Social Engineering and Social Marketing

Szablewska, N. and Kubacki, K. (2019). Social Engineering and Social Marketing. In: Kennedy, A-M. ed. Macro-Social Marketing Insights: Systems Thinking for Wicked Problems. Routledge, pp. 215–234.



In this chapter, we discuss the concept of social engineering and its origins as an approach to planned social change. In our discussion we focus on three classes of tools used by states at the macro level to manage social issue behaviours: education, law, and social marketing. We consider several examples of social engineering to highlight the (potential and actual) dangers of employing the different forms of social engineering. As a practical guide for social marketers, we introduce a human rights-based approach as a means of engaging social engineering tools for the social good. We argue that following a human rights-based approach, in particular the principles of accountability and transparency, equality and nondiscrimination, and participation and inclusion will better equip social marketers to avoid the dangers of ‘negative’ social engineering, as well as the unintended consequences of ‘positive’ social engineering.

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