Dr Ruth Knight, 15 January, 2021

In what ways do you think social enterprises are using responsible marketing well?

A new article published in the Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing (the reference is at the end if you'd like to read it) has made me reflect whether social enterprises have a role in promoting responsible marketing. I thought I would share some of the key points and suggest that social enterprises could be more effective if they understood and utilised the power of responsible marketing.

The authors reviewed a number of publications related to how nonprofits and social enterprise market their organisations and activities. They found that in contrast to traditional marketing which can often be unethical, sales orientated and manipulate, there is an alternative marketing approach whereby marketing can be trusted because it is socially responsible and helps to educate consumers about how their buying decisions can make a social impact.

I strongly believe that social enterprises could lead the way when it comes to this marketing approach. Responsible marketing offers the opportunity for social enterprises to build trust and credibility amongst consumers so they are more likely (and empowered) to become customers and supporters of social enterprise and social change.

The challenge is, that some social enterprises have an apathetic approach towards marketing. Whilst they have values aligned with responsible marketing, they often take an informal or reactive approach to marketing. Many don’t want to invest time or money in formal marketing approaches because they feel this takes their focus away from their mission and core activities. A lack of knowledge and the skills to test and evaluate different marketing approaches, means social enterprises are not effectively supporting and educating consumers about the power of social enterprise.

Social enterprises are in a great position to be exemplars of responsible marketing. I hope that they learn more about how to use this marketing approach more effectively, so we can see a significant change in consumer’s attitudes and behaviours.

Read the article that got me thinking: Bandyopadhyay, C., & Ray, S. (2019). Responsible Marketing: Can Social Enterprises Show the Way? Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 31(2), 164–183.

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Ruth Knight

Dr Ruth Knight

Dr Ruth Knight is an academic with the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies with a special interest in workplace culture, leadership and social impact.

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