Social Marketing

By Susan Langlois

Used primarily by civic organizations, social marketing, in its purest form, is about researching local community needs and promoting new behaviors to help meet these needs. A myriad of social problems can be addressed by social marketing techniques that create initiatives to prevent teenage pregnancy, increase voter turnout, enhance media literacy, prevent family violence, improve nutritional and exercise habits, and encourage more students to graduate from high school.


Camp business owners invest in the social marketing approach because it not only contributes to the greater good of the local community, but also presents the camp enterprise in a positive light to potential campers and their families who have a social conscience.

Contributing To The Camp Mission
If your mission has its focus on meeting the developmental needs of campers, using the social marketing approach can have a direct impact on their welfare. This impact traditionally takes place through the activities in the camp setting. Also, the initiatives developed by social marketing at the local level can be supplemented by new camp programming.

A great example of social marketing is increasing high school graduation rates by addressing the need for more students to complete their homework. A peer mentoring program can be established by partnering the camp business owner with the administrators at local schools, where teachers provide training to campers on tutoring. During the school year, this kind of peer mentoring can even take place online.

If obesity is identified as a community problem, it can be addressed by working with local vending machine businesses to provide healthier snacks. This initiative can be supported by having campers learn more about the nutritional values of snacks and giving input about what types of healthy snacks may be offered. Potential snacks can be analyzed based on nutritional value, taste, storage needs, and cost. The campers can submit a summary to the vendors which includes snack recommendations supported by the analysis.

When there is a community need to increase voter turnout, the camp business owner can partner with a local transportation company to provide rides to the polls on Election Day. Campers can design and produce posters to be displayed throughout the community that inform potential voters about this service.

Recruiting New Campers
In order to identify the most important concerns of the community, a camp business owner can seek out local members and have conversations about what issues matter to them. It is also an effective strategy to communicate to people that your camp business is invested in the welfare of the community. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful promotional tools to attract new customers. Engaging in conversations about improving the community can have an immediate impact on camper recruitment because people are aware that you care about their welfare, and they will have more confidence in what your camp has to offer.

Another way social marketing can help recruit new campers is in generating more earned media. Earned media is the media attention gained by contributing to the greater good of the community. If the reporter of a local newspaper, radio or television station produces a feature about your initiative to train peer tutors at your camp, the social marketing investment has just paid a dividend by spreading the word that your camp business is making a direct contribution to the community.

Getting Started
Getting started in social marketing can be as simple as attending a town hall meeting, networking at a school open house or just getting into a conversation with a local resident at the Fourth of July parade. Hiring a marketing firm to formulate interview questions will help identify community concerns.

Partnering with other civic groups and incorporating activities into camp programming make the goal easier to reach, and keeps your camp business connected to members of the community. In any case, it is important to remember the key concepts for successful social marketing. Using a term branded the “Four Ps,” by industry experts, marketing should include:

• Create an enticing product (i.e., the package of benefits associated with the desired action)

• Minimize the price the target audience believes it must pay in the exchange

• Make the exchange and its opportunities available in places that reach the audience

• Promote the exchange opportunity with creativity and through channels and tactics that maximize desired responses

Key concepts courtesy of the Social Marketing Institute

Susan Langlois has over 25 years experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sports facilities consultant. She is currently the campus director at Springfield College School of Human Services in Manchester and St. Johnsbury, N.H. She can be reached at