A Human Rights-Based Approach to the Social Good in Social Marketing

  • Natalia Szablewska
  • Krzysztof KubackiEmail author
Original Paper


Social marketing has been established with the purpose of effecting change or maintaining people’s behaviour for the welfare of individuals and society (Kotler and Zaltman in J Market 35:3–12, 1971; MacFadyen et al. in The marketing book, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, 2003; French et al. in Social marketing and public health: Theory and practice, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2010), which is also what differentiates it from other types of marketing. However, social marketing scholars have struggled with guiding social marketers in conceptualising the social good and with defining who decides what is socially beneficial in different contexts. In this paper, we suggest that many dilemmas in identifying the social good in social marketing could be addressed by turning to human rights principles, and, in particular, by following a human rights-based approach. We examine a number of cross-cutting human rights principles—namely, transparency and accountability, equality and non-discrimination, and participation and inclusion—that are capable, in a practical way, of guiding the work of social marketers. Through an illustrative case study of the anti-obesity discourse, we present how these principles might help to address some of the challenges facing social marketing, both as a theory and practice, in meeting its definitional characteristic.


Social marketing Social good Human rights-based approach Social issues Right to health Universal Declaration of Human Rights Human rights principles 



Australian Association of Social Marketing


Berkeley Media Studies Group


Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


European Social Marketing Association


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


International Social Marketing Association


Universal Declaration of Human Rights


United Kingdom


United Nations


United Nations Development Group


United Nations Population Fund


United Nations Children’s Fund


World Health Organization


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Dr Natalia Szablewska declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr Krzysztof Kubacki declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law and JusticeSouthern Cross UniversityBilingaAustralia
  2. 2.Social Marketing @ Griffith, Department of Marketing, Griffith Business SchoolGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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