Providing solutions to empowering citizen engagement, sustainability and wellbeing

The 4th European Social Marketing Conference: Antwerp, 6-7 September 2018


It was a great pleasure to host the 4th European Social Marketing Conference in magnificent city of
Antwerp this year, The European Social Marketing Association is consistently surprised by the
enthusiasm, passion and diversity of work by communication and marketing specialists who take
part at each event. We always look forward to what is a fantastic event at the cutting edge of Social
Marketing theory and practice across Europe and the wider world. This year we received a record
number of paper submissions and yet again the impact, professionalism and level of work presented
continues to rise and undoubtedly helps enrich social marketing research and practice not only in
Europe but globally.

At this year’s event we peer reviewed over 115 academic and practice submissions resulting in 54
presentations and interactive sessions across two days presented by social marketing and behaviour
change professionals, governments and NGOs from 27 different countries.

At this time when Europe and the world face a large number of complex social problems and
increasing demand from citizens to be heard, we believe that this conference will be able
to provide some of the answers about how current social challenges can be addressed
effectively through processes of co-production, value creation and work with citizens.

Social marketing is a broad church that encompasses a range of disciplines all of whom are
concerned with using data and evidence to develop and deliver citizen focused effective and
efficient social programmes. This year’s European conference demonstrated how  experts and policy
makers are coming together to apply what we know and best practice form a range of specialist
areas. The conference also demonstrated how social marketing is being applied in an ever increasing
range of subjects. This year at the conference the use of social marketing principles was
demonstrated in fields as diverse as crime reduction, reducing Co2 emissions, active transport,
smoking and alcohol harm reduction, road safety , community cohesion and resilience, migration
and even for military purposes to reduce the harm form improvised explosive devices.

A number of key themes emerged from across the keynote presentations, workshops , posters and
break-out sessions. The array of best practice examples shared and evidence of what works
presented at the event together with some great presentations about how behavioural programme
should be structured highlighted three big take way points from the event.

  1. The added value of applying social marketing principles is being increasingly recognised and demanded by governments and key organisations around the world. Social marketing is being seen as a key set of organising principles under which the contributions from behavioural science, an economics, psychology, social planning and policy and implementation sciences can be harnessed and coordinated.

  2. Experimentation, sound study design and evaluation and learning from both success and failure are key to future progress. We need to get even smarter about the way we spread and speed up the uptake of good practice and stop interventions that are not working.

  3. In addition to systematic planning there is a need to ensure that all social programmes also adopt a systems perspective and seek to build coordinated multi sector responses to the complex and interrelated challenges that we face. This means investing in coalition building and stakeholder development and management. This also means focusing action upstream at policy development and selection as well as action directed at supporting individuals and selection as well as action directed at supporting individuals and communities.


Prof. Jeff French, CEO, SSM, Emeritus Professor Kings College London & Brighton University