Beyond the Nostalgia
William A. Smith Academy for Educational Development, Washington, DC
The future of social marketing is more interesting than ever. For the past two decades, the focus has been on the "marketing" part of social marketing. Theorists have tried to explain, to sell, to carry out, to evaluate, and to accommodate the basic premises of a marketing mentality to a robust social sector, largely dominated by public investment in disease prevention, the protection of the environment, and the control of human fertility. The problem has been to explain the theory of exchange, the concepts of segmentation, target marketing, consumer research, and positioning to a deeply committed, but often very skeptical, audience of people trying to do good in the world.
Today, it is the "social" in social marketing that is under attack. The question is no longer, why use social marketing to help people, but rather why help people? And, if you have to help them, why use government? The reinvention of the social contract between government and the people forces social marketers to fundamentally reassess their role and their future in the world. America's eroding leadership role in the world; a widespread sense that for the first time in history children may not be better off than their parents; the endless stream of intimately reported murders, rapes, and psychosis reported on the nightly news; and a growing impatience with the regulation of American life by "health Nazis" and "tree huggers" has created an anti-safety net mentality. The relentless "sell" of nutrition, exercise, safe sex, and the regulation of discrimination and the protection of the environment have led to a backlash, even among many who want