Social Marketing and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: I, We, and All of Us

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Social Marketing

Deadline for submission: 30 September 2020


Guest Editors:

Dao Truong, National Economics University and North-West University, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Stephen Graham Saunders, Monash University, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The past few years have witnessed significant developments in social marketing as an academic discipline and as an area of practical applications. Specialist social marketing courses and research topics are now popular in many science, social science, and business departments (Kelly, 2013; Truong and Dietrich, 2018). Social marketing’s areas of practical application have also been expanded, from public health to many other areas where “transformative” behaviour change is considered important for the greater good (Saunders, Barrington, and Sridharan, 2015).

The most significant development in the field arguably involves the shift from its primary focus on individual behavioural change (i.e., downstream) towards exploration of its potential in influencing institutional and organisational change (i.e., upstream) and more recently macro-level change (systemic) (Domegan, 2008; Truong, Saunders, and Dong, 2019). This has led to the emergence of social macromarketing (Lefebvre, 2013), macro-social marketing (Kennedy, 2016; Domegan, 2008; Truong, 2017; Kemper and Ballantine, 2017), and systems social marketing (Domegan et al., 2016). On the one hand, this shift in focus reflects an increased recognition within the social marketing discipline (and beyond) that beneficial change needs to take place at the individual, organisational, and systemic levels – “I, We, and All of Us” (GRLI, 2017). On the other hand, it challenges the social marketing discipline to address grand (and at times “wicked”) problems facing contemporary societies, such as poverty, hunger, disaster, social injustice, inequalities, unsustainable consumption and production, and human rights violations (Truong, 2017). Yet, many of these challenges remain surprisingly neglected topics within the discipline, although they are often deeply embedded in the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “urgent call for action” and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ( These problems are arguably complex, dynamic, and often involve multiple interacting systems (Carvalho and Mazzon, 2019; Parkinson et al., 2017). Therefore, comprehensive “transformative” interventions at different levels (individual, organisational, and systemic), involving input from multiple stakeholder groups, are probably needed if they are to be tackled effectively (Saunders and Truong, 2019). For example, Kotler, Roberto, and Leisner (2006) argue that both micro and macro level approaches can be combined to alleviate poverty in poor rural communities. At the micro level, timely social marketing interventions can be directed at micro-segmented groups based on different poverty levels within poor rural communities. At the macro level, governments may consider changes in poor rural community support, locating new industries in rural areas, and revising investment policies that seek to achieve structural change. From this perspective, social marketing has immense potential to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. However, to make the 2030 Agenda a reality, there is a need for a stronger commitment, meaningful engagement, and timely action by the social marketing discipline to address the SDGs and achieve “transformative” change for the greater good.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals


 Goal 1: To end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2: To end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3: To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.

Goal 4: To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

Goal 5: To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6: To ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7: To ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.

Goal 8: To promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9: To build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

Goal 10: To reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 11: To make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Goal 12: To ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Goal 13: To take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Goal 14: To conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources.

Goal 15: To sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16: To promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

Goal 17: To revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

This Journal of Social Marketing Special Issue focuses on the UN  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs. It will publish interesting, meaningful, and theoretically grounded social marketing research papers that place the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs at its heart, and that clearly focus attention on the UN “urgent call for action” in the developed and/or developing world.

Guiding research questions for the Special Issue could include, but are not limited, to the following:

  •  Do social marketing activities, processes, and practices (e.g., segmentation, targeting, positioning, the social marketing mix, communication, messages, promotion, monitoring, evaluation) support and contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDGs? What are the major challenges facing social marketers in terms of choice, conflict, competition, cooperation, resilience, and negotiation?


  •  How can social marketing activities, processes, and practices become more efficient and effective in supporting and contributing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and addressing the SDGs?


  • How do social marketers engage, connect and/or partner with other stakeholder groups to pursue the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs?


