Societal Marketing
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Societal Marketing

The social marketing is a marketing concept that holds that a company should make marketing decisions by considering consumers' wants, the company's requirements, and society's long-term interests.

The social marketing concept holds that the organization's task is to determine the needs, wants, and interests of a target market and to deliver the desired satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than competitors in a way that preserves or enhances the consumer's and the society's well-being. Therefore, marketers must endeavor to satisfy the needs and wants of their target markets in ways that preserve and enhance the well-being of consumers and society as a whole.[1][2] It is closely linked with the principles of corporate social responsibility and of sustainable development.


Various attempts to define the objectives of societal marketing have been noted,[3] such as:

  • "Social responsibility implies that a business decision maker... is obliged to take actions that also protect and enhance society's interests.
  • "Business has the responsibility to help [the consumer] ... It is the duty of business to promote proper consumption values."
  • "Business leaders are mandated to adopt roles of leadership in the advancement of our society to new levels of moral conduct."


The concept of Social Marketing emerged in 1972, promoting a more socially responsible, moral and ethical model of marketing, countering the consumerism way of thinking that had been promoted by then.

It was introduced in an article by Philip Kotler, "What consumerism means for marketers" in the Harvard Business Review. The social and societal concerns had existed by then, but it was not that they became incorporated explicitly in the marketing literature.

Kotler introduced in that period both the concept of social marketing (extending marketing technologies into non-business areas) and societal marketing, arguing that the marketing concept and its technologies must be tempered and ultimately revised by adopting a more explicit social orientation.[4]

Kotler's novelty to the marketing concept was the idea of "long-run consumer welfare", emphasizing that the short-term desires might not support the consumer's long term interests or be good for the society as a whole.


Kotler identified four categories of products, classified in terms of long term benefits and immediate satisfaction:

  1. Deficient products, which bring neither long-run or short term benefits
  2. Pleasing products, which bring a high level of immediate satisfaction, but can cause harm to the society in the long run
  3. Salutary products, which bring low short term satisfaction, but benefit the society on the long run
  4. Desirable products, which combine long-run benefit and immediate satisfaction

Kotler's concept of societal marketing suggested that for the well-being of society, the deficient products should be eliminated from the market, pleasing and salutary products should go through a product modification process to reach the fourth category, by incorporating missing short term benefits into salutary products and long term benefits into pleasing products, and the companies' ultimate goal should be to develop desirable products.

This way, rather than focusing on selling a products, which can be good or bad for the consumers, the main focus is on consumer and society well-being.


Most companies recognize that socially responsible activities improve their image among customers, stockholders, the financial community, and other relevant publics. Ethical and socially responsible practices are simply good business, resulting not only in favorable image, but ultimately in increased sales.

  • The Body Shop: The Body Shop International plc is the original, natural and ethical beauty brand. The company uses only plant based materials for its products. It is against Animal testing, supports community trade, activate Self Esteem, Defend Human Rights, and overall protection of the planet. They have also their own charity, The Body Shop Foundation, to assist those working to achieve progress in the areas of human and civil rights, environmental and animal protection. Thus Body shop is really following the concept of Societal Marketing.[5]
  • AVON Product inc. has started an initiative known as Avon breast cancer awareness crusade in 1993 in partnership with National Alliance of breast cancer Foundation (NABCO).They started selling pink ribbon pins which depicts the international symbol for breast cancer for$2 and donates $1 to NABCO. Through the crusade Avon sale representatives have raised billion of dollars for breast cancer education and access to early detection services for underserved woman. In addition, Avon's 45,000 US sales people have been trained to discuss breast cancer and importance of early detection with their customers and distributed 80 million flyers on breast cancer detection.[6]

Social marketing

Societal marketing should not be confused with social marketing. The societal marketing concept was a forerunner of sustainable marketing in integrating issues of social responsibility into commercial marketing strategies. In contrast to that, social marketing uses commercial marketing theories, tools and techniques to social issues. Social marketing applies a "customer orientated" approach and uses the concepts and tools used by commercial marketers in pursuit of social goals like Anti-Smoking-Campaigns or fund raising for NGOs.

