Is there a word that is similar to "marketing" that doesn't imply the idea of commercialization or profit?

For example, a non-profit that assists domestic abuse victims may run a campaign where they advertise their services. They may put up posters, buy billboard space, and so forth. While this is marketing, people in that industry may be very reluctant to call it a "marketing campaign". This is because marketing tends to carry the connotation of trying to sell something.

Is there a more neutral word?


10 Answers 10


Consider Publicity,

Material or information used for advertising or promotional purposes


The publicity materials on domestic violence were distributed by members of the NGO.

or Promotion

The publicizing of a product, organization, or venture so as to increase sales or public awareness


The promotional events by the non-profit group to increase awareness on domestic violence


  • @Rathony While publicity and promotion are common in the commercial sphere, they don't have the intrinsic commercial connotation of "market."
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 15:22
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    @Rathony Failing to deliver a non-profit purpose isn't the same as delivering a for-profit purpose. Promotion and publicity are neutral in that respect. The question doesn't actually ask for a term that denotes a non-profit purpose; it asks for a term that doesn't imply a for-profit purpose ("... that doesn't imply the idea of commercialization or profit?").
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 15:27
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    @Rathony I disagree with your assertion that these words connote selling for profit. Publicity is just advertising, and everyone knows advertising can be used for all kinds of purposes, not just commercial. Similarly, promotion is often used for non-commercial endeavours. Governments run advertising campaigns to promote a healthy lifestyle. Charities run campaigns to promote awareness of diseases and to raise funds. The list goes on and on. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 15:55
  • +1, these are good, but marketing is fine too, really. You market yourself in social circles and job interviews. Doesn't mean you're selling yourself for profit.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 18:05
  • In job interviews, you are selling your workforce, so yes, it is about selling. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 18:16

You might consider using the word outreach, as it is essentially what marketing is called when you're talking about NGOs who are attempting to raise awareness of their services among affected communities.

Outreach - an ​effort to ​bring ​services or ​information to ​people where they ​live or ​spend ​time:

E.g. The ​centre was ​awarded a ​grant for outreach to the ​homeless.

From Wikipedia:

Outreach is an activity of providing services to any populations who might not otherwise have access to those services. A key component of outreach is that the groups providing it are not stationary, but mobile; in other words they are meeting those in need of outreach services at the locations where those in need are. In addition to delivering services, outreach has an educational role, raising the awareness of existing services.

Outreach is often meant to fill in the gap in the services provided by mainstream (often, governmental) services, and is often carried out by non-profit, non-Governmental organizations.


Raising Awareness

As an expression it is a bit like publicity but without the PR (Public Relations) undertone. Whilst I like the word propaganda, it too has political and other connotations to political and unpleasant


Messaging is something of an insider's term. See linked document.


  • I like the general sentiment here, although the fact that the linked website placed that page in the "Marketing & Communications" section suggestions that it might be a niche term that isn't widely used. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 15:04
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    I can confirm that this word is widely used and understood in activist/advocacy contexts. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 3:36

From the question:

"For example, a non-profit that assists domestic abuse victims may run a campaign where they advertise their services"

Have you considered calling this an advertising campaign?

  • To me this seems the obvious answer. Trump, Clinton, and friends are not busy selling merchandise. They are trying to convince you to vote for them.
    – emory
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 1:49

Propaganda fits both for the idea spreading, and the "services" to accomplish the goal from the interested party / NPO.

In spanish, marketing students have a strict distinction when they say marketing and propaganda: When you promote something related to sell a product, you are related to the term marketing, but when the idea is about social impact, behavior, politics, ... the term they use is propaganda, even when the emotional and memethics aspects are almost the same, but they say: you try to sell something? no? then it is propaganda.

  • 4
    I think this term has too negative a connotation when used in English to be appropriate for the OP's example, but +1 for an interesting contribution. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 20:49
  • Yep. In the day-to-day this sounds with negative connotation. I forgot that since where I live (i.e. not USA) that term is rarely used, so perhaps it has a negative connotation but it has not so big impact here. However, in theoretical/academical environments, this one is the word for the phenomenom. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 20:51

The question is sometimes asked, as Dan Empfield does in the linked article for Slowtwitch[dot]com, whether actions and positions taken are done so for the purpose of “advocacy or {for the purpose of} marketing,” and after reading the eight steps listed in a ‘Yahoo Answer’ as necessary for implementing a [successful] “advocacy campaign, I find myself asking whether these steps differ greatly from the six listed as required for a successful “marketing campaign” on the link to ‘under30ceo[dot]com’.

In light of the overlap of “advocacy” and “marketing” and to the extent that true advocacy and advocacy campaigns are driven by something other than commercializing and selling things for [immediate] profit, I think you could consider using those terms in place of “marketing” and “marketing campaigns.”


Evangelism may be a suitable candidate.


1 A person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching.

1.1 A layperson engaged in Christian missionary work.

1.2 A zealous advocate of something

'he is an evangelist of junk bonds'

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

For instance, Microsoft has a position called "Microsoft Technical Evangelist". According to Wikipedia, the term tech evangelist started with a member of the Macintosh team.

  • 2
    Interesting, but I don't feel it is appropriate for the OP's scenario. Evangelism is a tongue-in-cheek term which implies something of a "holier than thou" attitude, something which is definitely a no-no in any serious, uh, marketing (where I mean "serious" as in "non-humorous" more than "strictly professional"). Also, I have a feeling that this might not be properly understood outside of tech.
    – tripleee
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 5:03

Branding - the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand

From your example, a non-profit assisting domestic abuse victims will assuredly not be selling anything in their campaign, but they will be creating the connection between the issue (domestic abuse) and their identity (ngo's mission). Essentially:

"Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing effort. Branding is not push, but pull. Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not."


The term "marketing" does have a commercial tone about it. If you are looking for a more neutral term, I would suggest the following:


I also agree with "Awareness" as well as "Outreach", as mentioned by previous posters. Both are great alternatives.

From your example, it seems as though the group is trying to educate the public about their options. That it why I thought a "Campaign to Educate", seemed appropriate. But it does not seem to roll off the tongue as naturally as the two that I said are great alternatives.

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