Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis And Comment

Putting social marketing into practice

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 18 May 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1210
  1. Gerard Hastings (, director1,
  2. Laura McDermott, research officer1
  1. 1 Institute for Social Marketing, Stirling and the Open University, Stirling FK9 4LA
  1. Correspondence to: G Hastings

    Social marketing is acquiring a familiar ring to people in the health sector. The UK government's recent public health white paper talks of the “power of social marketing” and “marketing tools applied to social good [being] used to build public awareness and change behaviour.”1 This has led to the formation of the National Social Marketing Centre for Excellence, a collaboration between the Department of Health and the National Consumer Council. The centre will develop the first social marketing strategy for health in England. Similarly, the Scottish Executive recently commissioned an investigation into how social marketing can be used to guide health improvement. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States all have social marketing facilities embedded high within their health services. Evans has outlined social marketing's basic precepts.2 We develop some of these ideas and suggest how social marketing can help doctors and other health professionals to do their jobs more effectively.

    Embedded Image

    Selling lifestyle


    An old enemy and a new friend

    Marketing has long been a force to be reckoned with in public health. In the hands of the tobacco, alcohol, and food industries it has had a well documented effect on our behaviour.36 In the case of tobacco companies this has culminated in extensive controls being placed on their marketing activities. Social marketing argues that we can borrow marketing ideas to promote healthy behaviour. If marketing can encourage us to buy a Ferrari, it can persuade us to drive it safely.

    Marketing is based on a simple and unobtrusive idea: putting the consumer and the stakeholder at the heart of the business process. Whereas Henry Ford focused on selling what he could produce—any colour you want as long as it's black—modern marketers invert this rubric and produce what they can sell. This deceptively simple change has revolutionised …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription