Journal of Social Marketing, Volume 6, Issue 2, Page 169-192, April 2016.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to understand the tensions that marketing practitioners in social enterprises experience, and to explore how these tensions impact the development and implementation of marketing activities. Design/methodology/approach Using an approach informed by grounded theory, this paper reports on an investigation of the tensions facing 15 social enterprises. The primary data comprises semi-structured interviews with senior marketing decision-makers, supplemented with archival sources. Findings The analysis shows tensions and dualities inform the social and commercial strategic marketing activities of the social enterprises. These tensions and dualities are linked to how the organization obtains financial resources, the nature of the organization’s growth, working with myriad stakeholders and competitive versus cooperative pressures. A model outlining the dualities and their links to marketing activities is developed. Research limitations/implications The study provides an in-depth analysis of a small, regional sample of Canadian social enterprises. The study serves as a foundation for future research aimed at elaborating the model we propose. Practical implications The findings point to tensions and dualities that play an important role in enabling and restricting the development and implementation of strategic marketing activities in social enterprises. Understanding the nature of these dualities is crucial for social enterprise managers and social marketers as they develop strategic activities. Social implications Social enterprises engage in activities that offer substantial social benefits, yet the development of marketing activities in these organizations requires confronting tensions that must be carefully managed. Originality/value This paper highlights how dualities facing marketing practitioners in social enterprises influence the development of both social and for-profit marketing activities. The paper offers a model of these dualities. The findings help to extend our understanding of the complex environmental influences impacting marketing practices within social enterprise organizations. Understanding the nature of these environmental influences helps to attune marketers to the potential opportunities and challenges of using social enterprise as an organizational form for launching social marketing programs, as well as providing a theoretical basis for future investigations of marketing practice in social enterprise and social marketing organizations.


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