Abstract Collaborative care models for depression in primary care are effective and cost-effective, but difficult to spread to new sites. Translating Initiatives for Depression into Effective Solutions (TIDES) is an initiative to promote evidence-based collaborative care in the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Social marketing applies marketing techniques to promote positive behavior change. Described in this paper, TIDES used a social marketing approach to foster national spread of collaborative care models. TIDES social marketing approach The approach relied on a sequential model of behavior change and explicit attention to audience segmentation. Segments included VHA national leadership, Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) regional leadership, facility managers, frontline providers, and veterans. TIDES communications, materials and messages targeted each segment, guided by an overall marketing plan. Results Depression collaborative care based on the TIDES model was adopted by VHA as part of the new Primary Care Mental Health Initiative and associated policies. It is currently in use in more than 50 primary care practices across the United States, and continues to spread, suggesting success for its social marketing-based dissemination strategy. Discussion and conclusion Development, execution and evaluation of the TIDES marketing effort shows that social marketing is a promising approach for promoting implementation of evidence-based interventions in integrated healthcare systems.