Today’s guest blog post was written by Adeniyi Ajose, a social marketer from Nigeria. Let us know what you think, and keep sharing your excellent ideas with the communications team at  – HBR

The Social Marketing profession seeks to further communal good and improve the general well-being of humankind. The earliest forms of the practice of this profession, which was referred to as Behavioural Change/Reformation, employed different tools for the purpose of effecting behavioural changes in individuals and communities and legislative might was a tool of choice as well as other communication activities.

WilberforcePerhaps the farthest back in time that history records such Behavioural Change initiatives was the late 1700’s during the days of Social Crusader, William Wilberforce MP, who stands out as one of the major Social Reformers – Social Marketers – of that era. Wilberforce was a champion for social causes and campaigns and lent his effort to such causes as the Society for the Suppression of Vice (which he founded), Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (as one of the founding members), and the major issue of Abolition of Slave Trade among others in those days.

Wilberforce was also a favourite for legislature as a tool for behavioural change as mentioned above, which is different from what we now employ in Social Marketing, marketing tools which are more persuasive than an enforcement. So here is what we see, while earlier behavioural change initiatives sought to change the individual from the outside-in, social marketing works to change the individual from inside-out employing tools of cooperation and persuasion.

In the Journal of Marketing in 1971, Phillip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman kick started the modern day Social Marketing movement building up on a thought/question from G. D. Weibe’s question in 1952, ‘Why can’t you sell brotherhood like you sell soap?’ who implied with that question that, why can’t behavioural changes be ‘sold’ using same principles (marketing) deployed to sell soap, etc?

And so the modern day Behavioural Change initiative was reborn and embraced by the Marketing profession as Social Marketing and very quickly also, the health profession, which at about that time was moving away from Curative Medicine to Preventive Healthcare saw the good in Social Marketing and bought into it too. From thereon I would say Social Marketing has had a slow but steady growth over the years but with the efforts of the International Social Marketing Association (ISMA) in recent times and plans for the future I believe the Profession shall be moving in leaps and bounds from here on.

Defining Social Marketing

Social Marketing in simple terms is the use of commercial marketing tools and principles for Social Good. I would go further to define it as a behavioural barter / exchange process between two parties, the social marketer and the behavioural change target group.– A.A.

I love to think of Social Marketing as working to “save the world from itself” and germane to a better society hence the need for more intellectual development/investment. Going on from here, let’s have more of Social Marketing in the coming years to further these goals for the future of common good.

– Adeniyi Ajose


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