Societal Marketing v. Social Marketing

By | July 21, 2009

During the coverage of the #INSM09 conference, I mentioned a difference between the social and societal marketing concept.  Twitter doesn’t give a lot of space for details, so I figured I’d follow up @Nedra’s question with a little more depth.

Societal marketing concept is evident when an organisation determines consumer needs and wants and then integrates all activities in the firm to serve these needs while simultaneously enhancing societal well being (McColl-Kennedy, Kiel, Lusch & Lusch, 1994)

“Social marketing is the adaptation of commercial marketing technologies to programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences to improve their personal welfare and that of the society of which they are a part.” Andreasen, (1995)

Societal marketing is the business driven, profit orientated way of changing the world as a means of developing revenue based product.  Societal is about the direct benefits for the organisation (profit) and secondary benefit for the community.  Social marketing is about changing behaviours for the benefit of the broader society.  Social marketing is about the social gain, target market’s gain, and the flow of benefits where profit may not actual exist, or if it does, then it’s just an incidental secondary benefit for the campaign.

It’s a technical separation that’s becoming less evident in the literature heading into 2010, and possibly a dichotomy that may have come to the end of the useful shelf-life as more emphasis is placed on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, environmental consideration and ongoing behavioural adjustments that permeat the commercial, government, non profit and social change applications for marketing.

That said, it may be worth re-examining the dividing line between “for-societal gain” and “for-organisational gain” as we move forward to ensure that society’s needs aren’t being re-routed towards individual corporate profit-making solutions when there’s a socially beneficial outcome that doesn’t need the pay-per-use model to support it.


McColl-Kennedy, J., Kiel, G., Lusch, R., Lusch, V. (1994), Marketing: Concepts and Strategies, Nelson Australia, Melbourne

Andreasen, A. 1995, Marketing Social Change: Changing Behavior to Promote Health, Social Development and the Environment, San Francisco: Jossey Bass

Slide 13

*“Social marketing is the design, implementation and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of social ideas and involving considerations of product, planning, pricing, communication, distribution and marketing research” (Kotler and Zaltman, 1971)