Social Marketing

Until the early 1970s, communication models in family planning and other health-related areas reinforced the active source and passive receiver stereotypes. Communication campaigns used one-way, top-down, source-to-receiver transmission models with the belief that effects would occur once the target audience had received a message. The rise in social marketing techniques in the 1970s can be associated with a growing recognition that it was not enough to simply change the knowledge of the target population, but the attitudes and behavioral patterns also had to change in order to achieve meaningful impact through a communications initiative. Furthermore, there was a growing recognition that previous development communications models did not adequately account for the role of audience feedback in the planning of communications interventions.

In the 1970s, USAID and the World Bank began funding campaigns that borrowed heavily from commercial advertising and marketing techniques. According to Andreasen (1995), social marketing can be defined as ‘the application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society.”

In pratice, social marketing activities include “setting specific measurable goals and objectives for the campaign, targeting specific segments of the audience with communications designed for them, conducting formative research with the target audience and other important people, making sure that the target behavior or product is one that could be acceptable and appropriate for the audience, planning the mix of appropriate channels to use, pretesting messages with the target audiences to improve them before using them, monitoring the implementation of the campaign, and evaluating the results” (Snyder, 2003).


Snyder, L (2003), ‘Development Communications Campaigns’ in B Mody (ed.), International and Development Communication, Sage Publications, London.