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Concept Of Social Marketing: An Indian Case Study

The objective of this paper is to understand the concept of social marketing, picking a social issue in India, identifying the target segment and the communication objectives, analysing the social marketing techniques used for that issue and developing a storyboard for television commercial based on the analysis. The social issue that I have taken in this paper is smoking. The reasons for this are

At least one-third of the adult population are addicted to smoking.

Smoking not only affects smokers but also non smokers because of passive smoking.

Around 4.5 million people die because of smoking each year.

Social Marketing

Social marketing may be defined as the adaptation of commercial marketing and sales concepts to bring certain specific behavioural changes on the target segment. This has become increasingly popular among government as an efficient and effective means of communication to address many serious social issues. The distinguishing feature of social marketing from commercial marketing is its objective of social good whereas commercial marketing concentrates on financials like profit, market share, etc. This technique has been used extensively in international health programs, especially for distribution of contraceptives and oral rehydration therapy (ORT). It is also frequently used for bringing about changes in socially significant attitudes and behaviour in such diverse areas as smoking, the use of seat belts in cars, drug abuse, heart disease, and organ donation. Social marketing is globally recognised as a key strategy for improving access to a wide range of products and services that directly and positively impact the outreach and coverage of health care.

Planning of social marketing programme

Social marketing applies commercial marketing skills and technologies to the analysis, planning, execution and evaluation of programs designed to influence behaviour change among target audiences in order to bring about socially beneficial health seeking behaviour. Planning a Social Marketing Programme (SMP) requires maintaining a consumer focus by addressing the different elements of the “marketing mix”, which are more commonly known as the “five Ps” : (i) a Product, (ii) its Price, (iii) its Place (or distribution), (iv) its Promotion and (v), the Partnership involved

Social Marketing in India

India was one of the first countries globally to adopt the social marketing of contraceptives to extend the coverage and outreach of the then family planning programme. By the end of the sixties, commercial marketing of condoms was two decades old. By 1970s, private sector companies with extensive distribution networks for consumer products were invited to assist government in improving the reach of their programmes. Government initiated massive advertising and awareness campaigns for social issues like smoking, family planning, caste discrimination, etc. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) also began to participate in the social marketing programme, with funding from Government as also from other organisations

Social issues in India

Some of the social issues that has been addressed by our government are awareness about

Health and hygiene among lower income group

Family planning

Caste discrimination




Child labour

Female infanticide

Marketing Techniques used by Government

Some of the advertisement techniques used by government to reach the target segments are

Advertisements in TV

The Government prepares advertisements for specific social causes and relays it in televisions, radio, etc. The main drawback of this is around 70% of the people in villages don’t have television or radio. Hence it cannot be exclusively used especially if the target segment is lower income people or villagers.

Direct campaign

This is the most effective way of creating awareness. The government with help from NGOs will send officers directly to the place to teach and create awareness among the people. The officers will demonstrate how to use a product or what are the ill effects of alcoholism, smoking, etc.

Print advertisement

The Government give print advertisements in local newspapers, directly issue pamphlets or paste posters in the locality.


Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco cannabis, is burned and the smoke tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practised as a route of administration for recreational drug use; combustion releases the active substances in drugs such as nicotine and makes them available for absorption through the lungs. It can also be done as a part of rituals, to induce trances and spiritual enlightenment. The most common method of smoking today is through cigarettes, primarily industrially manufactured but also hand-rolled from loose tobacco and rolling paper. Other smoking tools include pipes, cigars, hookahs, vaporizers and bongs. It has been suggested that smoking related disease kills one half of all long term smokers but these diseases may also be contracted by non-smokers. A 2007 report states that about 4.9 million people worldwide each year die as a result of smoking.

Some facts about smoking and tobacco industry

The Food and Agricultural Organization has forecast an annual growth rate in global tobacco production and consumption at around 1.9%. The world market for tobacco products grew by 32% over the last five years. Global cigarette consumption has grown by 22% since 1980 and was estimated at 5,422 billion sticks in 1995. Cigarettes constitute the principal form of tobacco usage in virtually every market of the world and account for 85% of global tobacco consumption by volume and 93% by value

Cigarette Industry in India

India is the second largest producer of tobacco in the world after China. It produced 572 million kgs of tobacco in 2002-2003. Cigarettes, with only 14% of the Indian consumption, account for more than 85% of the total revenue from tobacco products.

