Purpose: While social marketing (SM) literature has increasingly incorporated service literature into the field, social marketers have paid limited attention to transformative service research (TSR). Similarly, transformative service researchers have neglected to incorporate the more traditional body of literature – SM – into their research. This paper aims to provide an extensive literature review and comparison of the bodies of literature, cautioning researchers to consider both fields of research or risk their work not being as relevant as research incorporating both literature bodies. Social value co-creation is considered as a middle-ground between the two bodies of literature. Design/methodology/approach: This paper expands on the conceptual discussion of TSR and the more advanced empirical academic literature on SM. Framed within a context of anti-smoking, this paper explores the differences between SM and TSR, within the service ecosystem. Findings: This paper highlights three key differences between SM and TSR. Firstly, SM focuses on changes only within a not-for-profit context, while TSR focuses on changes which may be related to both not-for-profit and for-profit objectives. Secondly, SM broadly appears to take a behavioural change from implementation perspective, with an upstream approach; while in contrast, TSR focuses more on interaction for consumer and employee well-being. Finally, when considering the service ecosystem, SM and TSR both operate at all three levels (micro, meso and macro) but may focus on different levels, depending on the initiative. Originality/value: With the emergence of TSR, further understanding of this body of literature is necessary; otherwise, social marketers may risk their research losing ground to other bodies of literature.