Advantages and disadvantages of using social marketing in not-for-profit organization

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1. Profile of WWF

WWF, well known World Wildlife Fund, is one of the most influential not for profit organizations that focuses on environment protection which was set up in 1961 with the initiative to save the endangered species. And with more than 1300 projects currently running all over the world, WWF is trying hard in hand of many global NGOs to tackle many local problems such as food security, aquatic biodiversity, illegal exploitation of forests in Gabon and so on (WWF official website 2010). On one hand WWF try to fix the current issues with the help from governments, volunteers and other NGOs which is necessary to stop such issues from deteriorating in term of various projects. And on the other hand, WWF also put efforts into the educating the public in order to arouse their consciousness in environmental protection and stop supporting the environment sabotage behaviors. And this public education is often achieved by social marketing. Below the essay will choose to represent the company’s recent complain against the golf building and will try to explain how WWF, as an example of other not for profit organizations, uses social marketing in fulfilling its company goals. To be more detailed, the easy will focus on answering the following three questions:

What is the 4Ps in the social marketing which is different from traditional marketing concepts?

How the 4Ps help the WWF educating the public not to support golf building?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using social marketing?

2. Marketing’s 4Ps

Despite that there are disagreements claiming that the 4Ps classification of marketing mix instruments does not fulfill the requirement of a good taxonomy (Waterschoot & Bulte 1992), the 4Ps classification, i.e. product, price place and promotion, is still the one of the most used and fundamental way of marketing mix measurement. And in the area of social marketing which was first defined by (Kotler & Zaltman 1971) as application of marketing concepts and techniques to promote desired social changes, is different from the commercial marketing which is focusing in making money. In contrast, social marketing focus on more selling ideas to the public to influence people’s social behaviors towards the trend which will bring benefit to the general society as a whole, below this part of easy will focuses on the 4Ps of social marketing in the actual uses with the WWF as a case study.

2.1 Product

Dislike the concept of product in the commercial marketing, in the area of social marketing the idea of product is not confined to physical product and services such as free food offering and medical service; it even covers the offering of intangible ideas such as the idea that smoking is bad for health. In case of the intangible ideas offering, there are two parts of it, the first part is the reminding of the problem then it is the second part which is the offering of the solution to the problem indentified, and in many case the first part is of prior importance as people would know how to do with it if they actually recognize the seriousness of the problem and accept it as part of their value and belief. The rationale is simple, for example, if people accept that smoking is bad for health then they do know how to do with it, they will give up smoking and ask their families and friends to give up smoking too.

Since there are various product and services that WWF currently provides, to make the explanation more specific, one product is indentified in this essay which is also an idea offering kind of product: deforestation caused by golf course building. According to the print ads of WWF under the theme of “Axe”, building a single golf course will at the cost of removing two hundred thousand trees which will suck away 15,000 cubic meter (Unknown 2007) because of that glass land of the golf court is hard to keep water compare to the wood land. The solution to this problem is obvious: people should notice this problem and exert pressure to those who try to build more golf and for those who play golf should be put under public pressure since they contribute to the golf industry which provides incentive to build more golf courts.

2.2 Price

The concept of price in the social marketing is totally different from that of commercial marketing which is the amount of money that the customers pay in exchange for the products and service, it is cost that people should do in order to get the social products (Weinreich 2006). Such cost also takes many forms such as money, actions and time.

In this case, the WWF did not provide clear instruction of how people should do in order to stop the building of golf courts to prevent the deforestation. But in commence sense if people really want to help with this issue, there are several ways in which they could be helpful.

Firstly, for those who are in fond of playing golf, they should stop playing. Because the great lovers of golf playing are the source of the revenue of the golf clubs, if the golf clubs lose their customers, obviously they could not even run their old golf courts not to mention their expansion plan to build more.

Secondly, for those who are in power of influencing the decision of whether building of the golf courts should be permitted or not, such as the politicians and shareholders of the golf club. It may seems to be silly to persuade the shareholders of the golf club not to be blinded by the instant money that earned, but if may work as nothing is impossible in this world. What’s more, even the common people could stop the building of the golf courts by demonstration which is usually the reason that some profitable plans are finally suspended.
2.3 Place

In the commercial marketing sector, the idea of place is often meaning the how the product and service are accessible to the potential customers. And this is quite similar as for the social marketing because the targeted public or group of people that should know the information and solution provided, it is also important to provide channels through which people could obtain the desired information, service and products that are offered in benevolent.

