For both academics and practitioners who are involved with social marketing, the domain remains in its infancy. And, as is typically the case with any new applied field, while programs and approaches are being developed and implemented by practitioners, academics are expending considerable effort on defining "what it is," "where it comes from" (i.e., What are the contributing or underlying disciplines from which it borrows?), and "where it is going." The last includes an assessment of current work and the direction that work is taking.
Implicit in much of the work that is done is the assumption that educated, well-intentioned professionals, usually but not always funded by government, can effectively address a variety of societal problems and, in so doing, successfully improve the lives of specific communities within society, either domestically or abroad. Of course how one "improves the lives" of these targeted others and, even more basically, what constitutes "improving the lives" of others is a phrase that much like "beauty" lies in the "eye of the beholder."
Consider two examples: For some, efforts to rid society of guns may be part of a worthwhile social marketing intervention to reduce violence, whereas for others, encouraging citizens to arm themselves may be the perceived route to the same goal. Similarly, for some, condoms may be a critical weapon in efforts to reduce sexually transmitted diseases, yet for others (who may prefer to encourage abstinence), condoms may be viewed as an instrument that is likely to encourage sex and hence increase sexually transmitted diseases. Although some of these differences may be put to an empirical test, some differences occur at the level of basic values, and