As we mentioned above Societal Marketing can be defined as a "Marketing with a social dimension or marketing that includes non-economic criteria".[7] Societal Marketing "concerns for society's long term interests".[8] It is about "the direct benefits for the organization and secondary benefit for the community".[9] It makes a difference between the immediate consumer's satisfaction and the long term consumer benefits. Accordingly, Andreas Kaplan defines societal management as "management that takes into account society's overall welfare in addition to mere profitability considerations."[1]

Social marketing is a discipline that began in 1971, with Kotler and Zaltman. It is defined as an "adaptation of commercial marketing technologies to programs designed to influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences to improve their personal welfare and that of the society of which they are a part".[10] Social marketing uses more traditional commercial techniques and strategies, focusing on selling, to achieve goals for the greater social good. Its campaigns can either encourage merit goods, as for example fund raising for not-for-profit organizations or dissuade the use of demerit goods promoting society's well being, as non-smoking campaigns or promote the use of seat belts. Another characteristic of social marketing is that is planned to influence individuals' behavior to improve their well-being. It includes "more than just advertising in print media, radio or television",[11] it includes sponsorship or online marketing and is usually planned or implemented by governmental and nongovernmental organizations. A clear example that differentiates societal from social marketing is a marketing campaign on non-smoking. A focusing smoking cessation advertisement is an example of social marketing, but if the marketing strategies and techniques used in that campaign focus on increasing the well-being of society, that same campaign can be an example of societal marketing.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Unlike societal marketing, CSR has existed for many years. Another difference is that CSR "focuses more in a corporate level and stakeholders",[12] while societal marketing is more concerned about the consumer and their long term benefits. CSR social and environmental concerns are integrated into all business operations. CSR is mainly run by companies, while social marketing mainly by Government or Non profits organizations. One example of CSR among companies is what Häagen-Dazs is doing with their "microsite" to raise awareness to the general public about the preservation of the honeybee.


Corporations are the one who are striving during the whole time for improvements. They are turning to all kind of forms of corporate societal marketing programs to help build and repair their brand images.

Corporate Social Marketing, or CSM, usually refers to marketing efforts that have at least one social related objective, such as charity founding, among its goals. Typical examples are releasing a certain percentage of the final sale product to a charity related to the product, or sponsoring events that encourage social well-being such as the Olympic Games. Corporate Social Marketing benefits a company in many ways, but its main goal is to improve the image the public has of the company. A company that appears committed to improving the lives or others, the environment or other worthy causes is seen in a better light than one who doesn't, and more and more business are hoping to benefit from that.

So, it can be so, that CSM programs are becoming extremely popular because the leaders believe that it is a good business to be viewed as a socially responsible company.[13] However, even though past research suggests that CSM may be effective in improving brand equity and increasing market share, there are limits to the effectiveness of these initiatives.

An example of his is how corporate social initiatives adversely affected purchase intentions if consumers perceived that the company would forgo product quality in order to be socially responsible.[14]

Depending on the nature of the CSM program, the intent of the corporation may not be as obvious to the consumers. This happens if the benefits to the corporation are not apparent or conflicts with what the consumer already believes about a specific firm or industry.

Since firms exist to make a profit, consumers may spend considerable energy in an attempt to infer motives related to the profit-oriented goals. As an example, a consumer may be suspicious of a tobacco company that undertakes a campaign to prevent underage smoking. If this is successful, the company would be affected and the cigarette sales will be lowered. So, in this situation, consumers' suspicions may lead them to infer motives that would actually protect the companies financial condition - as they are trying to improve their image to sell more cigarettes to adults. However, if a tobacco company undertook a CSM Campaign, that would sustain their business consumers may be able to infer profit motives more easily and then have a more favorable attitude toward the partnership. Therefore, it can be concluded that the attitude of the consumers could be better if they knew more about the motives of the companies and they were more obvious.

Another aspect that may cause suspicion with consumers is the amount of harm that a company has already done, either because of unsafe products or harmful production practices. It is logical that consumers are more suspicious to companies that sell harmful products. Again examples are the tobacco companies and alcohol companies as well. They will meet resistance from consumers when they undertake socially-oriented campaigns aimed at mitigating the effects of their products.[15]

That is why when different industries are separated, two very general dimensions are used - the harmful nature of the products and the harmful nature of the production methods.

This classification can briefly show how consumer are influenced by the various CSM efforts. Companies that work in this "dangerous" industries are not that successful always, because the consumers may be suspicious of any societal efforts the company attempts to undertake. Consumers will infer less society-serving motives and more self-serving motives for corporate societal marketing programs undertaken by firms that operate in mixed or sin industries.

Based on how easily consumers could infer profit-driven motives, are classified the types of CSM campaigns: Positively tied to product sales, positively tied to product sales, not directly tied to sales but aimed at sustaining the company's business, completely unrelated.


Societal marketing has received a considerable amount of critique.