The way of spreading the harmfulness of building the golf courts, WWF adopted different ways to different target audience. For the general people, WWF handed out leaflets containing the information needed in the major shopping malls in the cities of countries in which some golf courts building are under processed. For the golf lovers, WWF also made advertisements near the major current golf courts to remind them of harmfulness of golf filed.

2.4 Promotion

The last 4Ps concept is the promotion; it includes all of the tools available to the marketer for “marketing communication” (Unknown 2010). The promotion mix usually contains personal selling, direct mail, sales promotion, exhibitions, public relations, advertising and sponsorship. And for the social marketing, these six elements of the promotions mix are also usually adopted to communicate the target audience but with a different focus as the social marketing are more focusing on the spreading of the social idea rather than the selling revenue. This will cause the fact many NGOs will not use sale promotion as often as their commercial counterparts do. They will use the public relations, advertising more often the remind people the recommended social behaviors.

As in the campaign against the golf building, the WWF adopted public relations, advertising and direct mail as their major promotion mix. Below the usage of the advertising will be analyzed in detail. In order to create impression on the target audience who see the advertisements, in Turkey in which several golf courts were under planning to build at the same time, WWF hired an advertising agency called Ogilvy & Mather in Istanbul to create a series of print ads to transmit this information in a impressive and vivid way as seem in appendix 1.0.

Figure 1.0 The creative magazine print ad for WWF

Above in Figure 1.0, this print ad which is base on the knowledge learnt from the original print ads as stated in appendix 1.0, express the same idea by restating the fact the a golf court will caused 200, 000 trees. In the advertisement, the world no.1 golf player Tiger Woods is playing golf with a lot of audience watching, at this time one audience murmur with disagreement: “another 200, 000 trees” which implies that no matter how well Tiger Woods plays, it cannot cover the fact that this golf court was built at a cost of 200, 000 trees. On the foot of the print ads, the WWF data is shown and appeal is given to stop the golf building.

3. Discussion of the use of social marketing

There are advantages and disadvantages to using the social marketing to promote social changes. The advantages are great:

Firstly, the social marketing creates a more comprehensive and two way communication with the target audience. With the introduction of social marketing, the old way of noticing the public about the service and products available by public announcements had been changed to a more humanized way of communicating and listening to the target audience with the help of the marketing skills. For example by making marketing research, the NGOs now will know better what are the top issues of priority to the public in a region which they hope most will be fixed as soon as possible.

The second advantage is that social marketing is effective in promoting social changes. Especially in the nowadays with the help of the internet, the spreading of the information is fast and timely, target audience are now very convenience to access to the advertisements provide by the NGOs to publicize the social norms that will benefit the society as a whole in the long run. And many successful cases have shown that social marketing is very effective in motivating the social power to stop many short sighted business programs.

There are also two disadvantages that worth a mention.

The first disadvantage of social marketing is that the cost of social marketing is also high. As the idea of the appeal social behaviors are of dullness, the NGOs have to spend a lot of money in holding activities, exhibitions, and hiring excellent advertisers to create impressive advertisements, all these will cause money. In this point, considering the large sum of money that spent on such business like social marketing activities, is it going against the initiative to benefit the society? Is the investment of the social resource as mentioned above a must? This is quite a serious problem.

The second disadvantage is that by adopting the similar marketing principles the border between social marketing and commercial marketing is diminishing, so is the difference that perceived by the target audience. Some studies have prove that more and more people are getting bored with the so called “creative social advertisements” because there are actually to many such kind of advertisements like the commercial TV advertisements, if people are getting bored from seeing these advertisements and if people make no differences between social marketing and commercial marketing, maybe it is time to check the usage of the social marketing.


Kotler, P, Zaltman, G. 1971, Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change, Journal of Marketing 35:3-12.

Unknown, 2010, Promotion, accessed on April 24, 2010 [online] available:

Unknown, 2007, WWF: Axe, accessed on April 24, 2010 [online] available:

WWF official website, 2010, Who we are, how we came about, and what we’re about accessed on April 24, 2010 [online] available:

Waterschoot, W. V. & Bulte, C. V. D., 1992, The 4P Classification of the Marketing Mix Revisited, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 (October 1992), 83-93

Weinreich, N. K. 2006, What is Social Marketing? Accessed on April 24, 2010 [online] available:

Appendix 1 the original WWF print ads