The use of Social Marketing for preventing violence

Even today many people marvel when they hear about “social” marketing because they believe that the term “marketing” refers only to the trade market. Social marketing is different from commercial marketing in values and purposes: although “social marketing” is sometimes seen only as using standard commercial marketing practices to achieve non-commercial goals, this is an oversimplification. The main aim of social marketing is reaching a “social good”, while in “commercial marketing” the aim is “financial”.

In this perspective, social marketing can be defined as the application of strategies and marketing techniques to influence a target group to voluntarily accept, modify or abandon a behaviour, in order to get an advantage for individuals or for the society [1].

Social marketing finds its roots in a lot of different disciplines (psychology, sociology, anthropology, economic and communication theories) which help to investigate and understand what determines the human behaviour, as the result of environmental, social and individual factors.

In the practice of social marketing projects, the integrated use of multiple levels (marketing mix: product, price, communication, distribution channels and partners) creates real opportunities to allow individuals and communities to choose responsibly and consciously the favourable behaviour to the protection of social, physical and psychological welfare.

The social marketing activity is achieved through a plan which follows a logic and different phases: the analysis and orientation of the target audience, the segmentation, the analysis of the communication channels, the construction of an effective strategy for the achievement of objectives and the monitoring process to provide feedback.

Change in the behaviour requires a considerable effort and it is a multi-stage process; indeed, the change takes place in stages and not in a single rapid step.

So can Social marketing help in preventing violence?

Violence is a violation of human rights that today took the form of a huge global pandemic. It is one of the most brutal and incomprehensible manifestations of the humankind, a transverse reality that doesn’t know any kind of distinction.

Nowadays still too little is invested in social and cultural prevention, while we should reconsider the wrong and ill models that fuel violence and of which there is often too little awareness in the population, in particular among the young generations. 

The prevention of violence requires an intentional and comprehensive approach that includes dealing with its key determinants. Social marketing can be a strategy to change social norms by providing key messages of equality, inclusiveness, appropriate behaviour and respectful relationships. In this sense, it can call into question widespread abusive behaviours.

The marketing plan should be aimed to act socially in order to prevent people from being convinced by the violent propaganda (politically, ideologically, religiously or culturally motivated). According to this view, violence could be defused by looking at the political and cultural reasons that cause it and acting at multiple levels: mobilizing communities, transforming social norms, forming the police and the school personnel, educating children and young people, removing obstacles to the employment and promoting freedom and equality.

In conclusion, since violence can be avoided, it is important to focus on the prevention because this is possible, feasible and essential to reach this aim. As we said, Social Marketing seeks to influence voluntary behaviour through rewards and reinforcement, not using coercion and punishments, and in this sense, it can give a great contribution to preventing violence. By Valeria Casadei


[1] Kotler P., Roberto N., Lee N. Social Marketing – Improving the Quality of Life. Thousand Oaks (California), Sage Publications, 2002 (second edition), p. 5.

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