Social Marketing

Social marketing refers to community-based programs to encourage more socially desirable behaviour and represents a new approach for dealing with transportation issues. Social marketing is “a process that applies marketing principles and techniques to create, communicate, and deliver value in order to influence target audience behaviours that benefit society (public health, safety, the environment, and communities) as well as the target audience” (Kotler and Rothschild, 2008). It is useful to achieve behaviour changes that people support but find difficult to make, such as actions that increase personal health or benefits neighbours. It identifies the costs of inaction and the benefits of change from users’ perspective, and helps people overcome barriers to desirable change. Social marketing involves designing the walking, cycling, carpooling (etc.) experience so that it is truly attractive to the target audience and meets its needs. This requires the whole process of analysing the audience and context, and addressing all components of the marketing mix, not just the promotion component or simply an advertising campaign.

Social marketing contains key elements that are lacking in traditional policy planning: customer orientation, mutually beneficial exchange, relationship thinking and utilization of behaviour change tools. These elements appear to be crucial for program success, as they account for the behaviour change factors assisting people in making their travel choices. These factors are responsible for change at the individual level (individual values and beliefs, perceived behavioural control and social norms), interpersonal level (appropriate information, effective reminders, possibilities to act environmentally, incentives to behave environmentally) and network level (qualities of environmental behaviour, peer networks, different user segments) (Chkanikova, 2009).

When barriers exist but also personal motivation, social marketing can be applied as a systematic approach for researching, designing and promoting travel choices so that they are attractive, competitive, easy and popular. Such is the case of the promotion of public transport: the private car dominates travel in large metropolitan areas despite the fact that public opinion is generally in favour of the development of public transport. Some successful examples of social marketing in mobility include creating better walking and cycling networks, improving transit services, as well as engaging people to optimize their personal travel decisions. These involved a combination of education, persuasion and policy interventions that have changed the way people act.