Stakeholders Views on the Success of Social Marketing Campaigns

Table of Contents


The marketing environment keeps on changing, just like the consumers. Marketing as a discipline and style also changes so as to be in touch with emerging trends. The dynamism of the marketing styles has seen the discipline evolve over the years, from the traditional product marketing concept to societal marketing.

The latest development however, is the emergence of social marketing: a discipline that does not have any direct benefits or gain to the organization but instead aims at solving social problems and promote well being of the individual and the society. Although it borrows so much from the commercial marketing techniques, it is an exact contrast to the former.

Due to this fact, stakeholders’ view of the success of the social marketing campaign is unique. Social marketing is itself challenging and risky; it can be organized successfully using the guide provided by Phillip Kotler and also provide for the purpose of this paper. For the purpose of this paper, therefore, we depict how stakeholders of social marketing view success of social marketing campaigns


Marketing is a very dynamic discipline (Kotler, 2000). Just like the consumers and marketing environment, marketing principles, and style keeps on changing every other day. Consumer behavior varies widely among individuals, market segments, and times.

As a result, marketers have to change with them if at all they will remain significant in the mind of the consumers or for them to stay in touch with the current marketing trends (Andreasen, 1999). The latter is important since the competition in today’s marketing environment keeps on intensifying.

Marketers, therefore, are required to keep on devising the most effective and relevant strategies that will keep them in the best competitive position possible as well as pass on the greatest value to their customers (AMA,2004). This paper, therefore, gives an insight into the social marketing concepts and reviews how stakeholders view the success of social marketing campaigns.

Background of marketing: the evolution

The evolution of marketing, as it is clearly demonstrated in the principles of marketing, is indeed an affirmation of this fact: marketing has come a long way. In the first instance, marketing was purely commercial oriented, involving massive production of goods and services to fit an already existing market.

As competition crept in, marketers started developing aggressive marketing campaigns, mainly advertising aimed at wooing customers to buy their products at the expense of the rivals (Kotler, 2005).

The marketing concept which came afterward saw marketers develop sensitivity to the needs of potential markets and hence incorporated marketing research. This was an approach that sought to clearly understand the consumer needs so as to come up with market fit (products that meet the needs of the consumers with the greatest accuracy possible (Gabbot, 2004).

At this point, many would have thought that the evolution of marketing had reached its peak. However, many other changes have occurred and continue to occur in this noble and important discipline. Among the latest development in the marketing field is the shift to societal marketing as well as relationship marketing.

Apart from designing marketing mixes to satisfy the markets’ needs, societal marketing is also concerned about the wellness of the society in which it is the very part. In designing the societal marketing programs, organizations seek to give back to society, which contributes greatly to their business survival and success (Andreasen, 2000).

Relationship marketing is a situation were marketers design marketing program aimed at establishing a close one on one relationship with customers in such a way that there is a valuable two-way communication between the customer and the organization (AMA, 2004).

This contrasts prior marketing approaches where such a relationship ended upon the closure of the sale i.e., an adversarial kind of a relationship. With relationship marketing, marketers use the two-way communication channel to reach for consumer feedback on the level of satisfaction and experiences with the product.

It enables organizations to enhance close touch with their customers, offer high-quality products, acquire a cheap source of market intelligence and probably maintain a stable customer base (shielded from the competitors) (Curtis P et al., 2005). Irrespective of the above developments which represent the commercial face of marketing, emerging trends have seen marketing move beyond commercial aspect to noncommercial marketing; social marketing.

Social Marketing

The concept of social marketing was first conceptualized in 1971(Dann, 2005); since then, various scholars have had various definitions for the concept. Kotler and Zaltman (1971) defined social marketing as designing and controlling marketing programs with the objective of influencing customers to accept products, prices, marketing communication, and research.

However, Andreasen criticized this definition as being commercial and instead modified it in 1995. According to Andreasen (1995) social marketing, despite making use of commercial marketing tool, attempts to make the target audience change a behavior that is seemingly unfavorable to the society on their own volition, its main objective being to improve individuals’ welfare as well as that of the society at large.

Social marketing is the use of marketing strategies and tools to lure the focus group accept, deviate from, refuse a certain behavior, or leave it all together for their own benefit or for the good of the whole society (Kotler et al., 2002).

From all the definitions, the fact that social marketing makes great use of commercial marketing principles is clearly brought out. However, social marketing is the exact contrast of commercial marketing (Greenspan, 2002). The major characteristic of social marketing is that it is known profit-oriented and has no direct benefits to the stakeholder.

