Thursday, April 19, 2018
  • share this

Can we apply social marketing in our business?

Q: We read your latest book, “How to Change the World: A Manual for Social Marketers.” It’s a well-endorsed book both here and abroad. Overseas’ endorsements came from no other than Professor Philip Kotler and Dr. William Smith of Academy for Educational Development. Here, the likes of Tony Meloto, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Mahar Mangahas, and many others gave the book high marks.

We enjoyed reading the book and learned a lot from it. We have an important and practical application question though. Can you please tell us how we can profitably apply your social marketing to our business? Some of your book’s case examples have somewhat direct application to us like the Singapore Health Promotions Board Fitness@Work Campaign. That’s because one of our companies is in the fitness and work-out services. We’re also in the pharma industry. So we can see relevance to us for your social marketing strategy for changing consumer behavior from harmful to beneficial and/or from bad to good. But for our other businesses like banking and advertising, for example, we’re left wondering. Please tell us how we can profitably apply social marketing to these other businesses.

A: Your question could not have come at a better time. Just the other Friday, the Association of Marketing Educators (AME) invited the senior MRx-er as a keynote speaker to its 19th National Marketing Educators’ Conference. The topic of my talk was about what you asked.


Let me pick the portion of my presentation that specifically pertains to your question.

Social marketing started in 1971 when Professor Philip Kotler wrote his award-winning Journal of Marketing article on the subject. He wrote the article to answer his Kellogg School colleagues who asked if there was any place for marketing in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School when in the preceding year its board decided to transform Kellogg’s from a “business school” into a “management school.” At that time, the Kellogg School Board actually believed it had no need for marketing. Professor Kotler argued and demonstrated via live and current cases that social marketing was in fact indispensable in the school’s recruiting of students, soliciting of scholarship support and grants, generating alumni donations, sourcing of research funds for its research faculty and scientists, and in the management of its reputation and public image.  The Journal of Marketing article got the most reprint requests that year and won the “Journal Article of the Year” award. Social marketing’s career took off after that and gained acceptance from most of the management schools. Many other non-profit and non-government organizations (NGOs) also adopted social marketing. GOs (government organizations) quickly followed thereafter.

Then, starting 1976 to the 1980s the Senior MRx-er joined the United Nation’s ICOMP (International Council for the Management of Population Programs) to introduce and set up over a three-year period social marketing of family planning especially condoms in countries of South Asia, Asean, Latin America and Africa. In the Philippines, Dr. Ned introduced social marketing and social marketing research with the funding assistance from USAID, World Bank, UNFPA and WHO to GOs and NGOs particularly DOH, DA, DAR, UP School of Economics, UP School of Medicine, and the UP Population Institute.

At the same time, in the late ’70s to all of the ’80s, Anita Roddicks’ social marketing experiment via The Body Shop led to the “Doing-Well-and-Doing-Good” Movement. Businessmen asked: “Can a business do well and at the same time go good?” That’s in effect asking if a business can be profitable at the same time that it is pushing its not-for-profit social advocacy projects. The movement had mixed record; a few succeeded but many showed a so-so performance. So the movement led to today’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs of large corporations. In the ’80s, this culminated in the formation by several such large companies of PBSP (Philippine Business for Social Progress).

Today, the “Doing-Well-and-Doing-Good” Movement has morphed into a more realistic and practical “Strategy as Advocacy” approach. This took place among companies who were dedicated to placing doing-good above doing-well. To appreciate this approach, let’s cite those companies where this approach thrived with enviable profit gains. The Harvard Business School documented the details of how these companies executed the “Strategy as Advocacy” approach under its Case Clearing House. We will select those companies who were in the two businesses on whom you expressed your concern about social marketing’s applicability.

The first case is ING Direct Bank. This bank’s mantra for its Strategy-as-Advocacy is bannered this way: “ING Direct: Leading Americans Back to Savings.” The bank grew its business from savings deposits when all other banks in the US did not. The HBS case on ING tells us that ING kept its cost of doing business “at 16 percent the costs of conventional banks” by being exclusively Internet-based. By keeping cost that low, ING was able to assure higher interest rates to its depositors. End result? The HBS case says: “By the end of 2004, ING Direct became the country’s largest profitable Internet-based bank, and the fourth largest thrift bank.”

What about in the advertising business? The HBS Case Clearing House narrates to us the story of Roy Spence’s ad agency, GSD&M. This ad agency’s mantra for its Strategy-for-Advocacy proudly states: “GSD&M. We’re in the Business of Purpose-Based Branding.” You can read the details of how this ad agency implemented its purpose-based strategy but when and after it did, it earned a profitable annual billings of $1.5 billion.

In the local scene, we also have success cases. Our column’s limited space suggests that it’s better to get into these case in some future column. But from the foregoing, there are your precedents on which you can model your application of social marketing at a profit to your banking and advertising businesses.


Keep your questions coming. Send them to us at or God bless!

Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Business, Marketing, social marketing
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2018 | All Rights Reserved