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Social marketing is the adaptation and adoption of commercial marketing theory and practice for social change programs, campaigns and causes. By its very nature, social marketing is connected to the commercial practice of marketing, and, at the end of the day, social marketing remains a sub discipline of commercial marketing. When the rules of commercial marketing change, social marketing needs to adjust, adapt or evolve. In order to survive, social marketing must be willing to re-examine classic concepts and ideas against the changing environment of commercial marketing. This paper sets out to examine the impact of the American Marketing Association (2004) definition of marketing on Andreasen’s (1995) definition of social marketing, to see just how far social marketing needs to adapt the newly adopted commercial marketing definition in order to stay part of the parent discipline.
One of Andreasen's (2006) four criticisms of the development of social marketing is the inconsistency between the many and varying definitions of the sub discipline. As with service marketing, relationship marketing and other sub disciplinary areas of marketing, the jockeying for the ownership of the “definitive” definition of the twenty five year old sub discipline is still intense. In light of the opportunity presented by the change in commercial marketing’s core definition, there is a strong temptation to use this paper to proclaim ownership of a(nother) new understanding of social marketing. However, in recognition of Andreasen’s (2006) statement, this paper will not attempt to construct a new definition of social marketing. Instead, it will assess the durability and applicability of the definitional work of Andreasen (1995), to see if this classic interpretation of the meaning of social marketing still holds relevance when applied to the American Marketing Association (2004) definition of commercial marketing.
Rationale for the Research
In late 2003, the American Marketing Association nominated Dr Robert Lusch to revise the 18 year old definition of marketing, to bring it forward into line with the practices of commercial marketing. According to Keefe (2004), the process involved considerable consultation and feedback across a range of marketing sub disciplines and national boundaries, with the AMA eventually releasing and endorsing the revised definition in September 2004. At the 2005 Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference, a full special session was devoted to the discussion of “Broadening the Boundaries for Marketing: Challenging the New Marketing Definition and Dominant Logics”. Subsequent calls for papers have issued the challenge to marketers to debate and deliberate on the meaning, impact and effect of the changed definition. This paper contributes to the ongoing debate and understanding associated with the new definition by borrowing a method from the computer sciences industry – examining the level of backwards compatibility between the AMA (2004) definition, and one of the core foundation definitions of the social marketing discipline.
Examining the definitions of commercial marketing
The first official definition of commercial marketing in 1935 defined the concept as:
“the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers.” (Keefe, 2004).
Over the next fifty years, two reviews of the definition left the original concept in place until it was revised and updated in 1985, to be defined as
“the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives’ (AMA, 1985).
Finally, in 2004, the AMA relaunched the definition of marketing as:
an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders. (AMA 2004).
This paper posits that the shift from the AMA (1985) definition has introduced five shifts in the role, application and understanding of commercial marketing, expanding it from a process to include organisational functions, moving from the marketing mix to the value concept, incorporating relationship marketing, organisational and shareholder benefit, and removing the explicit recognition of the exchange concept.
Change I: Function and Process
Commercial marketing is now self-defined as an organisational function and process where previously, it was perceived predominantly as an organisational process. Redefining marketing as an organisational function alters the use of marketing as a series of techniques and practices into a more formalised element of the organisation, although there is debate as to whether this requires the organisation to have a “marketing function” which is a recognised marketing department or marketing officer, or whether marketing is a function of the organisation (Darroch et al 2004; Dann, 2005).
Change II: Create, Communicate and Deliver Value, not marketing mixes
The second major change is that the new definition no longer explicitly recognises the marketing mix and “product, idea and service” trichotomy. Instead, the 2004 definition merges these components into the broad “value” concept. Value is undefined within the definition, and appears deliberately open to interpretation. Presumably, value in this context is meant to be the broader approach of Porter (1985) as “what the consumer believes that they have gained from the exchange”, rather than the narrow AMA Marketing Dictionary (2006) definition of value as “the power of any good to command other goods in peaceful and voluntary exchange”.
Change III: Managing the relationship
Grönroos (1994) defined relationship marketing as “a form of marketing to establish, maintain, and enhance relationships with customers and other partners, at a profit, so that the objectives of the parties involved are met. This is achieved by a mutual exchange and fulfilment of promises.” The third shift in focus is in recognition of the ascendancy of relationship marketing since the early 1990s, and its replacement of the previous notion of satisfying individual and organisational objectives.
Change IV: Benefiting the Organisation and the Stakeholder
The new definition broadens the role of the marketing orientation beyond the dynamic between client/customer and the organisation, to incorporate "any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the firm’s objectives" (Freeman, 1984; Clement, 2005). Perhaps the most disruptive change in the redefinition of marketing has been the removal of exchange as understood by Bagozzi (1975) and its replacement with the concept of benefit to the organisation and the stakeholder.
Change V: The End of Exchange?
As noted above, the initial examination of the AMA (2004) definition appears to end the role of the exchange as a core of marketing theory. However, it appears that the redefinition has moved exchange from an explicit element to an implicit and assumed component, depending on how the concept of “value” and “managing the relationship” are defined (Dann, 2005). For example, Grönroos (1994) specifies that relationship marketing is achieved by mutual exchange as does the AMA (2006) narrow interpretation of value and the broader Porter (1985) interpretation. Exchange, although less visible, remains a functional element of the marketing process.
Definition Elect: Andreasen (1995/2006) Social Marketing
Andreasen (1995) defined the sub discipline of social marketing as:
the application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society." (Andreasen, 1995)
Andreasen further extrapolates the nature of social marketing as the adaptation, rather than direct transference, of marketing tools and techniques for social change campaigns. Due to the substantial differences in the environments within which social marketing operates and the issues or causes which form the focus of campaigns, it has never been possible to import commercial marketing practice wholesale into the social marketing environment. Consequently, Andreasen’s definition of social marketing has been selected specifically for the meta level approach of applying the internal logic of the discipline (adaptation and adoption of “commercial marketing technologies”) to social marketing.
