Social Marketing – A Fresh Approach To Promoting Sustainable Lifestyles ?
Ken Peattie and Sue Peattie, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
The discipline of social marketing involves the application of the philosophy, perspective and toolkit of the commercial marketer to key social policy issues. It is a relatively young, but rapidly growing, discipline. Many of its early successes have been in areas relating to personal health, where it has been used to influence individuals' behaviour to quit smoking, drink less, or exercise more. Social marketing initiatives have been less prevalent in environmental issues, although it has been applied to the promotion of behaviours such as energy saving and recycling.

This paper looks at the potential for social marketing to promote more sustainable lifestyles, and to encourage new partnerships between commercial organisations and policy makers. Recently there have been calls from the United Nations for approaches to promoting sustainability which rely less on generating fear and guilt amongst consumers, and which are better at understanding consumers and engaging with them. Social marketing offers a ready-made approach that is ideally suited to answer this call. It also has the potential to encourage constructive public-private partnerships because it frames key sustainability challenges in a language and logic that businesses can relate to.

However, the promotion of sustainability represents an issue of a size, scope and complexity beyond anything that has yet been tackled using social marketing. It therefore represents a major challenge to those who practice and promote social marketing, and to the policy makers for whom it represents a novel way of approaching the promotion of sustainable lifestyles. This paper combines insights from the evolution of social marketing, writings on sustainable lifestyles, and experience from the field of environmental marketing to explore some of the theoretical, cultural and practical challenges that the social marketing of sustainability will entail.

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