The Call for Change

Dr. John Patrick Ojwando
Published: November 2013

Social marketing, like marketing in general, is about being relentless in selling but goes a step forward as it offers a platform to be the change in the society and filling your wallet in return, reflects Dr. John Patrick Ojwando…

quitStepping into the domain of Marketing itself can be challenging, to build on and complement its core disciplines with a focus on the ‘social’ dimension on the other hand is an exciting career option with satisfying returns. Because Social Marketing has little to do with guile (the stereotypical image of Marketing) but more to do with a passion for selling ideas, attitudes and behaviours, an incessant craving to be social, and being able to see things from ‘the others’ eyes.

As a discipline, Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman take credit for its emergence in early 70s. The duo argued that that systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques to sell products to consumers could as well be put into better use to achieve a set of behavioural goals intended to bring about social good or positive change for an individual in particular, and society in general.

Over the years, international health organizations have used it extensively in their programmes that many find it hard to delink it from health communication. However, Social Marketing should not be confused with Social Media Marketing. Social Marketing is a way of understanding how tools of commercial marketing help with the development of effective services and interventions based on consumer insights.

If in the earlier days, Marketing ushered in catalog and direct mail careers, today industry experts contend we can be comfortable enough to proclaim Social Marketing as the most talked about job offering. In between the years, web design firms and ad agencies were the most sought after before the relentless pursuit of specialists in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

If Social Marketing focuses on understanding the motivations of the target audience when planning programmes to influence, and ultimately change behavior, knowledge of both the theory and practice of marketing, in-depth and critical understanding of research methodologies and planning and strategy are considered ideal preparations for those seeking to find their niche in the discipline.


socialThe work of Social Marketers revolve around building engagement via community management and content creation while assisting in monitoring and moderation, working closely with communication specialists and reporting on industry and competitive trends, campaign initiatives and community optimisation.

According to Nedra, a social marketing consultant, author and speaker who works with nonprofits and government agencies for positive health and social change using social media, trans media storytelling and entertainment education approaches at Weinreich Communications, more often, you will see jobs with titles like “social marketing coordinator” or “director of social marketing,” which was not very common a few years back. There are also positions which do not necessarily focus on social marketing, but in which you can bring the same principles and practices in your interventions.

For anyone aspiring to working in the field of social marketing, there are different settings that include, but are definitely not limited to:

  • Public Relations/Advertisement Agencies
  • Marketing Agencies
  • International Development Organizations (IDOs)
  • Governments, at national, state and local levels
  • Departments/ Agencies focusing on health, the environment, energy and safety
  • Non-profit organizations, at the international, national and local levels
  • Schools and universities
  • Consultancy firms



How important is training in a people oriented career as Social Marketing? Very, I would say, but not as much many would like us to believe. There are those who ventured into Social Marketing because of their interest in the well-being of people in the society and the appeal of using mass media to promote healthy behaviours. Others will confide they found themselves flowing with the wave. Whatever be the reasons, a lot of establishments now exist that offer grounding for those with a keen interest to become Social Marketers. A litany of schools offer graduate programmes with a focus on social marketing from public health perspective. Others offer at least some related coursework, either in their public health or business school’s curriculum that should help you kick start your career. Ordinarily, an undergraduate degree in communications, marketing, advertising, public relations, media studies, business or related fields should suffice. For anyone preparing for a stint in Social Marketing, a firm grounding in research methods, evaluation design, behaviour change theory, marketing and communications, mass media, sociology and psychology will be handy. What should not be lost on any aspirant is that much of the skills required are what they bring to the Social Marketing table.

Let me add that Social Marketing involves and demands creativity – ability to develop creative social media content and execute new and compelling marketing tactics that resonate with target audience to achieve brand goals.


Social Marketing offers good compensation but again this is dependent on the agency or organisation you opt to work in. Since it is an industry that is ‘need based’ and ‘budget based’, a large scale campaign will certainly get you more moolahs than a local one.

Needless to say, those who work in international agencies or organizations take home a better pay check. But like other similar vocations, there seem to be something for everyone who is ready to take a plunge.