European Social Marketing Conference 2022
Back from Greece

Jeff French (ESMA Board Member):

Before going to ESMC I was aware that I have very much missed face to face interacting with social marketers over the last couple of years, however I did not realise how much I have missed it until I got there. It was fantastic to catch up with friend and acquaintances at the event and meet new academics and practitioners from across Europe and further afield. I had the privilege of sitting in on a lot of very thought provoking workshops and the keynotes as always sparked a lot of reflections. There were a couple of big key takeaways for me. The first was from Peter Economides presentation and his key message that all marketing is social and all social interactions in one way or another involve exchange / marketing. The symbiotic nature of these two processes is something that I am continuing to reflect on. Another key takeaway for me was the essential connectedness and interdependence I spotted in most of the sessions I attended between environmental, health and economic drivers and the need to address all of these issues in a systemic way working across sectors and disciplines. It was great. I can’t wait for the next one and I am really looking forward to the World Conference in Brighton this year.


Thomas Anker (ESMA Vice-chair):

It was my first time attending the ESMC, but certainly not the last. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many inspiring social marketers from across Europe and further afield. Inspired by the conference, I have reflected on three key themes that I think will be central to the future development of our discipline.

First, the intersection between capitalism, commercial marketing and social marketing appears to be more and more important to understand. Collaboration between mainstream and social marketing is often desirably to achieve impact at scale. However, commercial industry and social marketing often make strange bedfellows, and there are many potential pitfalls. Discussions at the conference seem to point towards a need for a set of principles to guide collaboration between commercial and social marketing.

Second, I am very appreciative of the mix between delegates from ‘professional practice’ and ‘academia’. This genuinely adds value. However, it occurs to me that it would be beneficial to use our social marketing conferences as a platform to more proactively ‘broker connections’ between the two, enabling more synergy.

Finally, I have always had reservations about the very name of our discipline ‘social marketing’. At a superficial level, it is often conflated with social media marketing. However, that’s easily corrected. What is more difficult to get to grips with, though, is the fact that ‘pro-social’ has entered the mainstream. Several sub-disciplines of marketing are now concerned with pro-social behaviour change, just as we are. One challenge is that there is often precious little dialogue between the different ‘pro-social’ marketing and management disciplines. That can be facilitated. But another challenge is more existential: does the introduction of ‘pro-social’ into mainstream marketing and its sub-disciplines potentially make the discipline of social marketing as we know it redundant?


Beatriz Casais (ESMA Chair Membership and Learning & Development Committees)

The Conference created the perfect environment for critical thinking, to find new research opportunities in the field and to enlarge the network for collaboration. The sessions allowed to be more inquisitive in particular topics and inspired my future research agenda.

Nadina Luca (Chair of the ESMA Board)

This ESMC reminded me of three things: 1. The joy of allowing yourself to just sit with others in a conference room to listen, question and learn. 2. The stimulation, energy and creativity one can get from meeting with old and new colleagues. 3.  Social marketing works even in some of the most challenging contexts and we should explore ways it could be used to support peace efforts. The conference created a space for experimenting with new ideas (the keynotes provided substantial material for reflection on the complexity of our world) and an opportunity to learn about social marketing innovations in beautiful Greece.   

Giuseppe Fattori (ESMA Chair Representatives and Volunteers Committees)

I have been following Social Marketing for many years, from Brighton 2008 to Thessaloniki 2022, and I have seen a widespread growth of SM (at different rates) across Europe.

My two pennies’ worth on three topics:

  1. “Wicked problems” are changing: the world and consciences are changing fast, even in Thessaloniki “environmental sustainability” is emerging … possibly now seen as environmental justice
  2. The change of Professionals: the pioneers (academics) had to create a theoretical corpus, in Thessaloniki, often at the end of the presentation, in the back of the room, I heard “and so in practice?” So, especially after Thessaloniki, we should orient ourselves systemically towards the thousands of people working in the field. Theoretical research on small realities is important, but we should get into national programming where we talk about ‘One health’, getting our hands dirty, without being the SM Taliban.
  3. The pandemic has accelerated the crisis of congresses, questioning their economic survival: it is becoming expensive and tiring to travel, there are major problems at airports, even to get to Thessaloniki. We should find a balance/integration between presence and distance.

What did I bring home from Thessaloniki?

The future? #SocialMarketingInPractice for One health … and hybrid congress.


Boris Chapoton (ESMA Member and Volunteer)

Sometimes, when working on our own in an office (or more recently, at home), we can feel secluded and we can start mumbling into our heads “why”, “if”, “how” and/or we can question the purpose of our work. Although we might have the internet window to look at and to follow what is happening elsewhere, the interaction with others could be missing and the isolation could get the best of us. 

Going to a Social Marketing Conference (European, Worldwide or other) is a guarantee to get a nice shot of optimism and trust in what we do/intend to do regarding social marketing. Personally, I have left the 2022 ESM conference with a positive and “Yes We Will” feeling for many different reasons among the two under I’ll share with you.

The first feel-good reason came from Fiona Spotswood whom confirmed I wasn’t going insane: indeed, the marketing and social change marketplace is wide and maybe getting wider and wider with different approaches as “Transformative Consumer Research”, “Transformative Services Research”, “Public Policy Marketing”, “Sustainability Marketing” and so on. Yet, we have to learn how to navigate within this flow of different approaches and make ourselves heard “not to miss the party”. Fiona Spotswood recommends us to “collaborate across ‘marketing and society’ subfields”, to “draw on innovative theoretical traditions”, to “pursue ‘top’ journals by contributing to ongoing conversations” and perhaps foremost, to “never lose sight of social marketing goals – of relevance (challenge-focused), and to achieve social change”. Yes, Marketing within the Society is complex but we can, we need, and we will make ourselves heard!

Another reason that I have particularly appreciated was given by Christine Domegan whom has pointed out the complexity of our world and the environment we are living in, interfering with our decisions and our actions. In the literature and maybe in our practice, we do not insist enough on the exchange part that should be integrated within our social marketing strategy. While looking at the exchange logics, we also have to consider the multi-level community perspective we are evolving in – the micro, the macro and more particularly the in-between meso level. Such approach has reminded me of ones used in public health and made me confirmed that Yes, social marketing is about building bridges and we will get a better understanding of our world and human behaviours by collaborating with each other and by learning from each other.

I have been able to find an echo to these presentations among some other work that has been brilliantly presented by the other speakers throughout the conference and during informal exchange during the breaks.

After two years or so of postponing the conference; being able to see peers and colleagues and to discuss social marketing with them face to face has been really appreciated. It was a real pleasure to feel the social marketing community made of different nationalities, different specialties, different background, different level of experience and many more other differences, gathered around a common goal.