Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to reflect upon social marketing and its implications for the contemporary marketing practices (CMP) classification scheme.Design/methodology/approach - The paper adopts a theoretical approach. Examples from the public engagement with science are used in the reflection.Findings - A phenomenon not commonly associated with social marketing is the growing number of science communication, outreach and public activities to engage the public with science. These scientific initiatives, established to drive knowledge-based societies around the world, are charged with changing the public's behaviour towards science. This analysis shows the application of the CMP classification explicitly to the broader context of social marketing.Originality/value - This paper examines how complex multiple exchanges, and social and environment influences, associated with social marketing provide a broader context to examine marketing practice. Further investigation is needed as to whether a sixth aspect of marketing practice is required to fully capture social marketing practice.