Social and Political Marketing: Is there a difference between Propaganda and Social and Political Marketing?

Subject: 🗳️ Politics
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 914
Topics: Propaganda, Marketing
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Marketers in contemporary business organizations embrace many techniques to reach a wider audience. In fact, newer approaches evolve daily as technological advancements alter and transform businesses. Marketing is such an important process in business; failure to use the best strategies may lead to poor performance in the market. According to Sheth and Sisodia (2015), current trends in marketing have adopted new techniques that cut across social sciences and politics to reap maximum benefits. Corner (2007) argues that persuasive strategies used by social and political marketers have many common features that should be scrutinized using scholarly efforts. Such occurrences in business have raised the question on the differences among social marketing, political marketing, and propaganda. The contribution of social sciences to political and social marketing is responsible for certain similarities and differences between the concepts. The purpose of this essay is to, therefore, scrutinize these marketing-related terminologies with a view clarifying the similarities and possible differences among them.

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Meaning of Social, Political and Propaganda Marketing Strategies

Politics use propaganda and other related techniques to market their products. Bernays (1928b) observes that manipulation of masses requires similar strategies whether in business or in politics. According to his research, perhaps there is a thin difference among political, propaganda and social marketing strategies. By definition, social marketing refers to the process of putting together marketing principles to positively transform the welfare of people either socially or economically. Herman and Chomsky (2010) argue that social marketing utilizes concepts of product, price, place of residence, and promotional services to reach out to consumers. On the other hand, propaganda is a strategy of promoting a particular way of thinking. As such, communication is an important strategy for propaganda. Bernays (1928b) posits that “a public that learns more and more how to express itself will learn more and more how to overthrow the tyranny of every sort” (p. 960). In marketing, propaganda is used to present facts, deceptions, and falsehood to sway buyers to accept the messenger’s point of view. Political marketing brings together political science and marketing strategies to sway people to subscribe to certain political ideologies (Corner, 2007). Offering stimulus to public opinion is a strategy used in political manipulation to live, progress, and move in direction of the ultimate social and individual benefit (Bernays, 1928b, p. 971).

Differences between Social and Political Marketing

Commercial marketing and political marketing have slight differences. According to Herman and Chomsky (2010), aside from the fact that commercial marketing and political marketing both involve products and services, it should be noted that social marketing tactfully crafts messages aimed at changing attitudes on a specific commodity. This involves truthful evaluation of the value of the products and careful consideration of how the product is likely to influence behavior among the consumers. Political propaganda marketing, on the other hand, may have subjective falsehoods seeking to stress only the speaker’s point of view. The purpose of political marketing is to establish public relations. Maloney (2000) observes that political marketing uses “communicative behavior designed to win advantage for its sender in a pluralistic competition” (P. 60). It is equally interesting to note that the difference between communication and propaganda is that “it is distinct from information manipulation and propaganda: at its worst, it degrades into them” (Maloney, 2000, p. 60). This shows a very thin line in the difference. According to Jowett and O’Donnell (2014), the differences between political and social marketing strategies is a topic worthy of scholarly perusal because delimited attention has been paid to this area. Further present research should investigate the topic in order to clear the confusions associated with the two concepts.

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Secondly, whereas social marketing in business is perceived to be less manipulative, political propaganda is cited as one of the strategies of manipulating masses in order to have voters buy political ideas. This is because political marketing seeks “celebrity status and redress of grievances” (Maloney, 2000, p. 60). Schiller (1973) contends that social marketing utilizes commerce and social sciences as disciplines in caring for the needs of the consumers while political propaganda is considered impersonal and exaggerated means of rallying support among masses. Closely linked to this is the idea that many scholars such as Schiller (1973), Corner (2007), and Bernays (1928a) stress about propaganda and adage that its marketing is simply a well thought out communication without proper structure. The manifestos of politicians are therefore seen to be tools that achieve seasonal impact for a given period of the tenure. Corner (2007) reiterates that propaganda is termed ‘bad communication’ in any context irrespective of the type of judgment one brings to it (p, 669).

