The development of a new conceptual and theoretical approach to social marketing

  • Matthew Wood

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Social marketing is the adaptation of commercial marketing principles, tools and approaches to programmes designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences to improve their personal welfare and that of society of which they are a part. The idea that marketing tools and techniques could be used to promote social good and help address social problems was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it was argued that marketing is relevant to all organisations with "customers". According to this early view of social marketing, commercial approaches, such as the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion) framework, could be used to influence individuals. This view places responsibility for change on individuals and largely ignores the systematic and environmental influences on behaviours. This critical review is underpinned by the need for a new perspective on social marketing, recognising the complexities of behaviour change and focusing on human beings within a systems/socio-ecological context. It starts by challenging the traditional view of social marketing and the applicability of models such as the 4Ps. Subsequent papers build upon this by demonstrating behaviour change is dependent on relationships, emotional connections, community cohesion and communications between human beings. A new behavioural change framework was developed and tested to demonstrate how this approach could be applied in practice. This model was developed further to include a unique view of 'midstream social marketing', which proposes service staff, and the interactions they have with clients and other stakeholders, is of critical importance for behaviour change. Since the relevant paper was published, midstream social marketing features regularly in journal papers and conferences. This critical review also adds to social marketing knowledge tlu·ough the adaptation and application of the socio-ecological model to the discipline. The author's research shows how the resilience construct -the ability of individuals and communities to cope with adversity -can be used to integrate upstream (policy level), midstrean1 (organisational and community level) and downstream (individual level) social marketing approaches, underpinned by socio-ecological models of behaviour. This extends the more common use of resilience in the context of ecological sustainability or response to disasters. For the first time, this thesis demonstrates how social marketers can use developmental psychology and social work theory to shift their thinking away from targeting individual behaviour problems (smoking, dangerous drinking and unhealthy eating etc.) towards working with young people, families and communities to build long-term resilience to a range of risk factors.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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