Sociocultural Theories: Social Marketing & Health Campaigns

I recently reviewed and learned about a few sociocultural theories: Social Cognitive Theory, Diffusion of Innovations, & Social Networking Theory, as well as Social Marketing. Social marketing immediately caught my attention. I thought I knew what social marketing was – marketing dealing with social and/or online networks. I was way off! It can involve those factors, but it is much more. Social Marketing in health involves using commercial marketing strategies to “sell” a behavior to a target group. The behavior is the product.  Below is some extra information about the basics of social marketing.

Social Marketing DOES Social Marketing IS NOT
Use commercial marketing strategies Just advertising or communication, or media campaign
Involve influencing voluntary behavior change Able to reach everyone
Promote an end goal of improved personal welfare& improved welfare of society A fast process
  A theory

Social marketing emphasizes knowing your audience well. You must spend time narrowing down a target audience that is mostly homogeneous. A group that is too large and diverse will not work because the same message will not resonate with all members. Once your target audience is narrowed, you must research their habits. When will they change? What motivates them? How do they make decisions?

It is also important to note that social marketing aims to change behavior. Not educate and promote awareness.

Social marketing operates around the following elements:

  • Audience Orientation
  • Audience Segmentation
  • Influencing Behavior
  • Competition
  • Exchange
  • Marketing Mix (4Ps: Price, Place, Promotion, Product)

Addressing all of these factors together is what makes social marketing different from other public health planning approaches.

I wanted to highlight social marketing because it is a little different than the other theories and strategies I have learned about so far this semester (although it is not a theory itself).

An example of a social marketing campaign is Above The Influence. Click the name to go to their site. One of their major campaign materials are commercials/videos. I posted one below. They also have an interactive website and other materials.

I also want to highlight a large HIV/AIDS health communication campaign I recently learned about: Act Against AIDS. Act Against AIDS consists of several smaller campaigns that are more targeted and focus on different groups in the general population as well as providers. Click on the pictures to go to the respective websites.

Campaigns for general population:

  • Let’s Stop HIV Together
  • Testing Makes Us Stronger
  • Take Charge. Take the Test.
  • Greater Than AIDS

Campaigns for providers:

  • HIV Screening. Standard Care.
  • One test. Two Lives.
  • Prevention IS Care

Resource: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Social marketing for nutrition and physical activity web course. Retrieved from


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