Instead, it tries to indict a behavioral change among the targeted individuals purely for the benefit of the latter or the entire society. The stakeholders do not stand to gain any benefit directly from the success of the social marketing campaign (Dann, 2005).

Commercial Marketing versus Social Marketing

According to Andreasen (2002), both commercial marketing and social marketing share the same marketing principles. However, the two concepts are exactly opposite to each other. Commercial marketing is carried out to influence consumers to buy and use products and services with the ultimate objective of optimizing the organization’s profit margins (AMA, 2004).

As a result, the commercial marketers rely largely on the fund from the organization, and the marketing programs are therefore completely supported by the organization’s finance docket (Dann, 2005).

According to the latter, a direct benefiting venture whose viability is gauged by the amount of profit it generates at the end of the exercise. In addition, commercial marketing is largely affected by industrial competition since there are many other players in the market, seeking to maximize profit, too (Andresen, 2002). As a result, the expectation of the market share is relatively low.

Market segmentation and targeting in commercial marketing are highly explicit and easy. Marketers can divide the market on the bases of the many variables presented by the market and target each segment with specific products without any resistance or difficulties (Dann, 2000).

On the contrary, social marketing is carried out on moral principles, based on trust and aims at solving social problems. Irrespective of being strongly based on commercial marketing theories and principles, social marketing is purely a nonprofit doing practice with an objective of influencing individuals’ behavioral change either for their own well being or/and that of the society at large (Greenspan, 2002).

The social marketing campaigns, unlike commercial marketing, are funded mainly by well-wishers & donors and the government, to whom they are thus accountable. The results from the social marketing campaigns are not explicitly ascertainable since the outcomes of the exercise are unpredictable. After all, social marketing has no direct benefits to the stakeholder.

Instead, the campaigns mainly focus on unsuitable behavior in society, which they intend to correct. As a result, their success is not guaranteed, and achievements are usually realized in the long run (Andresen, 2000).

The social marketers often seek to pursue highly risky and challenging goals hence the possibility of limited success in their campaigns. In addition, the social marketing programs and decisions are influenced by many external factors such as political and social factors which makes their outcome greatly uncertain (Dann, 2005)

The Success of Social Marketing Campaigns

Social marketing campaigns are challenging to perform. As a result, the success of the campaign is highly unpredictable (Andresen, 2005). According to Kotler (1999), there is elaborate guide on how to organize and implement a successful social marketing campaign. In the edition changing behavior for good, Phillip Kotler provides several principles which social marketers can employ to ensure success in their campaigns.

To begin with, the benefit of that will result from the change of behavior should be clear to the focus group i.e., based on real-life situations in order for the target group to voluntarily accept behavioral change with ease. In addition, proper analysis of the costs involved in initiating behavior change should be done well in advance so that prior preparations cost-wise are made.

To enhance behavior change, the campaigns should promote real products, which the target group can clearly see and ascertain their benefits. The social marketers should also learn and recognize as well as appreciate the target audience for cooperating with the campaign.

In addition, they should make the products used in the campaigns as accessible to the audience as possible so that they have the opportunity to exercise new behaviors, practice them and most probably initiate a change in behavior, which is sustainable in the long run.

Success in social marketing campaigns largely depends on the effectiveness of the marketing communication methods used (Curtis et al., 2002). According to Curtis, the message should be attractive to the target audience. It should not at any one time be boring to the target audience as they will obviously ignore it. Social marketers should hence, incorporate a little fun in the message.

However, the fun could be counterproductive to the achievement of the message if it is too much to make it appear like it is a joke. The media used in communicating the message should be the one that is widely used and accepted across all quotas of the focus group.

This will ensure that the message is communicated to the entire audience wherever they are. The decision on the media to be used should, therefore, be incorporated in the initial planning of the social campaign.

In order to enhance behavioral change, social marketers should aim at engaging the target audience to commit themselves to adopt a new behavior (Kotler, 1999). The marketers can even make the audience vow and make pledges to change the behavior to the better.

For a social campaign to be successful, proper targeting of audiences is of paramount importance. The social marketers should consider concentrating on audiences who are ready and willing to change behaviors with ease so that the adamant ones can emulate them later, thus making the campaign success across the board.

In addition, marketers should use examples of previously successful social marketing campaigns in order to draw an important lessons from them and apply them in the current campaigns. According to Kotler (2005), the applicability of these guides depends on the nature of the campaign, but they are mutually inclusive. Practicing the principles, therefore, increases the probability of planning and running a successful social marketing campaign.

