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Social marketing is the use of marketing principles and techniques to influence a target group to accept or change behaviour voluntarily, in order to gain an advantage for individuals, groups or society as a whole. Influencing the public for non-commercial but social purposes means spreading specific values and behaviours without aiming directly at selling, but at changing lifestyle and attitudes in people. Social marketing, in fact, is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the awareness of the effectiveness of marketing techniques and their applicability in different contexts, as well as the importance gained by the combination of social marketing and health, the green and respect for the ‘environment. But how does marketing change when it becomes social and what are the differences between social marketing and commercial marketing? Let’s find out together!


Even in communication and social marketing there is much talk about the 4Ps, but let’s see together how they are declined in contexts different from the commercial ones:


Social marketing uses the characteristics, tools and strategies typical of advertising communication to inform or sensitise public opinion on something, such as the adoption of a lifestyle or to encourage donations in favour of a specific cause. Slogans, commercials and communication on social media are also used in social marketing, but with the aim of encouraging a social change. This form of non-profit advertising aims at adopting a specific behaviour or attempting to solve a specific problem. To involve the target audience and ensure that the communication campaign is effective, different strategies are adopted in order to arouse specific emotions and attitudes in individuals. This type of persuasive communication can be promoted by different subjects:


In 1941, the American advertiser James Webb Young highlighted the importance of creating advertising with socially relevant purposes, marking the birth of the War Ad Council, created to economically support the war. For over 70 years, the Ad Council has been developing various types of campaigns with different topics, such as bullying, disability and obesity. In Italy something similar happened in the 70s, with the creation of the Pubblicità Progresso foundation, which dedicated its first campaign to blood donation and handled many other campaigns to promote volunteering, the protection of children and the elderly, organ donation, gender equality and environmental sustainability.


In conclusion, the first three types of language are those that tend to arouse specific emotions in the audience and are therefore widely used to encourage the target to act.


Commercial marketing promotes goods or services, convinces to buy something and changes purchasing behaviour. Its competition is among other brands and products, the benefits are immediate and the costs are monetary, while the target is passive. Social marketing, on the other hand, promotes ideas and behaviours, to change point of view. Competition is represented by lifestyles and antagonistic opinions, the benefits are medium / long term, the costs are psychological and/or physical and the target is active. The purpose of commercial marketing is to sell and “take the risk”, while social marketing aims to achieve a “social good” aided by public funds, taxes and donations. Products or services often focus on how to deal with complex behaviours and there is no risk strategy, but relationships based on trust. Social marketing aims at cognitive change. It means to encourage the adoption of a certain behaviour through a greater knowledge of the problem and its possible solutions. The change of action induces the target to take a concrete action within a specified period of time, preferring certain choices rather than others. It may involve abandoning or changing harmful lifestyles in favour of healthier habits, as well as changing deeply rooted opinions regarding some issues or bias.

Social marketing: main goals

The main objective of a social marketing campaign is to solve a problem of collective interest by changing individual and/or group behaviours.  It is possible by proposing both individual benefits of collective interest (e.g. health) and social benefits deriving from individual behaviours (e.g. energy saving, separate waste collection). Social marketing bases its action on the theory of exchange and segmentation of the target, identifying desired benefits and costs perceived in each segment and consequently positioning the product offered. Moka Adv deals with the marketing campaigns of many social projects and is currently developing the campaign against radicalization and terrorism among young people promoted by the Precobias project. If you found this article interesting, read also: EFFECTIVE MARKETING VIDEO CAMPAIGNS HOW TO IMPLEMENT A MARKETING STRATEGY ON YOUTUBE TOP DIGITAL MARKETING TRENDS FOR 2020
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