The concept of Societal Marketing is important in today’s marketplace. Companies today are being held to higher standards. In today’s social media environment, the lines between what a company produces, its core principles, and its relationship with customers and employees are all connected.

At JMarketing, we’ve found it’s no longer enough for our clients to produce a quality product or service. This is where Societal Marketing becomes both a force for good and a profit center.

What is the Societal Marketing Concept?

The societal marketing concept is often confused with social marketing, but the two are quite different. Social marketing is aimed at improving society – i.e. anti-smoking campaigns. It tends to be adopted by charities and government-funded organizations. 

The Societal Marketing Concept maintains that a company’s marketing decisions should take into account what customers want, what the business wants, and also what’s best for society. Done well, these three considerations work together to help a business market its products successfully, create a loyal following, and a strong brand.

Apart from altruistic reasons, why would a business engage in societal marketing?

If this concept was just about doing good, there would be no ‘marketing’ in the term. So the key idea behind successful societal marketing is that it benefits society, and also benefits your company.

The Societal Marketing Concept is sometimes also referred to as “the human concept,” “the intelligent consumption concept,” and the “ecological imperative concept.” It’s been around since the 1970’s and has been growing in influence as people become more environmentally aware and socially conscious via social media. 

Societal marketing

Where Businesses get the Societal Concept Wrong

If you want to do societal marketing successfully, you can’t just pick the charity that most recently arrived in your inbox, or that you personally find appealing, donate 5% of profits, and say you’re done.

While contributing to a good cause is always commendable, it won’t automatically bring long-term benefits to your business unless you do it intentionally. In other words, your business’s charitable actions need to align with your audience and their interests. 

For example, if you’re an electronics store, and you contribute regularly to a charity that looks after stray dogs, only a small proportion of your customers are likely to be dog lovers. This charitable action is admirable but likely won’t contribute to your business’s growth.

In contrast, a pet food shop that supports the local dog shelter is much more likely to resonate with its customers, and they’re more likely to patronize the business because of this. Being animal lovers, that particular charity aligns with their interests and so  supporting the dog shelter will influence customer behavior.

In a world crowded with advertising competing for consumers’ attention, customers tune out 90% of inputs by necessity. Therefore, Societal Marketing will only influence customers if they’re already interested in the good cause your business supports.

Examples of Business Growth Through Doing Good

To give you an idea of how this model of marketing can look in business, below are some examples of how companies have used the Societal Marketing Concept. 

Tom’s Shoes was founded in 2006 with the mission of matching every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. They grew quickly with lots of free media mentions, are currently sitting at revenues of $392 million, and operate in 50 countries. 

The Body Shop is a cosmetics company committed to being Cruelty Free & 100% Vegetarian. This means none of their products are tested on animals or contain animal ingredients. They also ensure all products are produced under fair labor conditions and give a proportion of profits to charities working in these spaces. 

Patagonia is an outdoor equipment and apparel store whose owner is deeply committed to protecting the environment, especially the untouched wilderness. To this end, they build products to last, and actively discourage customers from buying new gear when they can repair their old gear. They frequently offer lifetime guarantees on clothing, meaning you can post Patagonia an alpine coat you bought from them ten years ago, and they’ll repair it and send it back, free of charge.

This approach has led to the Patagonia brand gaining a highly loyal following and growing consistently since the 1970s. 

Other examples of Societal Marketing are investment funds that only support environmentally sustainable companies, or companies that don’t engage in unethical labor practices. For example, retirement funds like Cruelty Free Super exclude from their portfolio companies that mistreat animals and have proved to be very popular. 

The companies mentioned above use societal marketing to stand out from their competition. In doing so, they’re able to grow without spending extensively on mass marketing. They create loyal customers and attract staff who align with their core values and mission.  


Successfully Using Societal Marketing in Your Business

Societal Marketing is a powerful concept that you can use to cut through a crowded market and engage deeply with your customers.

Doing this successfully, though, means you deeply understand your customers’ wants, needs and motivations. It’s possible to design your business to benefit society and at the same time market highly effectively and create loyal customers, but it will take research into your customers’ identity. You need to understand how they wish to be perceived, and how they see themselves. 

JMarketing has developed a proprietary process to get deep inside your customers’ psyche and uncover their hidden desires. We’ve used this knowledge to help clients gain new customers for less, and expand their marketing reach. Have a chat with us to find out more. 

Joshua Strawczynski

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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