Our History

The International Social Marketing Association (iSMA) was founded at the Global Social Marketing Conference in Brighton, UK [2008] in response to a “Visioning Session.” Spearheaded by Craig Lefebvre, PhD, Jeff French, PhD, MBA, MSc, and Win Morgan MPH, discussions supporting the concept of an international association dedicated to the practice of social marketing, quickly took root. Later that year an online petition to establish a global social marketing association enjoyed over 500 signatories. By 2009 the organizing committee had developed a business plan and surveyed community members about their needs and preferences. The organization was incorporated in 2010 with the purpose of promoting the use and development of social marketing worldwide for the common good. The founding Executive Committee consisting of Win Morgan of Levin Morgan (President), Craig Lefebvre of socialShift (Vice-President) and Tom Beall who was then with Ogilvy PR (Secretary-Treasurer). Gael O’Sullivan of Abt Associates was Chair of the Communication Committee and Jay Kassirer of Cullbridge | Tools of Change was Membership Chair and Webinar Manager. Jeff French was also a founding committee member and led the organizations first elections process and consensus definition building working group.

The goal of the new organization was to promote social marketing as a framework to solve social problems, and to market the use of social marketing approaches to address social challenges. “Our vision was to create a big inclusive tent for people interested in, practicing, or teaching social marketing”, Morgan recalled.

One of the early achievements of the association, working collaboratively with the European Social Marketing Association (ESMA) and the Australian Association of Social Marketing (AASM), was the ratification of an international consensus definition of Social Marketing in 2013. Within a few years, the Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association (PNSMA) and the Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA) had also signed on to the consensus document.

From the outset, iSMA was intended as an international body where social marketers from regions across the globe could meet and work together as equals. To both facilitate and demonstrate this, iSMA’s webinars and eventually also its Board meetings were each held twice to accommodate time zones around the world. The organization made a concerted effort to recruit members from India, South America, and Africa, and encouraged members to establish their own regional and national social marketing organizations.

True to that vision, iSMA is now enjoying a growing membership of about 1,000 social marketing practitioners from around the world and has become an umbrella organization, a connective force for multiple regional associations including:

The Australian Association of Social Marketing (AASM)
The European Social Marketing Association (ESMA)
The Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association (PNSMA)
The Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA)
The Africa Social Marketing Association (ASMA)
Asociación Latinoamericana de Mercadeo Social (LAMSO)

Jeff French is iSMA’s current President. More information on Board Members can be found under “Board of Directors”.

Our Mission


Advance social marketing practice, research and teaching through collaborative networks of professionals, supporters and enthusiasts.


Educate the public, organisations, professionals and governments about the value of social marketing to facilitate behavioural change and social progress.


Develop, document and market international standards and best practices in social marketing theory, research and practice.


Encourage and enable wider use of social marketing in addressing complex social issues.

Foster and Support

Foster and support the development of local, national and regional social marketing associations.


The International Social Marketing Association (iSMA) has endorsed a Social Marketing Statement of Ethics to support the ethical conduct of social marketing professionals, including practitioners, scholars and students, in all areas of their professional activities.

Following popular ethics sessions at the International Social Marketing conference in Singapore in July 2018 and at the European Social Marketing conference in September 2018, social marketing organisations, including Africa Social Marketing Association, Australian Association of Social Marketing, European Social Marketing Association, Latin America Social Marketing Association, Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association, Social Marketing Association of North America and International Social Marketing Association, agreed to establish a social marketing ethics experts panel and work collaboratively to develop a set of ethical principles that should be applied as part of the social marketing process.

The initial ethical principles developed by the panel were presented and discussed in June 2019 at the World Social Marketing Conference in Edinburgh. Following the feedback from the conference participants and the iSMA board, the principles were revised to develop the Statement of Ethics.

The Social Marketing Statement of Ethics is intended to promote conscious engagement with diverse ethical issues arising in social marketing work. The Statement is currently available in English, Portuguese and Spanish versions, which can be accessed by clicking on the below links.

Full statement (English)

Full statement (Italian)


Social Marketing Brand Platform Summary 2023

Social Marketing
Behavior change for good

Purpose: Improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of behavior change programs to help people and communities.

Vision: Social Marketing is a widely adopted discipline around the world that changes human behavior to deliver improved health and well-being and to protect our planet.

Mission: Social Marketing develops and integrates marketing concepts with other approaches to influence primarily voluntary behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.

Brand Promise: More successful behavior change programs.

Priority Sectors

  • Public Sector Professionals
  • Elected Officials & Policy Makers
  • Academia: Faculty & Students
  • Communications, Marketing & Research Firms
  • NGOs & Nonprofit Organizations
  • Allied Fields
  • For-profit Sector













Result- oriented

(*Underpinned by iSMA ethical principles)

Ethical Principles

  • Respect and sensitivity
  • Social justice and fairness
  • Openness and transparency
  • Avoidance of conflicts of interest
  • Duty of care and nonmaleficence
  • Serve public interest



The discipline of social marketing focuses on developing a strategic marketing mix to influence behavior change for sustainable, healthy, and equitable communities. 

A Chronology of key events in the development of Social Marketing Theory and Practice

Last updated April 2023

The table set an attempt to capture significant events and publications associated with the development of the application of social marketing since the 1960s. The chronology table does not attempt to represent the development of the social marketing concept itself. The table does, however, illustrate that social marketing has developed into a broad community of practice and research with global reach.

For the sake of brevity, the table does not record the opening of every specialist academic center or every major social marketing program or even the many key academic papers that have helped to shape contemporary practice.

Readers interested in a fuller exploration of the significance and development of social marketing theory and practice may wish to read:

  • French, J. (2015). The Unfolding History of the Social Marketing Concept. In D. Stewart (Ed.), The Handbook of Persuasion and Social Marketing (Vol. 2: Conceptual, Theoretical and Strategic Dimensions). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
  • French, J. (2015). The Importance of Social Marketing History. Social Marketing Quarterly, 21(4), 191–193.
  • Merritt, R. K., Kamin, T., Hussenöder, F., & Huibregtsen, J. (2017). The History of Social Marketing in Europe: The Story So Far. Social Marketing Quarterly, 23(4), 291–301.

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