CT Clearinghouse

Social Marketing

What is Social Marketing?

What is Social Marketing?

Social marketing is generally defined as the design and implementation of programs that introduce and promote a social idea or cause. Diffusion of innovations, health communications, and media advocacy are related disciplines with application to ATOD problem prevention. Media campaigns and health message and materials development are integral to the development of comprehensive multilevel, multistrategy approaches and to the dissemination of prevention interventions (National Cancer Institute, 1989; Rogers, 1983).

How Social Marketing Works

Social marketing uses commercial marketing tools to “sell” products and ideas for the public good. The key to a successful social marketing campaign is learning what will work with the target population. This is far more effective than simply telling people what they “should do.” The target population is more likely to adopt a desired behavior if we assess and subsequently try to change their attitudes toward the behavior, their perceptions of benefits of the new behavior, and their perceptions of how they think their peers will view their behavior. 

The Four "Ps" of Social Marketing

With each social marketing program, the concept of a target population is constant. The variables are the product being promoted, the price, the promotion, and the place or channel whereby the information reaches the consumer.

  • Product is the knowledge, attitudes, or behavior you want the target audience to adopt. The product can be an idea such as not using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. The product could also be an actual related commodity such as seeds for a substitute cash crop such as wheat or corn, or a nicotine substitute to help smokers quit.
  • Price is what audience members must give up to receive the program’s benefits. This price is usually something more abstract than money. It might be the psychological cost of separating oneself from friends or the peer group that continues to use drugs, or the psychological and physical trauma of fighting an addiction.
  • Place or the channel, refers to how the message is disseminated. Channels could include mass media, schools, churches, or workplaces. Keep in mind that place affects price. For instance, if the message is promoted by an organized youth group, the price of peer pressure may be reduced. Choose the channel which is most appropriate for the target audience.
  • Promotion is the means for persuading the target audience that the product is worth this price. It may include a publicity campaign through the mass media but it can also involve teaching life skills or community activities. (Bureau of International Narcotics Matters, 1988)

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)