Another difference between social marketing and political marketing arises in the direction of the techniques. Snow (2010) opines that political propaganda is unidirectional in its approach. This means that politicians are only interested in crafting messages that directly support their purpose. Maloney (2000) observes that political marketing is majorly concerned with a “popularizing activity to draw attention to policies and to rising politicians among citizens in a way which gives substance to important features” (p. 62). By contrast, social marketing involves planned strategies such as planning, scope, development, implementation, evaluation and follow up. This is the idea cushioned by Sheth and Sisodia (2015) who opine that the purpose of political marketing ends where the masses have voted for the people in power. This is different from social marketing which is perpetually concerned with the modification and adjustment of consumers’ behavior in relation to the products. Conceivably, a good example of social marketing as a behavior modifier is that elucidated by Bovary (2017). According to her, cigarette manufacturers in the early last century had to come up with a strategy to convince half of the world’s non-smokers to acquire the habit. A portrait of a woman gingerly smoking was made with a caption “Is she smoking that or making love to it?” Arguably, the intention of the caption was to indicate the erotic nature of cigarette smoking and motivate or persuade the intended audience to acquire the behavior. Whereas the interests of the consumers are the motivation for the social marketers, political order is concerned about the anxieties of the people and this forces them to be “vigilant towards it as a form of discourse which causes enmity” (Corner, 2007, p. 671).

Similarities between Social marketing and Political Marketing

Although many think that social marketing and political propaganda are so different from each other, it is important to point out that political marketing shares more in common with social marketing especially in aspects like communication services, money, customer loyalty, and marketing promises among other issues (Bernays,1928b). The first similarity between the two systems borders on product function. According to O’Shaughnessy (1996), the difference between social and political marketing is diluted by the fact that both of these systems share concepts like leadership, staff, symbols, logo, policies and other issues crafted to meet the needs of the masses. By way of example, in social marketing, it is crucial to consider the relationship among policies, logo, and names on the manipulation of the consumers’ behavior. This parallel is evident in political marketing whereby campaign strategies have to consider the effectiveness of various activities and utterances on the behavior of the masses.

Secondly, social marketing and political marketing share a lot in the communicative agenda. O’Shaughnessy (1996) stresses that creation of messages and a thorough consideration of the ways they will be interpreted by masses is a key similarity between political marketing and social marketing. Further, although politics often use propaganda and untruthful insinuations, it cannot be argued that they do not consider the consequences of their communicative strategies. Advertising and marketing strategists are always careful to present messages that are devoid of ambiguity and unintended interpretation. Sheth and Sisodia (2015) emphasize that marketing needs the strategies employed by politicians who carefully weigh the effect of their communication in achieving the mission. In other words, the persuasion of a political marketer is directly mapped on those of social marketers. This idea is cushioned by Blumenthal (1982) who notes that “in the 1980s, advertising began to become a significant source of revenue for newspapers” (p. 15). This is the similar way in which crafted political speech has also been made a strategy for campaign and promotion of ideas (Maloney, 2000).

Considering the marketing methods of social marketers and political marketers, it draws the conclusion that similarity exists. Burchell, Rettie, and Patel (2013) observe that politicians adopt a transaction strategy which makes the voter reason that the policies presented are likely to positively influence their lives thus voting for it. This is the same method used by social marketers. It is equally important to note that market intelligence is one critical tool utilized by both systems. Sheth and Sisodia (2015) mention that whereas politics markets ideologies, social marketing deals with sustainable development through the ideological and attitudinal transformation of the consumers. The similarity here is based on market intelligence that meets the demands of the masses. Addressing this point, Schiller (1973) opines that two persons responsible for manipulation of the mind are politicians and social marketers. This is due to similar tools applied by both systems. Marketing approaches applied by these systems make a thin difference in the political and social.

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Internal cohesion is yet another shared similarity between political and social marketers. In the opinion of Mullen (2010), the strides made by power brokers using political propaganda strategies have in the present ages embraced commercial steps in swaying individuals to their side. This is further cushioned by the fact that internal and external cohesion consider the relationships among stakeholders and the general public in terms of their response. It is noteworthy to mention that propaganda internal stability in social marketing leads to outside stability. In a similar fashion, politicians emphasize the need to design policies that promote cohesion internally before addressing the concerns of the public. As Sheth and Sisodia (2015) observe, voter profiling, analytics and research are key features that characterize both social and political marketing. This means that attractive vision for the masses is arrived at through internal and external cohesion.

