ESMA TorontoThe 3rd World Social Marketing Conference brought together a great line-up of speakers, both social marketing scholars and practitioners in the lovely city of Toronto, Canada. We were challenged by thought provoking presentations and we left with the feeling that the field is still redefining and reinventing itself.  We continued the debate from the 2nd World Social Marketing Conference around the “social” and “marketing” dimensions of social marketing. Although it seemed that an agreement has been reached that social marketing is about both, I would not be surprised if we continued debating this at the next conference.

We learned about innovative approaches in social marketing such as using Bluetooth to reach youth with health messages, ways of segmenting audiences based on value and cultural dimensions, service social marketing programmes, using community models to engage key actors as partners and collaborators. We had the opportunity to learn more about the Canadian experience and contribution to the social marketing field but also about the social marketing application in developing countries where experiential marketing and social franchising made a difference in developing social change programmes.

There were 3 inspiring days where we learned a lot and we shared experiences with social marketers from all over the world.  It was exciting to hear Robert Lusch (service dominant logic), Philip Kotler (social change strategies) and Craig Lefebvre (transformative social marketing) presenting different perspectives for social marketing growth. There has been an emphasis on the idea of co-creation where marketing is done “with”, and not “to” people, where we learn from our audiences and we work in collaboration to develop programmes that reflect their realities. We heard from Alan Andreasen, Doug McKenzie- Mohr, Jim Mintz and Nancy Lee who shared lessons learned from their experience. We also listened to the young generation who raised key points about the challenges and opportunities for the future of social marketing.

All in all, the 3rd World Social Marketing Conference was a great time for engaging with new learning in social marketing, hearing from experienced scholars and practitioners and meeting with social marketers from all over the world. It was also a time of reflection on the field’s evolution, growth and challenges ahead. I left inspired by the feeling that social marketing is at a stage of refinement and reinvention to answer the new challenges of social change. This calls for more rigorous research and theory development to establish social marketing as a strong discipline for social change.

A big thank you to everyone involved. It was an insightful experience.

You can visit the Conference website to access speakers’ presentations.

Nadina R. Luca
Doctoral Researcher
Nottingham University Business School