How can social marketing raise awareness about climate change?

It is understood that social marketing has the power to affect our behavior and thoughts through different adverting techniques, for instance, which often have a visual impact on people. Most times it is used to promote marketing goods or ideas that enhance the image of a certain company and has the ability to “play with our heads” – in the good and in the bad. However, some consider social marketing to do little to achieve noncommercial goals, but this is a dangerous oversimplification and underestimation of the influence of social marketing.  “In an age of climate change, environmental destruction, natural resource shortages, fast population growth, hunger and poverty, as well as insufficient social services, what contributions might marketing make?” (Serrat, 2010)

To begin with, I want to illustrate how the word “social” in particular is crucial here and why it has to do both with the way of marketing needed and climate change itself. First of all it can be considered a social problem because it affects almost everyone (for instance global warming) whether in varying intensity. There are many people suffering of pollution and environmental damages in many different ways. Furthermore “social sciences hold the key to the solution of the severe environmental problems” because “humans have come to dominate earth systems thanks to the power of social cooperation.”(Laurent)
Finally social problems and environmental problems depend on each other or rather are interdependent.

Contrary to Mancur Olson’s “logic of collective action” the environment can be much better protected by a larger heterogeneous group of people than by some individual persons. (cf. pg 10). Therefore we need a demand in society for environmental protection. Besides we need a strong society for rescuing the people after “natural disasters”.

Now, from an other point of view, a social problem often needs solution strategies of a social nature, therefore that is a good moment for marketing to step in; the atmophere where it operates is mainly collective and affiliates a lot of people, this way the message is more efficiently conveyed. As mentioned, social marketing “is no longer a mere function used to increase business profits” but more like a social process – “composed of human behavior patterns concerned with exchange of resources or values” – as well as “organizing the creation, communication, and delivery of products and services to meet their desires as well as the needs of society, and solve serious social problems”. (Serrat,2010) This being said, communication and marketing interventions show to have considerable potential to promote important population behavior change objectives by providing potential target audiences with programs that contain the attributes of effective climate change messages.

Good examples about raising awareness about climate change and enhancing behavioral change in people through social marketing are for example campaigns with social or environmental objectives, undertaken by government or non-governmental organizations. (WWP)

“Tackling climate change will require a huge shift in mindset and a willingness among the public to make lifestyle changes. Effective communication will be essential. WPP is participating in Shaping the Message on Climate Change, an initiative of the UN and International Advertising Association, to improve communication on climate change and ensure a successful outcome at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009.”

What are then the components of a good campaign about climate change?  First of all, it is good to be aware that “the effectiveness of social marketing rests on the demonstration of direct impact on behavior; it is this feature that sets social marketing distinctly apart from communication or awareness-raising approaches (where the main focus is on highlighting information and helping people understand it)”. Then, most consumers 6aacd5836ee9cc363cccde82580ca17dare looking to business to take greater action on climate change, and expect greater competition in the next few years around this issue. They prefer easier choices and more help differentiating environmentally sound products from others. Certain sectors, such as investment, transport and oil, face more scrutiny than others because environmental objectives are perceived to be fundamentally at odds with their way of operating. (Downing and Ballantyne)

” Effective communication on climate change which is capable of motivating changes in consumer behaviour (rather than simply raising awareness further) will depend upon: the relevance of climate change to consumers’ lives and the relationship to their consumption behaviours being made clear; targeting strategies which take account of differences amongst key consumer segments; and developing a message which motivates rather than overwhelms consumers whilst avoiding any perceptions of `greenwashing´.” (Peattie and Pontings, 2009)


Laurent, É (September, 2013) “Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality”,OFCE/Sciences Po-Paris, Standfor University, Harvard University, retrieved from:

Peattie, K, Peattie, S and Ponting, C,(2009) “Climate change: a social and a commercial marketing communications challenge”, EuroMed Journal of Business, Vol. 4, retrieved from:

Downing, P and Ballantyne, J (2007) “Social Marketing & Climate Change: Tipping Point or Turning Point?”, Ipsos Mori-Social Research Institute, retrieved from:

Serrat, O, (January, 2010) “Knowledge Solution”, Asian Development Bank, retrieved from:

WWP Corporate Responsability Report 2008/2009, retrieved from:

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