The Compatibility of Social Marketing and Marketing 2004
With the significant repurposing of the definition of marketing, does commercial marketing remain compatible with social marketing, and vice versa? Historically, the fundamental difference between social marketing and commercial marketing has been a matter of focus. Commercial marketing has a bottom line of direct benefit measured in dollar values. Social marketing has a bottom line measured according to whether or not the target adopter changes their behaviour.
Andreasen (1995)’s definition is broadly compatible with four of the five fundamental changes to commercial marketing brought on by the AMA (2005) redefinition. The most obvious point of compatibility is the crossover between “organisational function and set of processes” with “application of commercial marketing technologies”. Following on from this, Andreasen (1995) outlines a range of processes for value creation, where value is assumed to result in the improvement of the personal welfare of the individual, and the mechanisms specified are assumed to be organisational functions or processes. In addition, social marketing perspective has historically automatically incorporated somelevel of stakeholder benefit through the central tenet requiring improvement in the welfare of society.. Further, the management of the relationship is an implicit component of the maintenance aspects of the ongoing influence of the voluntary behaviour. Finally, neither social marketing nor commercial marketing explicitly include the recognition of exchange, as it was always an inherited component of social marketing – the adaptation of the 1985 definition of commercial marketing brought with it the necessity for exchange theory. Table 1 outlines the definitions of social and commercial marketing into their core component elements for a brief, and perhaps superficial overview of the areas of compatibility.
Table 1: Social Marketing versus Commercial Marketing
Social Marketing 1995
an organizational function and a set of processes
the application of commercial marketing technologies
a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers
analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare
a set of processes for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization
programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences
a set of processes for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization’s stakeholders.
analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society
Absence of Exchange
Absence of Exchange
The Great Divide: Benefit
….influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society." (Andreasen, 1995)
…for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders. (AMA 2004).
The adaptation of the commercial marketing definition creates one possible area of conflict between the AMA (2004) definition, and the Andreasen (1995) concept. To use the language of the AMA (2004) definition, social marketing creates, communicates and delivers value (improvement of personal welfare) whilst managing relationship for the benefit of stakeholders (society). Andreasen (1995) specifies a one way value flow from the organisation to the social change marketplace – which effectively removes organisational benefit from social marketing. The obvious, immediate reaction to the ideological gap between the AMA (2004) and Andreasen (1995) would be to simply inherit “organisational benefit” as part of “commercial marketing technology” ambit. However, social marketing has previously addressed the concept of direct organisational benefit insofar as this outcome is used to determine whether a social change program is “societal marketing” or “social marketing”.
Restrictions on Adapting Benefit: Corporate Societal Marketing
Corporate societal marketing (CSM) has been defined as “encompass[ing] marketing initiatives that have at least one non-economic objective related to social welfare and use the resources of the company and/or one of its partners” (Drumwright and Murphy 2001 in Hoeffler and Keller, 2002). In a related area, Maghrabi (2006) saw societal marketing as an outcome of commercial organisations moving into traditionally social marketing territories – although they did not question the rationale for the corporate incursion into non profit marketing. In general, social marketing practitioners have accepted societal marketing, which is the inclusion of pro-social goals in parallel to profit and/or organisational gain is an accepted, and acceptable, as part of a “philanthropy for profit” approach that leads to social change. With that in mind, social marketing has tended to be positioned to occupy the not for profit sector with a “benevolence for individual and societal benefit” in conjunction with socially beneficial corporate outcomes.
Conclusion: Resolving the divide
At the core of the conflict between social marketing and commercial marketing is the nature of benefit. Earlier criticisms of the new definition were based on the notion of “benefit” as a direct transfer between recipient and marketer (Dann, 2005). However, under the exchange paradigm, social marketing could lay claim to Bagozzi’s (1975) concept of complex exchange where multiple parties to the value transfer exchanged with each other in a system (A to B, A to C, B to A, B to C, C to A, C to B). Whilst no direct benefit was received, social marketing organisations “benefited” when an individual adopted a socially beneficial product. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the solution may not be tied to the reality of social marketing.
Although social marketing campaigns may succeed where change occurs, that does not draw a recognisable benefit in the commercial sense. At the core is the conflict between the long term objectives of social marketing and commercial marketing. Commercial marketing is ingrained with the longevity-as-success mantra, where increased demand and broadened marketshare is a positive outcome. In contrast, social marketing is often directed towards the provision of a solution to a social problem, where the outcome is to reduce the incidence of the problem, lowering market demand and/or decreasing the size of a market for a product. Campaigns aimed at the provision of a solution, the cessation of a problem or a change in behaviour are ultimately (and optimistically) targeted towards a measure of success that no longer requires the campaign to continue. Although maintenance social marketing programs are necessary, few social marketers would look to encourage speeding, drug taking or obesity in order to continue the demand for their social campaigns.
The uncertainty raised in this paper requires further exploration and debate. Can successful social marketing, which reduces the ongoing need for the campaign, realistically be considered as producing a "benefit" to the organisation? At the same time, failure to address the market need will continue the market demand for organisation's existence, but equally does not equate to a benefit. Clarification of the meaning of “benefit” in the context of commercial marketing and social marketing is needed. Whilst benefit to the stakeholders is clear – deliver value to the consumer, and if society gains, then stakeholders benefit – does the gain of society, through the solution of a social marketing problem can constitute benefit to the social marketing organisation?
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Dann, S. (2006). Exploring the Cross compatibility of the Andreasen (1995) definition of social Marketing and the AMA (2004) definition of Commercial Marketing.. PHILICA.COM Article number 62.