Samu Communications | Why can’t you sell brotherhood and rational thinking like you can sell soap?
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Why can’t you sell brotherhood and rational thinking like you can sell soap?

With this question, as put forward in 1951 by Dr Weibe a research psychologist, began what has become known as ‘Social Marketing’; a synthesis of social science with commercial marketing. He proposed that marketing can be used in a socially responsible way, it can be designed to influence and improve the quality of life and was therefore ideal for non profit organisations.

It was a controversial idea. Many marketing professionals argued that whereas a product can be marketed a concept couldn’t be. It would lead only to propaganda and would therefore damage the reputation of marketing.

It was perhaps due to these criticisms social marketing was not undertaken on a large scale in Western countries for many decades. The first large scale use of social marketing was initiated by the Indian Institute of Management who implemented a family planning programme.

Since that time social marketing has been adopted by UN development agencies, by environment agencies and a number of national health care services. Slowly social marketing has become to be accepted in Europe. The first World Social Marketing Conference occurred in 2008 in Brighton.

In 2010 in a report ‘Health Challenge England‘ the UK government set plans for “achieving sustained progress in improving the health of the whole population with a specific focus on health inequalities, smoking, obesity, alcohol and substance misuse, sexual health including teenage pregnancy, and mental wellbeing.” At the heart of this plan was to be the use of social marketing. A change in political administration in the UK prevented these plans from being enacted.

Whilst the widespread use of social marketing has had a bumpy start in the UK, it’s widespread use in the US, through intergovernmental agencies like the UN and large scale NGO’s suggest that it’s only a matter of time before we see the UK start to use these techniques in a more concerted approach.

Social marketing can be utilized for up-stream change, influencing policy makers, as well as down-stream change, influencing citizens. It is a tool-kit that any organization planning a campaign of social change should consider.



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