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Social Marketing in Public Health Promotion Essay


Technological growth has led to the use of social media as a valuable marketing tool. In 2003, companies started to use LinkedIn as a marketing tool. Later, businesses began to market their brands through other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Today, health organizations use social marketing to reach millions of people across the globe. The use of social marketing has not only helped the organizations to reach a broad client base but also cut down on marketing costs. Opponents of social marketing maintain that it is a waste of time and money (Bloom & Novelli 2005).

They claim that the public hardly engages health institutions through social media platforms. Besides, they allege that many institutions abandon social marketing after they realize that it does not yield positive results. The challenges of social marketing overlook its numerous benefits. The benefits include increased visibility, better return on investment, and effective targeting. This paper will evaluate the effectiveness of social marketing in promoting behavioral change among youths and adults. The article will use numerous examples to counter the argument that social marketing is a waste of time and money.

Social marketing refers to the use of social media to “translate necessarily complex educational messages and behavior change techniques into concepts and products that will be received and acted upon by a large segment of the population” (Bloom & Novelli 2005, p. 81).

Combating HIV/AIDS and Obesity

Social marketing has multiple benefits for an organization if applied effectively. According to Kotler and Zaltman (2007), social marketing is relatively a novel marketing tool. It underlines the reason why some people view it as a waste of time and money. One reason why social marketing is not a waste of time and money is that it is widely visible compared to other methods of marketing. Presently, many people have access to the internet.

Additionally, a majority of citizens use social media platforms to interact and share ideas. The use of social marketing may help a health organization to reach many people. The organization only needs to create an appealing message for it to draw the attention of the target audience. Social marketing has proved to be effective in many spheres. For instance, in India, it is used in health promotion campaigns. Giordano et al. (2012) argue that India uses social marketing to run HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.

The marketing strategy helps India to reach a high number of target audiences, particularly young people. Indeed, social marketing has contributed to reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in India. Through social marketing, the youths have learned the different behaviors that expose them to the risk of contracting the disease.

The challenges of social marketing argue that it repels the audiences due to blatant promotion and excessive placement of information. The challengers claim that excessive placement of information on social media platforms leads to audiences doubting the authenticity of the communicated information. The challengers fail to appreciate the role of social marketing in encouraging behavioral change. According to Kotler and Zaltman (2007), social marketing encourages behavioral change by enlightening the public on how to overcome barriers to transformation. People are likely to change their behaviors if they realize that the transformation comes with some benefits.

Unlike other forms of promotion, social marketing helps to educate the public. Lefebvre and Flora (2001) hold that social marketing helps in the fight against obesity. Health workers use social marketing to inform the public about the dangers of certain behaviors like the use of elevators and failure to undertake physical exercise. Many people do not understand the negative impacts of being physically inactive.

Therefore, health professionals use social marketing to provide information that motivates the target audience to engage in physical activities. For instance, the professionals post images of people with obesity on social media platforms. Besides, they post pictures of people who engage in physical activities and outline the health benefits that they enjoy. Such images serve as motivation to the public, therefore prompting them to engage in physical exercise.

Encouraging Breastfeeding

Social marketing played a significant role in encouraging women to embrace breastfeeding in Brazil. Health care workers used social marketing to reach diverse stakeholders. According to Brennan and Binney (2010), social marketing enabled health care organizations to formulate different messages for diverse audiences. The organizations utilized social marketing to encourage the government and communities to participate in breastfeeding campaigns.

The organizations leveraged the worldwide agreement on the need to promote breastfeeding. Mothers were taught about the benefits of breastfeeding. Eventually, the campaign changed public opinion regarding breastfeeding. Previously, women could breastfeed their babies for two and a half months only. The campaign led to many women prolonging the breastfeeding period to up to ten months.

One may argue that mothers do not have to visit social media to understand the significance of breastfeeding. They can learn about the importance of breastfeeding as they continue to attend the postnatal clinic. As per Brennan and Binney (2010), men have a responsibility to encourage their wives to breastfeed. Moreover, employers have an obligation to ensure that they offer a mother-friendly working environment.

