12 Principles of Positive Marketing

For social enterprise, non profit and social good

What is positive marketing?

Many of us working in not-for-profit, social enterprise or socially-minded businesses accept marketing as a “necessary evil”. We understand that people need help to find the right products or services to meet their needs but we wish there was another way to do it!

Positive marketing is an alternative approach to marketing for those of us trying to achieve social good. It incorporates social and sustainable considerations into the marketing processes, so your marketing is not just a tool for promoting your good work but is simultaneously helping to deliver social impact.

The following 12 principles provide ‘food for thought’ to guide you in creating marketing solutions that don’t require you to sell your soul. They are not rules and everyone will interpret them differently, put them into practice differently and prioritise them differently. These principles are simply a road sign pointing towards a path to a better way.

People principles

Does your marketing contribute to the wellbeing and sense of belonging of individuals?

1. Inclusion

Humans are incredibly social creatures with a strong need to fit in or belong. Marketing can promote exclusivity to make a select few experience this feeling at the expense of others, or it has the option of promoting a broad sense of belonging.

An important aspect of inclusion is accessibility — consider how your customer experience varies for people with disabilities, literacy limitations or mobility restrictions.

2. Empowerment

When we provide people with transparent, honest and comparable information about our products and services, we empower them to make informed decisions. Choices to distract with humour, sex or manipulative messages disempower people.

We can also empower people by helping them to recognise their own strengths and positive traits so that they are operating from their higher values, which include consideration for other people’s wellbeing and not competition.

3. Respect

Respect for our customers shows when we ask their permission to talk to them about our products and services, when we don’t dumb down our messages and when we listen to them. Great customer service and honest answers to their questions are respectful.

Community principles

Does your marketing contribute to the wellbeing and cohesion of the community?

4. Diversity

Our marketing messages and images can reflect the broad diversity of the community, fostering an understanding of a different cultures, appearances and aspirations. When we represent the full diversity of the community, particularly when we show positive interactions between diverse community members, we contribute to harmonious society and create a place where many different people feel a sense of belonging.

5. Participation

How does your organisation participate in the community? How do you enable the community to contribute to your work and your decisions. I like the concept of a “social licence to trade” — would your local community grant you a licence to trade or be located in their community if they had a say in it? Every community should have some degree of self-determination, allowing them to decide the type of community they want to be. We have the chance to invite participation and allow the communities we operate in to decide what role they’d like us to play.

6. Connectivity

Modern marketing has an amazing amount of potential to help people connect over common ideas. Instead of pitching people against each other (as much modern marketing does, in an attempt to drive consumption through feelings of competition and comparison with others), our marketing can actually bring people together. Nurturing this capability and helping to create a sense of community and connectivity builds social cohesion and contributes to more resilient communities.

Planet principles

Does your marketing contribute to the wellbeing of the natural environment and the planet?

7. Custodianship

Custodianship is the concept that every individual has a responsibility to contribute to the balance of life.

Industrial and lifestyle choices have damaged and degraded the planet; we cannot simply “do no harm” or reduce the harm we are doing. The coming years need us to be actively contributing to the planet’s wellbeing, to heal some of the harm already done.

In considering “the balance of life” it is also important for us to recognise our responsibility to all of the other creatures that share this planet with us. As such, custodianship also applies to taking responsibility for the wellbeing of animals.

8. One system

We cannot make local decisions without global consideration. Our planet is a single, highly connected ecosystem. We must always consider how our choices may affect people, animals and environments all around the world — not just in our own backyard.

Versatility and adaptiveness need to be prioritised in our uncertain and fast moving world. Diverse systems, with many different layers, connections and dimensions are more resilient than systems built simply for efficiency. We need to consider resilience in the context of many of the efficiency-driven choices made in modern times.

9. The circle

We are responsible for the things we produce at every point of their lifecycle, not just the point of production and sale — we are responsible from the very original source of each ingredient that goes into their making, until every last evidence of their existence is gone.

It is our responsibility that when we extract an ingredient from the earth, we leave the earth in a manner that enables it to continue to produce such ingredients naturally and easily.

It is our responsibility how products are used, their longevity and how they are disposed of. This includes decisions we make about offering or refusing repair services; providing instructions on repair, reuse or safe recycling options; and the pricing of our spare parts and complementary products.

Impact principles

Does your marketing achieve results?

10. Service

Regardless of how good your cause is or how popular your product is, I believe it is important to ask whether or not you are being of service to people, the broader community and the environment we inhabit.

Does your product or service, and the way you deliver it (including your marketing) really make people’s lives better? Are you contributing to long-term well-being not simply taking advantage of short term cravings or fads?

11. Social good

As demonstrated in earlier principles, marketing can go beyond the role of simply selling a good social cause or solution and actually be part of the solution. Does your marketing provide a positive social impact? Do the messages you use help to empower people and make them feel more connected and compassionate in their communities? Do you provide a real product alternative that contributes positively to the planet’s well-being?

12.Financial well-being

The world needs good businesses, services and products. It is important that your good business is financially strong in order that it can continue to provide good services and products to the community, providing an alternative to less conscious operators. Your marketing needs to help ensure your financial well-being by effectively connecting your potential customers with your business and helping them to see the value in what you do.


This article originally appeared on the Just Good Marketing blog.

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