Review

  1. Andreasen, A. (1995). Marketing Social Change: Changing behaviour to promote Health, social Development and the Environment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Baptista, N., Alves, H., & Pinho, J. C. (2020). Uncovering the use of the social support concept in social marketing interventions for health. Journal of Non-profit and Public Sector Marketing, Published Online. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10495142.2020.1760999.
  3. Baptista, N., Pinho, J. C., & Alves, H. (2021). Examining social capital and online social support links: A study in online health communities facing treatment uncertainty. International Review on Public and Non-profit Marketing, 18(1), pp. 57-94. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12208-020-00263-2.
  4. Dann, S. (2010). Redefining social marketing with contemporary commercial marketing definitions. Journal of Business Research, 63(2), pp. 147-153. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2009.02.013.
  5. Duane, S., Domegan, C., McHugh, P., & Devaney, M. (2016). From restricted to complex exchange and beyond: social marketing’s change agenda. Journal of Marketing Management, 32(9-10), pp. 856-876. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2016.1189449.
  6. Eagle, L., Hamann, M., & Low, D. L. (2016). The role of social marketing, marine turtles and sustainable tourism in reducing plastic pollution. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 107(1), pp. 324-332. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.03.040.
  7. French, J., Blair-Stevens, C. (2005). “Social Marketing”, Oxford: Oxford Publications.
  8. Grier, S., Bryant, C. (2005). “Social marketing in public health”, Annual Review Public Health, Vol. 26, pp. 319-339.
  9. Hastings, G., & Angus, K. (2011). When is social marketing not social marketing? Journal of Social Marketing, 1(1), pp. 45-53. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1108/20426761111104428.
  10. ISMA, ESMA, & AASM. (2013). Consensus definition of social marketing. Retrieved from: www.europeansocialmarketing.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/final_endorsed_consensus_definition_of_social_marketing_october_20131.pdf.
  11. ISMA, ESMA, AASM, & SMANA (2017). Global consensus on social marketing principles. Concepts and Techniques.
  12. Kotler, P., Lee, N. (2008). Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviours for Good 3rd Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  13. Kotler, P., Roberto, N. & Lee, N. (2002). Social marketing: Improving the Quality of Life 2nd Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  14. Kotler, P., Zaltman, G. (1971). “Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change”, Journal of Marketing, 1971, Vol. 35, pp. 3-12.
  15. Lazer, W., & Kelley, E.J. (1973). Social Marketing: Perspectives and Viewpoints, Richard D. Irwin, Homewood, IL.
  16. Lee, N. R., Rothschild, M. L., & Smith, W. (2011, March). A declaration of social marketing’s unique principles and distinctions. Unpublished manuscript.
  17. Lefebvre, R. C. (2011). An integrative model for social marketing. Journal of Social Marketing 1: pp. 54-72.
  18. National Social Marketing Centre (2006). A review of the effectiveness of social marketing physical activity interventions. ISM Institute for Social Marketing.
  19. Saren, M., & Hastings, G. (2003). “The Critical contribution of Social Marketing”, Sage Journals, vol. 3(3), pp. 305-322.
  20. Stead, M., Gordon, R., Angus, K., & McDermott, L. (2007). A systematic review of social marketing effectiveness. Health Education, 107(2), pp. 126-191. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1108/09654280710731548.



Həbib Mahmudov



Sosial marketinq ilk dəfə 1951-ci ildə Vibe tərəfindən müzakirəyə çıxarılmış və daha sonra sosial marketinqin ilk tərifi 1971-ci ildə Kotler və Zaltman tərəfindən yaradılmışdır. Sosiologiya sahəsində əhəmiyyətli tədqiqatlar çərçivəsində digər tədqiqatçılar da bu terminin tərifi ilə bağlı mövqelər ortaya qoyublar. Bu gün sosial marketinq konkret sosial problemləri həll etmək, əhalinin yaşayış səviyyəsini yaxşılaşdırmaq və ümumi rifahı əldə etmək məqsədi daşıyır. Xüsusilə müxtəlif marketinq proqramları çərçivəsində özəl təşkilatlar və dövlət qurumları sosial marketinq sahəsində qarşıya qoyulan məqsəd və hədəflərə çatırlar. Sosial marketinq tədqiqatının əsasları, mövzu ilə bağlı mövcud ədəbiyyat və biliklər, sosial proqramlar və kommunikasiya kanalları formalarında həyata keçirilməsi üçün müxtəlif yanaşmalar və sosial göstəricilər, statistika şəklində iqtisadi determinantlar arasında sinerji müəyyən sosial problemlərin və səbəblərin dərindən araşdırılmasında köməklik göstərir.

Açar sözlər: sosiologiya, sosial problem, sosial marketinq, sosial marketinq proqramı, hədəf auditoriya, ünsiyyət, davranış dəyişikliyi, cəmiyyət


Хабиб Махмудов



Социальный маркетинг был впервые вынесен на обсуждение Вибе   в 1951 году, а позже первое определение социального маркетинга было предложено Котлером и Залтманом в 1971 году. В рамках значительных исследований в области социологии многие другие исследователи предложили свои собственные определения этого термина. Сегодня социальный маркетинг направлен на решение конкретных социальных проблем и способствует в разных слоях общества улучшению уровня жизни и достижению общего блага для болшей части населения. В рамках конкретных программ социального маркетинга частные учреждения и государственные органы достигают поставленных целей и задач в области социального маркетинга. Синергия между основами исследования социального маркетинга, доступной литературой и знаниями по теме и разнообразными подходами к реализации в формах социальных программ и каналов распространения, и экономическими детерминантами в виде социальных индексов и статистики создает прочную основу для углубленных исследований некоторых социальных проблем и причин.

Ключевые слова: Социология, социальная проблема, социальный маркетинг, программа социального маркетинга, целевая аудитория, коммуникация, изменение поведения, общество