Unfortunately, not many men and managers accompany their wives to postnatal clinics. How can health care personnel sensitize these people without using social marketing? Evans (2008) argues that social marketing helps health care workers to educate men and organizational leaders on their role in encouraging breastfeeding in Iowa. The workers target African American fathers through videos that discuss the significance of breastfeeding and the role of parents on the same. Without social marketing, it would have been difficult for the American government to promote breastfeeding amid African American women.

In Texas, the government uses social marketing to share ideas on how mothers can overcome breastfeeding challenges. The Texas Department of State Health Services uses social marketing to encourage employers to provide a mother-friendly working environment (Evans 2008). Some people argue that the government has the authority to instruct employers to provide a friendly environment to lactating mothers.

Hence, it does not require using social marketing for such an undertaking. They fail to consider the numerous ramifications that may result from forcing employers to provide such an environment. For instance, the employer may reduce the wages of the breastfeeding mothers for the hours that they are out of their workstations. The government uses social marketing to enlighten employers on the importance of breastfeeding, therefore ensuring that the parents and employers agree on the working conditions to avoid such ramifications.

Fighting Smoking

Individuals who argue that social marketing is a waste of time and money allege that it does not facilitate behavioral change, particularly amid alcoholics and smokers. They claim that social marketing has reversed implications for the target audiences. For instance, there are people who engage in alcoholism or smoking in spite of learning the dangers of such behaviors through social marketing.

Others claim that there are individuals who purchase cigarette cases to hide the upsetting images found on cigarette packets (Lindstorm 2008). Such actions confirm that social marketing is a waste of time and money. The argument that people purchase cigarette cases to hide the upsetting images found on the cigarette packets is unfounded. Many people buy cases as accessories. Supporters of social marketing argue that it can be used to target the most “vulnerable” people in society by capitalizing on their fears (Manoff 2002). The government can use social marketing to discourage the use of certain products by instilling fear among the public. The use of scary warnings on cigarette packets has discouraged many youths from indulging in smoking in the United States.

According to Manoff (2002), challengers of social marketing claim that the strategy can only help to market commercial products. They argue that it is hard for health institutions to use social marketing to sell health concepts.

They fail to understand that well-organized social marketing can help health care organizations to promote behavior change in society. McGinnis, Williams-Russo, and Knickman (2002) argue that social marketing enables medical institutions to discourage the public from engaging in particular behaviors. For instance, in Australia, health care organizations use social marketing to discourage people from smoking. Some individuals argue that the rate of smoking went down in Australia due to the introduction of laws that prohibited smoking in public areas. They ignore the fact that the prescription of smoking in public places does not amount to reducing the rate of smoking.

People can still smoke as long as they do not do it in restricted areas (McGinnis, Williams-Russo & Knickman 2002). The objective of social marketing is not to discourage people from smoking in public places. It aims at discouraging people from smoking by enlightening them on the dangers of smoking. Australia uses social marketing to discourage people who might be tempted to start smoking. Additionally, the country assists seasoned smokers to adopt characters that might liberate them from smoking.

Source of Educational Contents

Social marketing has a significant contribution to health care education. Presently, many people prefer to interact with medical professionals on social media. As a result, various health care professionals use social marketing to convey educational content to the public. Indeed, over 40% of people in the United States admit that social marketing has made them health-conscious (Evans & McCormack 2008).

For instance, some people use social media to acquire knowledge on how to remain healthy. The health care professionals upload multiple videos that teach the public how to eat healthily. As a result, many Americans have changed their eating habits. The number of people who consume junk food continues to decrease tremendously. Antagonists of social marketing claim that it can only help the millennia and individuals living in wealthy nations. They argue that a majority of the senior citizens do not access social media. Thus, they cannot benefit from health information posted on social media platforms. Further, the antagonists maintain that the use of social marketing in developing nations is a waste of time and money as not many people have access to smartphones.

Individuals who are opposed to the importance of social marketing overlook the fact that senior citizens depend on their family members for health care. They do not have to access the information shared on social marketing. Instead, the family members do it for them. On the other hand, a majority of the households in the developing nations can afford an internet-enabled phone (Evans & McCormack 2008). One does not require a Smartphone to access the internet. Today, numerous health applications are available on any phone as long as it is internet-enabled. Therefore, it is easy for people in developing countries to acquire health care skills through social marketing.