Reasons for smoking

The common reasons for starting the habit of smoking are

in order to socialise with the crowd

to show masculinity

influence from people you respect and admire like

Friends and relatives

Favourite actors and sport stars

From movies

Portrayals from cigarette advertisement like showing smoking is cool

To calm your nerves under pressure

To appear sophisticated or cool

To assert your independence

As a sign of protest, rebellion or to defy authority

Harmful effects of Tobacco smoking

Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smokers die an average of 10 years sooner than non smokers. Tobacco is responsible for over half of the deaths from cancer. The Surgeon General issued a report in 1964 saying that smoking was harmful.

In 1983, cigarette smoking was ranked as the largest preventable cause of coronary heart disease (CHD). Smoking one to five cigarettes a day increases heart attack risk by 40% compared with nonsmokers, and smoking one pack per day quadruples the risk. In 1984, cigarette smoking was found to be the major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, for both men and women. A 2004 report stated that cigarette smoking causes diseases in nearly every organ of the body, and that it is conclusively linked to leukemia, cataracts, pneumonia and cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas and stomach. Unborn children and non-smokers who breathe smoke exhaled by smokers and burning tobacco (second-hand smoke) can also become sick, and thousands of smoking-related fires occur yearly. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) show that smoking kills over 440,000 people per year in the United States.[1]  For comparison, approximately 400,000 Americans died in World War II, 58,000 American soldiers died during the Vietnam war, and 2,800 people died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed after being hit by two hijacked airplanes on September 11, 2001. We mourn this great loss of life.  However, every year, the number of deaths caused by smoking is over 157 times greater than the World Trade Center, 7.5 greater than Vietnam, and exceeds those of World War II, but strangely, this does not cause any great outrage because we voluntarily inflict this on ourselves.

Analysis of the Anti smoking campaign

Government’s anti smoking campaign

Our government has taken lot of initiatives to eradicate smoking. They have shown advertisements about the ill effects of smoking in Television, created print ads and also conducted direct campaigning in many villages. Our government has banned tobacco companies to advertise about smoking in television, newspaper or radio channels. Many state governments banned smoking in public places, banned movies or serials showing people smoking.

. But in spite of all their efforts, smoking is growing at an alarming rate especially among teenage students because of the exposure about smoking in films, advertisements, etc.

The main reason behind this is Government and Ngo’s anti smoking campaign focuses mainly on lung cancer caused because of smoking. The theme of most of their ads is smoking causes cancer. But apart from that they failed to provide any concrete reasons for stopping smoking.

Cigarettes have nicotine in them which creates an addiction and cause nervousness, dizziness if a chain smoker stops smoking. Our Government is not providing solutions for these side effects. In western countries, they create awareness about nicotine patches which is available as a bandage and if a person paste that in their skin, the nicotine will reach the brain and thus reducing nervousness, dizziness, etc

Another reason for the failure is they are using the same methods or advertisements for different target segments. Since each segment is completely different from others, we need a different communication strategy and methodologies. Especially teenage people don’t care about their health and hence focussing on cancer problems maynot work for them. The only thing that could affect them is embarrassment in front of their friends

Target segment

More than 25% of the people of India are either smoking or chewing tobacco leaves. This can be broadly classified into three categories

1. Middle age men

2. Teenage people who start smoking and

3. Village people who are used to chewing tobacco.

Recently a fourth category i.e working middle age women is emerging. But since it is very small, and also they have the same mentality as middle age men, we can neglect that category.

Our marketing strategy should consider all the three segments while developing an advertisement. Since these three segments are completely different from each other in behaviour, attitude, perception, etc, we cannot develop a common advertisement to create awareness about smoking which would work for all three segments. Hence the government should develop different communication objectives and strategies for different target sgment.

Communication objectives for each target segment

Middle age men

This segment has more personal responsibilities than the other 2 segments since they have wife, children, etc. Hence the best strategy is to create awareness about the harmful effects of smoking. These people smoke because they are already addicted to smoking and they could not stop themselves from smoking.

