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50 years of social marketing: seeding solutions for the future

Dietrich, Timo, Hurley, Erin, Carins, Julia, Kassirer, Jay, Rundle-Thiele, Sharyn, Palmatier, Robert W., Merritt, Rowena K., Weaven, Scott K., Lee, Nancy (2022) 50 years of social marketing: seeding solutions for the future. European Journal of Marketing, . ISSN 0309-0566. (doi:10.1108/EJM-06-2021-0447) (KAR id:99388)



This paper looks back to look forward, through a synthesising social marketing literature over the last fifty years, and delivers a set of guiding tenets to propel social marketing’s agenda forward.


Across three strands, this paper amalgamates theoretical and practitioner evidence from social marketing. This synthesis commences with a review, summary and critical discussion of five decades of social marketing research. Across strand 2 and 3, we review 412 social marketing interventions reported across 10 evidence reviews, and 238 case studies.


This paper demonstrates social marketing’s use of fundamental marketing principles and capability to achieve behaviour change outcomes. Social marketers have built frameworks and processes that non-profit organisations, government agencies and policy makers seeking to enact change can utilise. This paper delivers 5 tenets that summarise the findings of the three strands and delivers research priorities for the next 50 years of social marketing research to drive the field forward.

Research limitations/implications

Drawing on five decades of learning, this paper proposes research priorities that can be applied to refine, recalibrate and future-proof social marketing’s success in making the world a better place.

Practical implications

This article demonstrates the value of social marketing science and helps bridge gaps between theory and practice and further strengthen social marketing’s value proposition. This paper provides confidence that money invested in social marketing programs is well spent.


This paper delivers a forward-looking perspective and provides social marketing academics and practitioners with confidence that it can assist in overcoming society’s most pressing issues. The paper encompasses key social marketing literature since it was founded 50 years ago. Five tenets will guide social marketing forward: (1) evidencing marketing principles (2) operationalisation of processes, principles and activities (3) implementing systems thinking (4) creating and testing marketing theory, and (5) guiding a new social marketing era.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1108/EJM-06-2021-0447
Additional information: This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact
Uncontrolled keywords: Social marketing, marketing, 50 years, umbrella review, tenets.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5415 Marketing
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: George Austin-Coskry
Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2023 16:14 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2023 14:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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