What is social marketing and how can it influence behavioural change?

The term social marketing often gets confused with social media marketing. To make matters worse social marketing quite often uses social media in its marketing toolkit. But social marketing is actually a discipline in and of itself. It is used to influence positive behavioural changes in society, communities and organisations.  

Social marketers have to have a keen understanding of not just marketing and communications techniques but also behavioural psychology, sociology and socioeconomics to name just a few. Understanding of political and environmental issues is also of keen benefit.  

There are many examples of where this has been applied and no more so than listed in this article from the Guardian back in 2011 https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/social-marketing-behaviour-change  

Social and behavioural marketing though can, and should, be viewed with caution. Some will see it as manipulative and in the wrong hands, such as those famed by Cambridge Analytica, the use of marketing techniques combined with behavioural science and big data can be. But to ignore it is to ignore its power for good.  

To ignore it and not to expose it to the world in general is also a grave mistake. Over the last few years I have seen a shift in the digital marketing and general marketing world of education in the direction of applied behavioural science and big data, coupled with machine learning. In my mind, as with all my work on this site, people are in a better place to protect themselves and make decisions about how they are being influenced if they are aware of the tool, techniques and technologies being used.  

Does this knowledge stop the power and influence of the social marketing efforts to make positive behavioural changes? No. One of the strange things about the psychology of influence is that even when you expose people to it, they still seem happy, on a subconscious level, to accept its behaviour modifications especially when there is an underlying knowledge that this is for the greater good.  

Of course, you could argue until the cows come home “whom decides what is good and what is bad behaviour” but the fact remains that these techniques can and will be applied by big business, political parties and those looking to take our money as well as those looking to make a positive impact on the world. 

If you are one of the latter and you run a none profit, a charity or a social enterprise, or even if you are an activist looking to improve your results. Learning social marketing and behavioural communications techniques will help you get that message across. Even better if you can use additional tools of the trade such as digital and direct marketing technologies and big data or machine learning to gain real insight and get your message not only in front of the right people in real time but also to have the maximum impact when it is received.  

For example, here is a starter for 10. If you are serious about reducing the impact we as humans have on climate change as detailed in this article from the BBC there are some things we as humans can do that will have a real impact https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45775309   

But will simply informing people of the need to change behaviour in order to reduce their personal impact on the environment work? Research shows  

As this article, again by the Guardian, shows the answer is no. 


Research shows us that mere information and asking or demanding that people change is not enough and simply doesn’t work. We need to create people centric social marketing campaigns that apply behavioural economic techniques. Such as these mentioned in my earlier article on behavioural economics http://digitalanddirectmarketing.com/behavioural-insights/behavioural-economics  

This is what I am trying to do on this site and will expand upon doing in the coming months and years, that is, helping others in applying digital and direct behavioural marketing and communications techniques for social good.  

If this is the one thing I can give back to the world as a seasoned, trained and experienced marketing and communications professional with over 15 years on the job then so be it.

Interested in finding out more about Behavioral Insights, Behavioural Economics, Persuasion and Communications Science

Check out more articles below

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What is social marketing and how can it influence behavioural change?

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