Is Social Marketing a Behavioral Theory?


Jane Flores

Is Social Marketing a Behavioral Theory?

When it comes to understanding consumer behavior and influencing their choices, social marketing has emerged as a powerful tool. But is it a behavioral theory in itself? Let’s delve deeper into this question to gain a better understanding.

What is Social Marketing?

Social marketing can be defined as the application of marketing principles and techniques to promote behavioral change for the greater social good. It aims to influence individuals, communities, or societies to adopt behaviors that benefit them and the wider society.

Social marketing campaigns often focus on promoting health-related behaviors such as smoking cessation, healthy eating, exercise, or safe driving. However, they can also address other societal issues such as environmental conservation, poverty reduction, or promoting education.

Theories Behind Social Marketing

To effectively design and implement social marketing campaigns, it is important to draw upon various behavioral theories. These theories provide insights into why individuals behave the way they do and how their behavior can be influenced.

Social Cognitive Theory:

Social cognitive theory emphasizes that human behavior is shaped by personal factors (such as beliefs and attitudes), environmental factors (such as social norms), and behavioral factors (such as skills and self-efficacy). It suggests that people learn from observing others’ behavior and its consequences.

Health Belief Model:

The health belief model posits that an individual’s decision to engage in a health-related behavior is influenced by their perceived threat of illness or disease and the perceived benefits of adopting preventive actions. It also considers barriers that might hinder behavior change.

Theory of Planned Behavior:

The theory of planned behavior suggests that an individual’s intention to perform a certain behavior is influenced by their attitude toward the behavior, subjective norms (social pressure to perform the behavior), and perceived behavioral control (perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior).

Social Marketing as a Behavioral Theory

While social marketing draws upon various behavioral theories, it is not a standalone theory itself. It is more of an application of these theories to achieve specific social goals. Social marketing campaigns utilize insights from behavioral theories to understand Target audiences, identify barriers and motivators, and develop effective communication strategies.

By incorporating elements such as bold text, underlined text, lists, and subheaders in this article, we have aimed to make it visually engaging and organized. These elements help to break down complex information into digestible chunks and highlight key points.


Social marketing is not a behavioral theory but rather an approach that utilizes various behavioral theories to promote positive behavior change. By understanding the underlying factors that influence behavior, social marketers can design effective campaigns that resonate with their Target audience and drive meaningful societal change.