Marketing social marketing

Matthew Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to critically evaluate the state of social marketing in the light of the Second World Social Marketing Conference. The paper refers to keynote speeches and presentations to illustrate the contradictions and confusion in contemporary social marketing thought which may be hindering the acceptance and adoption of social marketing principles. Design/methodology/approach – Arguments are based on the author’s participation in, reflections on, the conference itself. Findings – It is suggested that the name “social marketing” itself may be confusing to policy makers and practitioners, particularly with the massive growth in social media. The increased involvement of profit-making organisations is also questioned along with the usefulness of commercial marketing theory. The paper argues that in the light of current trends and obvious confusion a repositioning is required to focus social marketing theory and practice around a mission to provide better non-profit services for social/public good. Practical implications – This paper should help social marketers to focus their thinking and activities. This in turn will help policy makers, public service providers and professionals improve their services to the community. Social implications – It is hoped that these ideas will help social marketing to flourish and to be better understood by policy makers, practitioners and society at large. The overall aim of social marketing is to help people and improve society – the paper argues that social marketing must refocus on its public service role to fulfil its societal function. Originality/value – The paper contains original ideas and a unique perspective on social marketing which should stimulate debate and help social marketing grow in a socially useful way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Social Marketing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2012


  • Social marketing
  • Behaviour change
  • Public services
  • Non‐profit marketing


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