What Is Social Cognitive Theory in Marketing?

Social cognitive theory, also known as SCT, is a psychological framework that explains how individuals learn and develop within a social context. In the field of marketing, social cognitive theory provides valuable insights into consumer behavior and the factors that influence their purchasing decisions.

The Basics of Social Cognitive Theory

Social cognitive theory was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1970s. According to this theory, people learn not only through direct experience but also by observing others and the consequences of their actions. This concept is known as observational learning or modeling.

Observational Learning:

Observational learning plays a significant role in marketing because consumers often observe others’ behaviors and make purchase decisions based on their observations. For example, seeing a friend post about a product on social media may influence someone to try it for themselves.


Another important concept within social cognitive theory is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to succeed at a particular task or behavior.

In the context of marketing, self-efficacy can impact consumer purchasing decisions. If consumers believe they can use a product effectively or achieve desired outcomes with it, they are more likely to make a purchase.

The Role of Social Cognitive Theory in Marketing

Social cognitive theory has several implications for marketers seeking to understand consumer behavior and create effective marketing strategies:

1. Modeling Behavior:

2. Building Self-Efficacy:

3. Social Proof:

Incorporating Social Cognitive Theory Into Marketing Strategies

Understanding social cognitive theory can help marketers develop strategies that effectively Target and engage consumers. By considering the following strategies, marketers can apply social cognitive theory principles:

1. Storytelling:

Using storytelling in marketing campaigns can tap into observational learning by presenting relatable characters or scenarios that resonate with consumers. This allows them to observe how others navigate challenges or achieve success through the use of a product.

2. User-Generated Content:

User-generated content (UGC) is an effective way to leverage observational learning and social proof. Encouraging customers to share their experiences with a brand or product creates opportunities for others to observe and learn from these experiences.

3. Influencer Partnerships:

Collaborating with influencers who align with a brand’s values and Target audience helps create models for consumer behavior. Influencers can showcase how they use a product or service, influencing their followers to do the same.

4. Testimonials and Case Studies:

Providing testimonials or case studies on a brand’s website or in marketing materials allows potential customers to observe the positive results others have achieved using the product or service.

By understanding social cognitive theory and applying its principles to marketing strategies, marketers can better understand consumer behavior and create effective campaigns that resonate with their Target audience.