Societal Marketing Concepts: What Are They? And Why Are So Many Businesses Chasing Them?

Do you know what ‘societal marketing concepts’ are?

If you follow marketing developments and trends, you probably will have heard the term- societal marketing…

…but you might not be completely clued up about what it means.

In this guide, I’m going to explain what it is, arm you with tons of societal marketing examples and explain why (and how) it’s become so popular with businesses.

Let’s get into this…

What is Societal Marketing?

Societal marketing is when businesses aim to do good for society, even at the cost of their own margins, and then share their positive impact with prospects, followers and customers.

Brands that use societal marketing, share the societal issue in their marketing materials and explain why and what they’re doing to solve the problem.

BTW: Societal marketing should be treated as a long-term strategy and commitment (more about this in a minute!).

The key takeaway of societal marketing concepts is that businesses who use them place the good of society very high in their brand’s priorities, especially in marketing communications.

Examples of Societal Marketing

If that definition and explanation still doesn’t clear things up for you, here a few real-world examples of societal marketing…

Body Shop

Make a Google search for The Body Shop and this is what you’ll see in the SERPs:

body shop societal marketing

Body Shop haven’t recently started campaigning against animal cruelty. Their efforts began 30+ years ago in 1989, and still continue today.

Their ad campaigns regularly feature this societal concept, alongside the why and how of their animal cruelty campaigns.

When your brand campaigns for specific issues to improve society for a sustained period of time, the message becomes tightly bound to your brand.Click To Tweet

The Body Shop have also closely aligned themselves with other societal issues like recycling and sustainability.

Campaigning for these issues in their marketing communications doesn’t help their profit margins, but has definitely had a positive impact on their brand.

Patagonia

I could not talk about societal marketing without mentioning the outdoor clothing and sports gear brand, Patagonia.

If you doubt the brand’s credentials as a company who focus on societal issues, check out their website’s homepage:

patagonia societal marketing

Instead of pushing garments or talking about the season’s latest trends (as many fashion companies do) they raise awareness about sustainability and pollution with their hero image.

And on top of this, they even have an ‘Activism’ tab as the second option on their website’s key navigational menu.

patagonia societal marketing

Similarly to Body Shop, Patagonia’s societal messages about sustainability and the environment have become incredibly close (and equally important) to their brand.

Danone

As Danone’s website states ‘Each time we eat and drink, we can vote for the world we want.’

The massive food brand puts a huge emphasise on green issues, health and transparency, particularly when it comes to carbon emissions.

danone societal marketing

Research performed by the CDP, revealed that of the world’s sixteen largest publicly-listed food and beverage companies, Danone ranked number 1 in readiness for low carbon transition.

This openness and transparency, coupled with their brand’s emphasis on health, wellbeing and green issues, makes Danone a great example of a brand who employ societal marketing concepts and mean it. 

Why Use Societal Marketing Concepts?

As I’m sure you’re aware, issues concerning the world, environment and our society as a whole are taking an increasingly prominent place in the media.

Digital advancements have made the world a smaller place than it has ever been, giving brands, and the businesses that they work with, little hiding space.

Some of the societal issues that gain the most coverage are:

  • Sustainability
  • Carbon emissions
  • Animal cruelty
  • Fair pay/sweat shops/child labour
  • Recycling
  • Equality

Businesses should do everything they can to avoid harming or negatively affecting any of these factors (and not just for marketing purposes!).

These societal issues are of massive concern to the general public, and many customers do not want to align themselves with a business who has a negative impact on the world (and are prepared to publicly lynch them on social media).

The Advantages of Societal Marketing

Aligning your business with societal issues will almost definitely have adverse implications on your profit margins.

For example, it is much cheaper to have your products produced in a sweat shop than a fair paying factory, and it will cost you less to buy cheap materials that cannot be recycled, over items that can be.

However, this small extra cost will help you make a bigger return in the long term, especially if you share your societal commitment with the world (aka you use societal marketing!).

People feel good when they know that they’ve done a good thing, and that includes spending a little more on a business’s products (who do align themselves with societal issues).

In addition to this, with the growing publicity of certain societal issues in the media, it acts as publicity for brands who dare to do everything they can to help.

For instance, if I produce ethically sourced clothing produced in fair paying factories, and a series of investigations discover sweat shops and child labour from another brand in my space, my business will benefit from the publicity around fair pay and our affiliation with this societal issue.

A real-world example of this is the growing popularity of veganism. The damaging impact of the meat industry has been shared repeatedly in the media recently and this has caused a huge shift in our eating habits. This has positively helped brands who were committed to plant-based foods.

Societal Marketing Concepts: Conclusion

It’s important to stress that a good thing should not be done for your own gain. This erases the ‘good’ and just makes it another ‘thing’.

If you are going to try societal marketing tactics and align them with your brand, you must do so with the correct intentions.

Yes, there are tons of benefits to helping society, but if you’re only doing it to help raise publicity in the short-term, and you don’t commit to long-term affiliation, it will have very little effect on your brand’s appeal.

Find the societal issue that ties closest to you brand, make a positive impact and share it with your prospects, followers and customers! This is the basis of societal marketing concepts.

Want more? Check out one of our most-read marketing articles:

Director of Content at Einstein Marketer
Josh is an award winning content marketer and the Director of Content at Einstein Marketer, previously working as a content manager, freelance copywriter and marketer. He writes, edits, proofs and strategises content for Einstein Marketer's agency and their clients, sharing the most successful tactics and strategies with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links (above) so he can get back to writing as himself.

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