Some opponents of social marketing claim that people can get information regarding health care by visiting health facilities. They argue that there is no need of looking for information from the internet while one can easily access it from a medical official. Additionally, they allege that contacting medical officials offers an opportunity for one to clarify contentious issues. Their arguments are correct. However, they fail to consider the fact that most health personnel do not provide free services.

In developing countries, people are required to pay for medical services (Evans & McCormack 2008). Therefore, not many people can afford medical services, not to mention health care information. Failure to use social marketing would disadvantage thousands of individuals who do not have the means to get medical information from doctors and other health care professionals.

Abating Risky Behaviours amid Adolescents

Challengers of social marketing claim that parents have a duty to make sure that they raise morally upright children. They argue that if children do not acquire morals at an early age, it would be difficult to change them when they grow up. These people disregard the fact that many children adopt risky behaviors in teenagers. Children get exposed to social media at adolescence (Calvert 2008). At teenagers, the kids learn about sex, smoking, and other risky health behaviors.

It would be hard for a community to counter such behaviors without using social marketing. According to McKenzie and Mohr (2000), at teenagers, children are no longer limited to parental influence. Instead, they are subject to media and peer pressure. The society can use social marketing to change the perceptions that teenagers have about particular behaviors. Mostly, youths engage in risky health behaviors because they make them look unique and independent (McKenzie & Mohr 2000).

Besides, teenagers tend to oppose any external intrusion that seems to infringe on their independence. Social marketing can facilitate the creation of alluring images and positive social models that can promote behavioral change among adolescents. In the United States, society uses social marketing to establish programs that assist youths to acquire skills in healthy behaviors and exploit their talents. The programs help teens to espouse positive habits, thus saving them from diseases and other challenges associated with risky health behaviors.


This essay has discussed the significance of social marketing in promoting behavioral change among teenagers and adults. The article has shown that social marketing plays a significant role in the fight against HIV/AIDs and obesity. Additionally, the essay has revealed that social marketing serves as an excellent source of educational content for individuals who take care of the old. Social marketing helps in the fight against smoking. It discourages the youths from indulging in smoking.

From the essay, it is evident that social marketing helps the government and health care professionals to promote the culture of breastfeeding among African Americans. One of the most significant findings that emerged from this essay is that social marketing helps to instill ethical behaviors in youths.

Reference List

Bloom, P & Novelli, W 2005, ‘Problems and challenges of social marketing’, Journal of Marketing, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 79-88.

Brennan, L & Binney, W 2010, ‘Fear, guilt, and shame appears in social marketing’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 140-141.

Calvert, S 2008, ‘Using media to sell: marketing to children and media campaigns’, Future of Children, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 205–234.

Evans, D & McCormack, L 2008, ‘Applying social marketing in health care: communicating evidence to change consumer behavior’, Medical Decision Making, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 12-34.

Evans, W 2008, ‘Social marketing campaigns and children’s media use’, Future of Children: Children, Media, and Technology, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 181–204.

Giordano, T, Rodriguez, S, Zhang, H, Kallen, M, Jibaja-Weiss, M, Buscher, A, Arya, M, Suarez-Almazor, M & Ross, M 2012, ‘Effect of a clinic-wide social marketing campaign to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection’, AIDS and Behavior, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 104-112.

Kotler, P & Zaltman, G 2007, ‘Social marketing: an approach to planned social change’, Journal of Marketing, vol 35, no. 1, pp. 3-12.

Lefebvre, C & Flora, J 2001, ‘Social marketing and public health intervention’, Health Education Quarterly, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 299-315.

Lindstorm, M 2008, Buyology: truth and lies about why we buy, Doubleday, New York.

Manoff, R 2002, Social Marketing, Praeger, New York.

McGinnis, M, Williams-Russo, P & Knickman, J 2002, ‘The case for more active policy attention to health promotion’, Health Affairs, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 78-93.

McKenzie, D & Mohr, D 2000, ‘Promoting sustainable behaviors: an introduction to community-based social marketing’, Journal of Social Issues, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 543-554.

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