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12 principles of social marketing

by The NonProfit Times - December 6, 2012

Back in the 1970s, organizations began using a technique called social marketing. The term has had varying definitions since then, but today it’s used to refer to efforts focused on influencing behaviors towards a specific cause.

As Philip Kotler and Nancy Lee wrote in “Marketing in the Public Sector,” social marketing is still a relatively new discipline. As such, many organizations are still unsure of how to tackle it. That’s why the two authors came up with 12 principles that will help marketers make a challenging assignment a little bit easier.

The 12 principles are:

  • Take advantage of prior and existing successful campaigns.
  • Start with target markets most ready for action.
  • Promote single, simple, doable behaviors — one at a time.
  • Identify and remove barriers to behavior change.
  • Bring real benefits into the present.
  • Highlight costs of competing behaviors.
  • Promote a tangible object or service to help target audiences perform a behavior.
  • Consider nonmonetary incentives in the form of recognition and appreciation.
  • Have a little fun with your messages.
  • Use media channels at the point of decision-making.
  • Use prompts for sustainability.


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