Social marketing evolved from the combination of two fields: social psychology and commercial marketing. This hybrid created a marketing concept broader than the advertising objective of sales. Social marketing looks at the marketing mind-set within a socially conscious demographic. It does more than sell a product or service; it sells the social benefit of owning and using the product or service. Classically, the four components of social marketing theory are called the 4 P’s, though the advancement of the science has expanded these components somewhat.


Build a better mousetrap and they will buy it. This is the basic theme underlying research and development. Social marketing theory proposes that the product must have a place in society and that its place must benefit society. The better mousetrap that burns down the barn may kill the mouse but it will not benefit society as a whole. Social marketing must show that the product or service has a clearly defined benefit to the purchaser’s society.


When it comes to price, the social marketer needs to look at the definition of society as it applies to the purchaser. Society in this context may be the social class of the individual. It could be the social benefits that a family vacation can bring. Under social marketing theory, price points need not be the cheapest. Instead they need to be set to bring maximum social change to the purchaser. Taking Ferrari as an example, the price point is set with the prestige of ownership in mind.


Product placement has a special importance in social marketing theory. Society is often defined by geography or culture, and this is where social marketing theory has most expanded. The effects of culture on marketing are actively being researched. Different cultures and regions identify different social benefits around a product. Where a bottle of Coca-Cola in the United States may fulfill a benefit exclusively addressing thirst, in a Third World country that bottle would have a profound social status benefit.


Promotion must demonstrate the social benefit of the product or service across regions and cultures. According the social marketing theory, a marketing campaign must promote the social benefit of the product or service. Notice that car commercials do not talk about the specifications of the car. They focus on the emotional benefit the driver will enjoy driving the car. They often show the auto zipping through beautiful landscapes and emphasize the social benefit of freedom.