The social marketing “product” is not necessarily a physical offering. It ranges from tangible, physical product, (e.g. clothes), to services (e.g., medical exams), practices (e.g., eating a heart-healthy diet) and finally, more vague ideas (e.g., environmental protection). To have a viable product, people must first perceive that they have a whole problem and that the product offering is a good solution for that problem.


Price means what the consumer must do to get the social marketing product. It may be monetary, or instead, it may require the consumer to release intangibles, such as time or effort, or to risk embarrassment and disapproval. If the costs outweigh the benefits for an individual, the perceived value of the offering will be low, but if the benefits are seen as more significant than their costs, the value of the product is much higher.

In the price setting, particularly for a physical product, there are many issues to consider. If the product is priced too low or provided free of charge, the consumer may perceive it as being low in quality. On the other hand, if the price is too high, some will not be able to afford it. Social marketers must balance these considerations, and often end up charging at least a nominal fee to increase perceptions of quality and to confer a sense of “dignity” to the transaction. These perceptions of costs and benefits can be determined through research and used in positioning the product.


“Place” describes the way that the product reaches the consumer. For a tangible product, this refers to the distribution system–including the warehouse, trucks, sales force, retail outlets where it is sold, or places where it is given out for free. For an intangible product, it refers to decisions about the channels through which consumers are reached with information or training. This may include doctors’ offices, shopping malls, mass media vehicles or in-home demonstrations. Another element of the place is deciding how to ensure accessibility of the offering and quality of the service delivery. By determining the activities and habits of the target audience, as well as their experience and satisfaction with the existing delivery system, researchers can pinpoint the ideal means of distribution for the offering.


Promotion consists of the integrated use of advertising, public relations, promotions, media advocacy, personal selling and entertainment vehicles to create and sustain demand for the product. Public service announcements or paid ads are one way, but there are other methods such as coupons, media events, editorials, “Tupperware”-style parties or in-store displays. Research is crucial to determine the most effective and efficient vehicles to reach the target audience and increase demand. The primary research findings themselves can also be used to gain publicity for the program at media events and in news stories.


Publics can be external and internal. External publics include the target audience, secondary audiences, policymakers, and gatekeepers, while the internal publics are those who are involved in some way with either approval or implementation of the program.


Sometimes you need to team up with other organizations in the community to be active. You need to figure out which organizations have similar goals to yours–not necessarily the same goals–and identify ways you can work together.


Social marketing programs can do well in motivating individual behaviour change, but it is difficult to sustain unless the environment they’re in support of change for the long run. Often, policy change is needed, and media advocacy programs can be a useful complement to a social marketing program.

Purse Strings

Most organizations that develop social marketing programs operate through funds provided by sources such as foundations, governmental grants or donations.