Transformation of people’s attitudes in social and political marketing can be approached from the angle of theory and competition. Maloney (2000) assert that theoretically, behaviorism is an approach used by both social and political marketers. In other words, the two groups are interested in the mobilization of masses for ideological benefits. Further, as people are motivated to give up costs in order to gain benefits, a behavioral approach is important in this system. In political marketing, it is the mandate of the opinion leaders to persuade individuals to leave certain inclinations in order to buy the speaker’s point of view. This brings up the concept of behavioral manipulation.

Of close reference to behaviorism is the idea of competition. Taylor (2003) notes that the munitions of the mind require some art. This is what politicians use in marketing their political manifestos. In this process, competitions stand out as a defining feature. Just like social marketers who have to identify what competes for the consumers’ time, politicians employ techniques that divert all attention to them during campaigns. It is equally interesting to note that seeking attention and the ability to behave in a certain way is a shared feature of social marketers and political marketers. This means that both systems are in some way involved in conditioning the behavioral response by triggering competition. Burchell, Rettie, and Patel (2013) observe that knowledge exchange or intermediaries are crucial to politicians, commercial, and social marketers. This, therefore, means that a clear-cut correlation exists between the activities of social marketers and political marketers. In these contemporary times, the shared news function is evident in media management and online platforms where both systems have embraced the latest strategies to reach audiences and change their attitudes to specific elements designed by messages.

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In conclusion, this paper set out to investigate the difference between social and political marketing. Although many believe that these are distinctly different terminologies and approaches, the present research has revealed that perhaps just a few areas may be cited to have differences. Through scholarly perusal, it is evident that politicians and marketers apply somehow similar approaches in reaching out to their audiences. The strategies used by the two systems involve theoretical and practical knowledge in the manipulation of masses and change of attitude. Areas such as communication, functions, structure, and product function among others have been investigated in this paper. This paper, therefore, concludes that social marketing and political marketing are indeed more similar than different. Participants in different platforms can, therefore, borrow techniques from the other field because all are designed by social science and commercial tools.

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  1. Bernays, E. 1928 (a).  The Psychology of Public Relations’ chapter IV in Propaganda O’Shaughnessy, N., 1996. Social propaganda and social marketing: A critical difference? European Journal of Marketing, 30(10/11), pp.54-67.
  2. Bernays, E.L., 1928 (b). Manipulating public opinion: The why and the how. American Journal of Sociology, 33(6), pp.958-971.
  3. Blumenthal, S. 1982.  The Interpretation of American Dreams. Edward Bernays’ in the permanent campaign. Inside the World of Elite Political Operations. Touchstone Publishers. Chapter 1. Library: JK2281 BLU and QM
  4. Bovary, J. 2017. ‘Cigarettes and the Seduction of Women’, Owlcitation, 19 February, accessed Dec 2017 from
  5. Burchell, K., Rettie, R. and Patel, K., 2013. Marketing social norms: Social marketing and the ‘social norm approach’. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 12(1), pp.1-9.
  6. Corner, J., 2007. Mediated politics, promotional culture and the idea of propaganda’. Media, Culture & Society, 29(4), pp.669-677.
  7. Herman, E.S. and Chomsky, N., 2010. Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. New York, NY: Random House.
  8. Jowett, G.S. and O’donnell, V., 2014. Propaganda & persuasion. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  9. Maloney, K., 2000. Rethinking public relations. In The Spin.
  10. Mullen, A., 2010. Twenty years on: The second-order prediction of the Herman-Chomsky propaganda model. Media, Culture & Society, 32(4), pp.673-690.
  11. O’Shaughnessy, N., 1996. Social propaganda and social marketing: a critical difference?. European Journal of Marketing, 30(10/11), pp.54-67.
  12. Schiller, H. I., 1973. The Mind Managers. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
  13. Sheth, J.N. and Sisodia, R.S., 2015. Does marketing need reform?: Fresh perspectives on the future. New York, NY: Routledge.
  14. Snow, N., 2010. Introduction’ in Propaganda, Inc. (Third edition) New York, NY: Seven Stories Press.
  15. Taylor, P.M., 2003. Munitions of the Mind. A history of propaganda from the ancient world. New York, NY: Palgrave.
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