  • Do social marketing activities, processes, and practices ever lead to outcomes (e.g., human rights violations, inequalities, injustices and decreased wellbeing) that are inconsistent (or in conflict) with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs? How may policy, regulations, community-based social marketing, macro-social marketing, and/or systems social marketing address these inconsistencies?

Papers that offer theoretical, practical, or methodological contributions, and that cut across diverse social marketing contexts and topics are welcome. Authors must also ensure that the papers are grounded within the social marketing domain (see Andreasen, 2002).

Early expressions of interest and enquiries should be addressed to the Special Issue Guest Editors (Dao Truong and Stephen Saunders).

Submission process


Step 1:     Authors need to adhere to the guidelines of the Journal of Social Marketing (JSOCM). The JSOCM word limit is 6000‐8000 words. For other information about the journal, including specific author guidelines, please visit

Step 2:     Articles aimed at JSOCM should be submitted via Scholar One Authors must indicate the paper is submitted for this Special Issue in the submission process.

Step 3:     Manuscripts will undergo a double blind peer-review process



Andreasen, A.R. (2002), “Marketing social marketing in the social change marketplace”, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 3-13.

Carvalho, H.C., and Mazzon, J.A. (2019), “Embracing complex social problems”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 54-80.

Domegan, C. (2008), “Social marketing: Implications for contemporary marketing practices classification scheme”, Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 135-141.

Domegan, C., McHugh, P., Devaney, M., Duane, S., et al. (2016), “Systems-thinking social marketing: Conceptual extensions and empirical investigations”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 32, No. 11-12, pp. 1123-1144.

Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI). (2017), Global Responsibility, Now, available at (accessed 12 October 2019).

Kelly, K.J. (2013), “Academic course offerings in social marketing: The beat continues”, Social Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 290-295.

Kemper, J.A., and Ballantine, P.W. (2017), “Socio-technical transition and institutional change: Addressing obesity through macro-social marketing”, Journal of Marcomarketing, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp.381-392

Kennedy, A-M. (2016), “Macro-social marketing”, Journal of Macromarketing, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 354-365.

Kotler, P., and Lee, N. (2009), Up and Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solutions, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River.

Kotler, P., Roberto, N., and Leisner, T. (2006), “Alleviating poverty: A macro/micro marketing perspective”, Journal of Macromarketing, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 233-239.

Lefebvre, R.C. (2013), Social Marketing and Social Change: Strategies and Tools for Improving Health, Well-being, and the Environment, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Parkinson, J., Dubelaar, C., Carins, J., Holden, J., et al. (2017), “Approaching the wicked problem of obesity: An introduction to the food system compass”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 387-404.

Saunders, S.G., Barrington, D.I., and Sridharan, S. (2015), “Redefining social marketing: Beyond behaviour change”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 160-168.

Saunders, S.G. and Truong, V.D. (2019), “Social marketing interventions: Insights from a system dynamics simulation model”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 329-342.

Truong, V.D. (2017), “Government-led macro-social marketing programs in Vietnam: Outcomes, challenges, and implications”, Journal of Macromarketing, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 409-425.

Truong, V.D., and Dietrich, T. (2018), “Master’s thesis research in social marketing (1971-2015)”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 58-98.

Truong, V.D., Saunders, S.G., and Dong, X.D. (2019), “Systems social marketing: A critical appraisal”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 180-203.

Guest Editor Biographies


Dr Dao Truong is a lecturer in the Department of Tourism and Hospitality, National Economics University, Hanoi, Vietnam, and is also a fellow at Tourism Research in Economic Environs & Society (TREES), North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa. Dao is a 2019 Emerald Literati Awards recipient and serves on the editorial boards of Current Issues in Asian Tourism, Social Marketing Quarterly, and International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing (email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


Dr Stephen Graham Saunders is a senior lecturer in the Department of Marketing at Monash Business School, and is an Australian Marketing Institute Certified Practising Marketer (CPM). Stephen is a 2016 Emerald Literati Awards recipient with a particular interest in SDG Goal 6 and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) challenges. His work has been published in leading marketing, social marketing, public health and economic development journals (email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)