For social marketing campaigns to be successful, ethics are of significant importance (Andreasen and Nancy, 2005). Social marketers, while enhancing behavioral change, will have to understand the community and individuals’ way of life so as to be consistent with them.

According to the latter, focus on the audience’s culture, and beliefs should be prioritized and put into consideration. Social Marketers should, therefore, seek to understand such culture well in advance as they could be a source of resistance to change.

In addition, cultural variables could cause prejudices to the message and the campaigns, thus making it flop. For instance, a campaign on female genital mutilation should take into account the issue of community culture on the practice, appreciate it and lure the members to do away with it, instead of condemning them voluntarily.

The success of Social Marketing Campaigns: Stakeholders’ View.

Unlike in commercial marketing, the stakeholders’ in social marketing perceive the success of a social marketing exercise from a completely different perspective. In the first place, stakeholders of social marketing are different from those of commercial marketing. Success in social marketing is viewed as a universal set of indirect benefits and is depicted by the ability of the campaign to solve social problems (Dann, 2005).

The more successful a social marketing campaign is, the less the demand for the marketing programs and the organization. Stakeholders, therefore, will judge the success of a social marketing campaign with excellence in solving all the social problems that it is established to. Upon success, the campaign is rendered insignificant hence, the marketing team can be disbanded together with the organization (Kotler, 2005).

While stakeholders in social marketing are the shareholders who view the success of the marketing programs in terms of profitability levels, in social marketing, they are the donors, sponsors, and the government who funds the campaigns either directly or indirectly. In addition, social marketers who are responsible for undertaking the campaigns hold an important stake in the exercise.

A successful social marketing campaign is the one that is able to influence the focus group to change the seemingly unsuitable behavior on their own volition and that the change of behavior is of real benefit to the individuals involved as well as the entire society (Andresen, 2000).

According to Rossiter & Bellman (2005), a successful social marketing campaign is embedded to efficient and effective marketing communication that is able to convey the message of the need for behavioral change and engage the audience so well that they ultimately change their behavior to the better, benefiting both individuals and the society.

The stakeholders of social marketing do not measure the success of the social marketing campaigns in terms of the gains that they obtain from them (Dann, 2005). In fact, such stakeholders barely expect any benefit from the exercise.

Instead, they intend to solve a social problem and change society for the better via influencing favorable behavioral change. When the social marketing campaign is able to evoke a change in behavior effectively, and the change is sustained in the long run, then such a campaign will be seen as successful by the stakeholders.

For instance, anti AIDS campaign will be viewed as being successful by the stakeholders if it influences positive sexual behavior among the members of the focus group, reduce HIV/AIDS, changes the groups attitude towards HIV/AIDS, encourage testing and reduce HIV preference rate in the entire target group to zero percent in the long run.

To the donors, sponsors, and government agencies, the campaign will be deemed successful if, by the time the ultimate objective is achieved, all the funds will have been accounted for and if the campaign lived within the initial budget.

Stakeholders of social marketing also gauge the success of the social marketing campaigns in terms of the market share that the campaign is able to cover and meet the objective. According to the success will only be achieved if the campaign achieves positive change in behavior in all the members of the target audience, that is if it achieved a 100% market share (Dann, 2000).

In addition, a successful campaign is also measured in its ability to meet highly risky and challenging tasks that seem impossible to handle in the first instance. The stakeholder expects the campaign to achieve high results irrespective of the risk and the challenge involved.

The campaigns’ success is therefore viewed as its effectiveness to influence positive behavioral change in the entire focus group, which in return brings real benefits to the individuals and society despite the risk and the challenges involved.

In conclusion, stakeholders view the success of marketing campaigns in terms of its ability to institute a social change that has benefits to both the individuals and the whole society and not the gains obtained since there are no direct benefits in social marketing.


American marketing association, 2004, “Definitions,” Marketing News, September 15 2004

Andreasen A 2002, Marketing Social Change in Social Change Market Place, Journal of Marketing 21(3), 10-14

Andreasen A and Nancy lee 2005, Ethics in Social Marketing, Georgetown University Press; Washington DC.

Curtis P et al. 2005, Understanding And Influencing Consumer Behavior In The Virtual World, Inc Journal Of Consumer Research 301-321 Routledge.

Dann S, 2005, Social Change Marketing In The Age Of Direct Benefit Marketing: Where To From Here? Queensland University of Technology Washington.

Gobbot M (ed) 2004, Introduction To Marketing; Value Exchange Approach, French’s forest: NSW; Pearson

Greenspan B, 2002, Social Change Marketing Inc. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 67-95: Emerald Publishing Group; Emerald

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