In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: Marketing Intelligence & Planning
Cited as: Bandyopadhyay, C. and S. Ray (2019). “Social enterprise marketing: review of literature and future research agenda.” Marketing Intelligence & Planning 38(1): 121-135.


The purpose of this paper is to review existing literature on marketing in social enterprises (SEs). It identifies major trends and issues and highlights gaps in the existing knowledge base on social enterprise marketing (SEM).Design/methodology/approach Relevant articles on SEM were searched, following the PRISMA framework, in online databases using keywords and phrases like “marketing in social enterprises,” “marketing strategy/practice in social enterprises,” “social enterprise marketing” and “business practices in social enterprises.” After screening and checking for eligibility, 47 significant articles published in 21 peer-reviewed journals during 1995–2018 were selected for review.Findings The findings suggest that marketing in SEs has different issues and challenges when compared to marketing practices adopted by conventional business organizations. They are forced to address the varied expectations of the stakeholders in a resource-constrained situation, which creates problems for them. The review also highlights the fact that resource constraints, legacy mindset, and lack of marketing skills limit the impact of marketing practices in SEs. To address these issues, many social entrepreneurs survive through cost-effective marketing techniques.Originality/value To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first effort to identify and analyze extant literature in SEM. The resultant themes and research gaps highlight the current status of SEM literature. The paper can help SEs to understand and plan their marketing activities for better impact and profitability. Future research can draw on the findings of this review.


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Recommendations from this resource

Policy Makers

Many such SEs who wish to scale from qualifying for and participating in the public procurement process face major challenges in terms of specific pre-qualification requirements. To lift this barrier, policy makers may learn from an initiative taken by European Union (EU) that introduced social clauses within the existing regulation and encouraged local authorities to use them (EC Directive 2014/24/EU). Therefore, policymakers must develop a holistic institutional and regulatory environment for SEs to smooth the process of social innovation to achieve sustainable and relevant outcomes for society and organisations.

Future Research

Future research can:
1) Explore the issues related to employee maintenance and retention, performance appraisal, training and development of human resources in SE, and the role of the participative HRM and diversity climate in reducing relational conflicts in SEs.
2) Explored more areas under this theme: engagement of SE in prominent social problems relating to gender difference, gender dicrimination, women and children rights, and safety and women’s empowerment. Currently, most of the social problems picked up by researchers mainly include poverty, health, education, and unemployment.
3) Examine business strategies to manage competitors, resources, and product/services.
4) Future research possibilities include additional parameters, such as the business models used, marketing strategies, and entrepreneurial challenges that have been largely missing in the existing articles.
4) Study the alignment of social and financial objectives of SE, and their efforts and strategies to achieve this end.
5) Examine innovation adoption models, innovation in product management, and creativity in communication.
6) Investigate on new challenges perceived by social entrepreneurs, the role of regulatory policies, value creation by SE and the objectives and mission of SE, and hybridity in SE business models.
7) Determining the contextual settings regarding institutional and regulatory environments and other country-specific features either facilitating or inhibiting SE activities in developing countries.
8) Focuse on more comparative studies on social enterprise within a given industry from developed and developing countries. Studies exploring the process and challenges of SE in different industries would be very insightful. Such comparative studies could possibly reveal the differences in pace, opportunities, and barriers of SE activities within a given industry.
9) Study SE business models and strategies in specific industry and country settings, or a homogenous set of the two.