Gaski argued whether the marketers should step away from their classic goal of customer satisfaction and profit maximization while respecting the minimum governmental standards imposed by law and enter this public policy area, since would have to decide themselves what actions are consistent with the public welfare. Gaski states that the marketers might not have the competence, nor the right, to decide what public interest is, since it should be the customers who decide what is good for them, or their political representants and dictate that to the industry.

The societal marketing concept has become an excellent strategy for promotions with social dimensions and for exploring consumers' behavioural response to such corporate 'doing good'.[16]

Future development of the concept

Societal marketing is gaining the marketers and consumer attention and there is every reason to expect it to continue to evolve in practice. It focuses on providing win-win opportunities to companies, consumers and society. But achieving the compelling benefits for each party involved is very complicated. So much more research is needed. To achieve a win situation for organization involved, is dependent largely upon how the key constituents react. In this context, anticipating consumer reaction is really challenging which can be affected by number of factors that often vary across different segments. The several research questions remain to be answered like how different factors affects reaction to societal marketing and how do the various factors interact? How can societal initiatives be designed to leverage positive reaction and mitigate negative ones?[17]

For consumers to win, societal marketing must provide them with compelling benefits that increase their overall welfare. What benefits did societal marketing initiative actually provided to consumers? Are there direct benefits such as increased satisfaction with their interaction with commercial or nonprofit organization? Determining whether there is a win situation for society by societal marketing initiative is the most difficult question to be answered. We turn to the two questions proposed by Bloom, Hussien and Szykmann (1995): Is the society better off because of this program? Does corporate involvement result in better performance than if it would have been managed by NGOs or government agencies? Societal marketing is becoming globally popular but there exist a scarcity of research in this field. Therefore extensive future research is needed particularly investigating questions with respect to its impact on consumer attitudes to corporate image, product image and their purchase intention or brand choice as well as on positive impact on society.[18]

See also


  1. ^ William Lazer, "Marketing's Changing Social Relationships," Journal of Marketing, Vol. 33 (January 1969), pp. 3-9
  1. ^ Philip Kotler and Sidney J. Levy, "Broadening the Concept of Marketing," Journal of Marketing, Vol. 33 (January 1969), pp. 10-15
  2. ^ Kotler, P. (1972) "What consumerism means for marketers", Harvard business Review 50(3), 48-57
  3. ^ Chattanano, A. (2003), The impact of societal marketing programs on customer
  4. ^ Gaski, JF (1985), "Dangerous territory: The societal marketing concept revisited", Business Horizons, 28(4), 42-47
  5. ^ Crane, A. Desmond, J (2002), "Societal marketing and morality", European Journal of Marketing, 36(5/6) 548-569
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bloom N. Paul, Gundlach T. Gregory. Handbook of marketing and society,Sage publications
  8. ^ Handelman, Jay M.; Arnold, Stephen J. 1999: Journal of Marketing
  9. ^ Elliot, G.R(1990)The marketing concept: Necessary but sufficient? an environmental view. European Journal of Marketing
  10. ^ McColl-Kennedy, J., Kiel, G., Lusch, R., Lusch, V. 1994, Marketing: Concepts and Strategies, Nelson Australia, Melbourne
  11. ^ Andreasen, A. 1995, Marketing Social Change: Changing Behavior to Promote Health, Social Development and the Environment, San Francisco: Jossey BassI
  12. ^ Belz, Frank Martin, Peattie, Ken (2010): "Sustainability Marketing", John Wiley and Sons
  13. ^ Business in the Community (2001), "Businesses Use Marketing Muscle to Tackle Social Issues", in Cause-related Marketing Website,
  14. ^ Sen, Sankar and C.B. Bhattacharya (2001). "Does Doing Good Always Lead to Doing better, Consumer Reactions to Corporate Societal Responsibility", Journal of Marketing Research, 38(May).
  15. ^ Hoeffler, Steve and Kevin Lane Keller (2002), "Building Brand Equity through Corporate Societal Marketing", Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 21 (1)
  16. Andrew Takas, "Societal Marketing: A Businessman's Perspective", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Oct., 1974), pp. 2-7
  17. Russell Abratt and Diane Sacks, "Perceptions of the Societal Marketing Concept", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 23, Issue: 6, pp. 25-33 (1989)
  18. Friedman, 1962 "The social responsibility of business is to make a profit"
  19. Kotler, Philip. Marketing management: analysis, planning, implementation and control 8th ed. Prentice-Hall, 1994
  1. ^ "Andreas Kaplan: European Management and European Business Schools: Insights from the History of Business Schools". European Management Journal. 32: 529-534. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2014.03.006. 

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