Social marketing has been describes as “the application of proven concepts and techniques drawn from the commercial sector to promote changes in diverse socially important behaviours such as drug use, smoking, sexual behaviour”
This marketing approach has an immense potential to affect major social problems if we can only learn how to harness its power.” By “proven techniques” Andreasen meant methods drawn from behavioural theory, persuasion psychology, and marketing science with regard to health behaviour, human reactions to messages and message delivery, and the “marketing mix” or “four Ps” of marketing (place, price, product, and promotion). These methods include using behavioural theory to influence behaviour that affects health; assessing factors that underlie the receptivity of audiences to messages, such as the credibility and like-ability of the argument; and strategic marketing of messages that aim to change the behaviour of target audiences using the four Ps.
How is social marketing applied to health?
Social marketing is widely used to influence health behaviour. Social marketers use a wide range of health communication strategies based on mass media; they also use mediated (for example, through a healthcare provider), interpersonal, and other modes of communication; and marketing methods such as message placement (for example, in clinics), promotion, dissemination, and community level outreach. Social marketing encompasses all of these strategies.
Communication channels for health information have changed greatly in recent years. One-way dissemination of information has given way to a multimodal transactional model of communication. Social marketers face challenges such as increased numbers and types of health issues competing for the public’s attention; limitations on people’s time; and increased numbers and types of communication channels, including the internet. A multimodal approach is the most effective way to reach audiences about health issues.
How is social marketing used to change health behaviour?
Social marketing uses behavioural, persuasion, and exposure theories to target changes in health risk behaviour. Social cognitive theory based on response consequences (of individual behaviour), observational learning, and behavioural modelling is widely used. Persuasion theory indicates that people must engage in message “elaboration” (developing favourable thoughts about a message’s arguments) for long term persuasion to occur. Exposure theorists study how the intensity of and length of exposure to a message affects behaviour.
Social marketers use theory to identify behavioural determinants that can be modified. For example, social marketing aimed at obesity might use behavioural theory to identify connections between behavioural determinants of poor nutrition, such as eating habits within the family, availability of food with high calorie and low nutrient density (junk food) in the community, and the glamorisation of fast food in advertising. Social marketers use such factors to construct conceptual frameworks that model complex pathways from messages to changes in behaviour.