Rethinking the Relationship Between Social/Nonprofit Marketing and Commercial Marketing

Alan R. Andreasen
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing
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Executive Summary
For 40 years, scholars have ignored an important implication of Philip Kotler and Sid Levy’s 1969 call to broaden the field of marketing. The marketing profession has treated social and nonprofit marketing as simply an application of commercial marketing concepts and tools to interesting problems. Basic textbooks and most articles allot only a few paragraphs or a few pages to the topic, often to showcase provocative advertising or remind managers of social impacts of their work. But it is time for a paradigm shift!

Nonprofit and social marketing should be seen for what it is—the most complex context that a marketing manager faces. Nonprofit marketers have to sell products and services (Goodwill), recruit volunteers (Habitat for Humanity), raise donated funds (United Way), secure government contracts (City Year), develop corporate partnerships (City Year), and get the support of community leaders who can make social change possible (KaBoom!). Each target group has its own concerns and interests and responds to different incentives. All commercial marketers have to do is sell products and services to customers. If marketing is fundamentally a challenge of influencing very diverse audiences—some of whom are customers—this suggests that the basic textbooks need to be rewritten. It is necessary to study commonalities and differences across types of behaviors across sectors and to develop much more complex optimization models for improved managerial decision making. Such rethinking of the field can have profound and positive implications for scholarship, research, and management.

Alan R. Andreasen is Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University. He is a world leader in the application of marketing to nonprofit organizations, social marketing, and the market problems of disadvantaged consumers. He is the author or editor of 17 books (including revisions); numerous monographs; and more than 135 articles, book chapters, and conference papers. He has advised, carried out research, and conducted executive seminars for the World Bank, American Cancer Society, AARP, USAID, CDC, American Red Cross, United Way of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and public health programs in the developing world. He is board member of Gifts in Kind International. He was awarded the 2007 Richard W. Pollay Prize for Intellectual Excellence in Research on Marketing in the Public Interest and, in 2008, the first lifetime achievement award of the Marketing and Society Special Interest Group of the American Marketing Association.

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Volume 31, Number 1, Spring 2012
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Alan R. Andreasen
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