The best communication strategies the government could use for them are

Increase awareness

The most important communication objective for this group is to create awareness about the harmful effects of smoking among people. They should stress the fact that smoking causes lung cancer and other fatal effects. They can also show the struggles of the families without them. Currently, the government is doing this by telecasting advertisements, direct campaigning and print media. Telecasting advertisements are probably the best strategy for this target segment.

Induce trial

In order to help them in getting over their addiction, the government should also advertise about nicotine patch which will reduce the nervousness and restlessness caused by quitting smoking. They should improve the distribution channel and also should provide discount for nicotine patches.

Village people who chew tobacco

For these people direct campaigning is the most effective way. The government along with some NGOs can go to villages and create awareness about tobacco chewing.

In villages, there would be some leaders for each group. If the NGOs convinced them about the harmful effect, then they could easily make other people in the group to quit tobacco. This technique called diffusion will reduce the cost considerably.

Teenage people

This target segment doesn’t have any responsibilities and hence they don’t care about their health. They start smoking because they think it is cool and one of the easiest ways to socialise with others. They watch movies, sports and idolises the movie stars and sport stars. Most of the movies show the hero smoking during pressure times or happy times. Heroines would fall in love with the hero after seeing the hero smoking in a stylish way. Also most of the sport stars smoke and it is shown in television. After seeing all these things, the teenage people would come to a conclusion that smoking is really cool and in order to be in a group or to get a girl friend one has to smoke. They would also be influenced by the people they like father, brother, etc. We can explain this using ABC model of Attributes

ABC model for teenage people

Initially after watching all those movie stars and sport stars, they develop an attitude towards the product, i.e. they feel that it would be cool to smoke. The attitude towards the object is proportional to the exposure they get i.e. number of people they saw smoking and enjoying.

After developing an attitude towards cigarettes, they will buy it and start smoking. They learn how to smoke and finally, they form an opinion based on the usage. Then they try to learn more about the different cigarette brands and different way of smoking. If they get addicted to the object, this stage will be lengthy i.e. they try different ways to get high. This will lead to using drugs, alcohol, etc. Ultimately, they will become drug addicts.

Actions to be taken

The normal government advertisements showing smoking as a cause of lung cancer will not work with the teenagers. Since they are not concerned about their health and try to live in the moment. They will take any risk to get into a group or to socialise with others. They think making friends is more important than their health. In order to change their attitude, the government could take the following actions

The first thing the government should do is to ban showing smoking scenes in movies, television or news papers, etc. This will help in altering the perception of young people. Some of the state government already banned smoking in public, showing smoking in movies, etc. For example Tamil Nadu government banned smoking 5 years ago and because of that Tamil super star like Rajnikant stopped smoking in the screen. This will go a long way in changing the perception of the teenagers. Also government can use these stars for their anti smoking campaigns.

The second and most important thing is the communication objectives. The communication objectives should be different for teenagers from the traditional campaigning

Communication objectives for teenagers

Increase awareness

Since the teenagers don’t care about their health, the government should try

a different angle. The thing that teenagers don’t like is getting embarrassed in front of friends, girlfriends and parents. Hence, the government could create awareness about harmful effect which would embarrass the teenagers. For example, they can communicate that Smoking causes impotency to boys and female infertility among girls. This will have an impact on the teenagers since they don’t want to be embarrassed in front of other.

Change Perception

Using the above method, the government can change the perception of the teenagers about smoking. This will make them realise that smoking is not that cool. As already mentioned above, if the government ban people from smoking in public or in movies, etc, perceptions can be changed.

Induce trial

This communication objective is for teenagers who are already addicted to smoking. Here, the government should induce them to use nicotine patch in order to make them quit smoking. Since these people would be unemployed, the government should initiatives like selling them in discount or giving it for free especially for school and college people.

Using the above analysis, I have come up with a storyboard for anti smoking campaign for teenage people. This is specifically for boys. For goilrs we can change the issue from impotency to female infertility. Thee crux of the advertisement is that effects like impotency will have a huge impact in people’s life. In fact in many cases it has lead to suicide. If we stress these issues using advertisements, there is a good chance that we could eradicate smoing.

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