Academic journal article Competition Forum

Application of the Relationship Paradigm to Social Marketing

Academic journal article Competition Forum

Application of the Relationship Paradigm to Social Marketing

Article excerpt


This paper makes a case for a broad-based and eclectic theoretical base for social marketing. Relationship oriented social marketing strategies can achieve durable and sustainable results in contrast to transactions based approaches. It offers a rationale for the natural fit between the relationship paradigm and social marketing. Social marketers need to understand different types of relationships and use the understanding to create appropriate strategies and tactics. The paper offers a typology of relationships as a basic tool for use by social marketers and offers a definition of relationship in the social marketing context.

Keywords: Relationship paradigm, social marketing definition, relationship typology


Marketing as a discipline has given birth to two significant spin-offs - relationship marketing and social marketing- both of which have rapidly evolved into distinct domains. Some writers have attempted to elevate them to the level of freestanding and full-fledged disciplines on their merits. The controversy about whether they are domains or disciplines remains unresolved. The 'Summit' of Social Marketing thought leaders, convened by Porter Noveli in 1996 and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 1998, focused on identifying barriers and challenges facing social marketing as a field (Newton-Ward, Andreasen et al. ,2004). These efforts to examine challenges and identify solutions have become the focus of scholars since then. The Ninth Innovations in Social Marketing Conference identified two major challenges. These are (a) Social Marketing needs to be viewed as an upstream approach that is capable of addressing the social, environmental, and economic determinants outside the control of individual (Donovan and Hanley, 2003) and it needs to clarify its brand image, improve portfolio of best practices, and enhance its academic stature (Andreasen, 2002). Andreasen had suggested that the solution was to 'tap into commercial marketing expertise and innovation. This suggestion to borrow from the commercial marketing is valuable in the context of social marketing's commercial marketing roots. Nevertheless, it is likely to encourage tunnel vision, hamper social marketers from exploring other related disciplines, and limit its ability to attain the status of an independent, broad-based and multi-faceted discipline.

Commercial marketing does not need to be the sole source of inspiration for social marketers. The time is opportune to explore other disciplines for expertise and innovative approaches, especially those that have focused on behavior change. One example is relationship marketing. The relational thinking paradigm introduced by Morgan and Hunt has since become its cornerstone and building relationships with stakeholders has become a key ingredient for successful marketing programs to secure customer retention and loyalty (Morgan and Hunt, 1994). Hastings underscores the value of relationship marketing to social marketing in the following words: "The future of social marketing depends on continuing this learning from commercial marketing and in particular, its recent moves toward relational paradigms.(Hastings, 2003). Doner similarly challenges social marketers to perceive social marketing programs "through the lens of relationship marketing rather than traditional, salesoriented marketing" (Doner, 2003). It is important to examine the value of relationship approach to social marketing in its quest to become a broad-based discipline.

The objectives of this paper are to present a case for the application of the relational paradigm to social marketing and offer rationale for developing relationship-based social marketing and to offer a definition of relationship for social marketers. It also attempts to develop a typology of relationships for social marketing.


Hastings, in a seminal article, has shown how relationships can be built with different stakeholders and proposed a multirelationship model of social marketing. …

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