Social Marketing is the application of commercial practices using a social science framework. It is particularly used for public information campaigns. The aim is to understand social behaviour and affect positive social change. This is done through targeted research on a particular community and in partnership with stakeholders.
Social scientists work with governments, community groups and businesses who need to communicate with hard to reach or vulnerable groups. Research shows that negative emotions like shame and guilt are ineffective but advertisers continue to use them. It’s better to first approach the group of interest using interviews and surveys to see how they understand the issue and then focus marketing on empowerment. Rather than making people feel bad, we focus on what they do well and then educate them about their options.
Examples of social marketing campaigns include reducing road fatalities; introducing public health campaigns; informing people about complying with a new laws; educating marginalised groups such as new migrants and refugees where to find social services, and so on.
You can read about one of my research projects using social marketing, where we studied vulnerable consumers (social welfare recipients) and their knowledge of where to find support to manage finances and debt. The study was headed by Professor Linda Brennan, and co-authored by Wayne Binney and me.