Brazilian Social Marketer Hamilton Carvalho challenges the field of social marketing to redefine our stated end goal. Rather than focusing on “social good” as an outcome, should we be focusing on “well-being”?

Carvalho has demonstrated that we increasingly live in an “era of meaning” — where major institutions and governments are questioning whether the past economic indicators have captured the needed criteria for true social progress. Leaders are increasingly exploring how to measure the concepts of happiness and well being alongside financial success and economic growth.

With this in mind, Social Marketers may be pleased to know about the Social Progress Imperative, which is developing two new indexes — the Social Progress Index and the Social Progress Capacity Index — to evaluate the overall social performance of nations. The Social Progress Imperative says, “Social progress is defined as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.”

Carvalho pointed out at the World Social Marketing Conference in Toronto that currently (citing works by Andreason, 1995, and Kotler and Lee, 2008), “Social Marketing exists to influence behaviors that benefit society (public health, safety, the environment, and communities) as well as the target audience’s personal welfare”. Yet, instead of “using the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights as the hallmark of common good,” (per Kotler and Lee, 2008), Carvalho asks: Could we position social marketing as a field that works to improve “well-being as defined by positive psychology”?

What do you think? What should our end goal(s) be for social progress?  Social good, happiness, or well-being?


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