Recent Advances in Social Marketing

Alan R. Andreasen, Georgetown University
[ to cite ]:
Alan R. Andreasen (1994) ,"Recent Advances in Social Marketing", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 254.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, 1994      Page 254


Alan R. Andreasen, Georgetown University

In my 1992 Presidential Address, I urged consumer researchers to become more involved in social marketing claiming that: ". . . social marketing is not just good for the soul. It can provide rich intellectual challenges to ACR members of widely varying interests." This session was designed to further these objectives, most particularly, to insure that (a) the problems that consumer researchers choose to work on are responsive to the interests and needs of social marketing practitioners and (b) their research makes use of some of the leading concepts and findings of social marketers in the field.

The first paper in this session by James H. Mintz, Director for Program Promotion, Health and Welfare Canada,described how the federal health department in Canada uses psychographic research to develop campaigns in the area of substance abuse among Canadian youth. The paper described a unique series of tracking studies from 1988 onwards on the awareness, attitudes and behaviors of Canadian Youth as part of Health and Welfare Canada's social marketing campaign to prevent the spread of alcohol/drug abuse and smoking. Several examples were given of how such information influences the design of social marketing messages for youth.

Next was a paper by Steven Rabin, Executive Vice President, Porter/Novelli on race, ethnicity and social marketing. Rabin pointed out that, although many social marketing programs carefully segment markets by race and ethnicity, there is growing uncertainty as to just how we measure these two key variables. He outlined both realities and myths in our understanding of these phenomena and showed how Porter/Novelli has developed a new approach, called Cross Talk, to serve as a framework to deal with these new complexities.

Jeffrey D. Fisher and William A. Fisher, Professors of Psychology at the University of Connecticut and the University of Western Ontario, respectively, described at length their work attempting to change AIDS-risk behavior of adolescents and young adults. They reviewed the AIDS literature on interventions that have targeted risky sexual behavior and intravenous drug use practices. They then described their own work which is based on a highly generalizable model for promoting and evaluating AIDS-risk behavior change in any population of interest. The model holds that AIDS-risk reduction is a function of people's information about AIDS transmission and prevention, their motivation to reduce AIDS risk, and their behavioral skills for performing the specific acts involved in risk reduction. Supportive tests of this model, using structural equation modeling techniques, were reported for populations of university students, gay male affinity group members, and minority inner-city high school students.

James O. Prochaska, Director of the Cancer Prevention Research Center at the University of Rhode Island, next argued that much social marketing work to date dealing with problem behaviors has had very limited success. He suggested that, as a result, there is now a paradigm shift from an action paradigm to a stage paradigm for behavior change. The stage model, which he and his colleagues have spent several years developing, involves progression through five stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Different processes of change are used to progress through each of these stages. Applications of the model demonstrate how stage-based social marketing procedures have increased participation rates from 1 to 5% of eligible subjects in action programs to 65 to 75% with stage-matched programs. The model's application to issues of program retention, resistance, relapse, and recovery from high risk behaviors was described.

Martin Fishbein, University of Illinois and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, next described the development of theory-based community interventions to reduce AIDS risk behaviors by the CDC's AIDS community intervention demonstration project. This intervention is in five urban areas and is designed to increase condom use in a number of ethnically-diverse, high risk populations: men who have sex with men but who do not identify themselves as gay, intravenous drug users (IDUs), female sex partners of IDUs, prostitutes, and street youth. Dr. Fishbein's paper provided an overview of this project and data demonstrating the validity of the theory underlying the interventions.

The final paper was presented by Robert Hornik of the Annenberg School of Communications, University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Hornik described in detail many of the lessons learned from ten HEALTHCOM projects in eight countries. The sixteen interventions (some sites included more than one topic) addressed a variety of child survival related practices, most often the use of oral rehydration therapy and vaccinations. Paired before-after surveys of large representative samples of caretakers of young children were undertaken, supplemented in some sites by time series or control area data. Overall, nine of the sixteen evaluated outcomes indicated substantial success, with absolute increases of 12-24% of the population doing recommended behaviors. There is credible evidence that observed changes were the result of the communications interventions.

The paper also considered why some programs were successful and others were not. Both cross-site evidence and evidence from individual programs support four broad explanations for relative success: (1) ensuring that health communication programs fit with opportunities to put the recommendations into practice: program success was constrained by limitations in complementary delivery of health services; (2) choosing channels that reach audiences; programs were more most successful when they reached 60% or more of the population with their messages which was easiest to do with mass media channels; (3) choosing specific messages that are relevant to the behavior, and (4) building an agency capable of creating a coherent health communication system rather than just producing educational materials. The HEALTHCOM project has shown the possibility of doing large scale social marketing in developing countries effectively, reaching much of the target population and achieving substantial behavior change.