Understanding Social Marketing

What is Social Marketing?

Throughout the years, marketing has gained a negative reputation with consumers (of course, some would think otherwise). Oftentimes, marketers are seen as “manipulative”, “pushy”, “misleading”. These are some words that are negatively associated with marketing. However, this is not the case. Why so? Over the years, marketing has largely been seen as an activity for major brands and businesses that are trying to profit out of consumers. What about those people who are trying to raise awareness or raise funds for non-profit organizations or just to contribute positively toward the society.


5 Examples on Social Marketing in Action!


TOMs is a footwear brand who is a pioneer in the one-to-one business model for its product. They have known to be listeners of their customers. According to a recent article, TOMS listened even more during COVID-19. Using social media is one of the most effective way in engaging with customers, and human connection is an essential part of the brand’s ethos. Traditionally, TOMS donated a pair of shoe for each pair purchased. Shoes were donated to a child in need. 

TOMS was also a partner who was supporting the COVID-19 Global GIving Fund. They shared information on how to deal with anxiety and these information have kept their community connected. Maintaining personalized and real-time connections while fulfilling their business goal is what keeps their brand authentic.

American Red Cross

This is a non-profit organization that dedicates their time and effort in preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies (e.g., disasters). The Red Cross brings assistance to those who are in need without discrimination in its international and national capacity.  

During the pandemic, the Red Cross initiated a #DoingMyPart Campaign to increase the voice and visibility of local Red Cross volunteers, donors and supporters through social media posts. 


Patagonia is a designer brand for outdoor sport clothing and gear. These sports include climbing, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, fly fishing, and trail running. This brand prides on the durability of their products which results in consuming less energy, wasting less water, and creating less trash. The way they approach their product is to make sure the materials they use is environmentally friendly and is socially responsible. 

Other activities they are engaged in is that they pledge 1% of their sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. Patagonia has another business interest which encourages consumers to purchase used products and/or to trade in their product for store credit. Their Worn Wear brand is similar to the idea of secondary marketplace but now with the backing of their reputable brand name, more people are seeing the benefit of purchasing used products. 

The various social marketing activity that this brand has been engaging in has drawn attention among the younger generations including Generation Z. 


Starbucks is a well established brand name that possibly every consumer who drinks coffee knows about. Starbucks tries to market themselves to be more than a coffee shop, they are testing out different product lines including alcohol, and Boba-Styled iced coffee

As our society evolved, Starbucks has also stepped up to voice out against hate speech and believes in creating a welcoming and inclusive online communities. They believe that such a community needs the help from both business leaders and policy makers to come together to affect real change. Utilizing the power of social media, Starbucks seek to monitor all their platforms’ content, community health and brand suitability, with a continued focus on transparency, enforcement of their standards across their platforms, and governance and accountability. 

One of the ongoing projects that Starbucks have had is the sales of their Ethos water. For every bottle of water sold, Starbucks makes a 5-cent donation to the Ethos Water Fund, which is part of the Starbucks Foundation. Starbucks, as an organization, is expected to benefit an estimated 54, 000 people who currently lack access to clean water and sanitation services. This project is an opportunity to bring attention to the world water crisis, and to connect with others who believe in driving change through action. 

RIT MBA Marketing Class

Last year, during the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I came up with the idea to 1) change the perception of marketing, and 2) use the power of digital marketing to contribute toward those who are suffering during this pandemic. I couldn’t be more proud of my graduate students. 

The goal of the project was to use digital marketing and make a social impact in our local community. We raised sufficient funds to purchase 100 hygiene kits for a local domestic violence shelter. We hand wrote a personalized message to all the recipients of the hygiene kit that was produced by Clean the World

Although it was a small class, we managed to have an social impact on our community. We were even featured on our WHAM local news for our effort!


Pay It Forward

I strongly believe that we need to have faith and confidence in what we do. Having a strong passion for making a positive contribution to society is just the beginning. Of course, contribute while you can and don’t pressure yourself to do something that you cannot afford to (e.g., money, time). There will always be an opportunity to contribute.

There will always be an opinion about what we do or try to do. Some people will appreciate it, some would not. In an ideal world, we would like to please everyone but it is just not possible. But, don’t give up. Let’s pay it forward the way we see fits.  

Learn more about how you can use digital marketing to pay it forward!

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