Social marketing – an integrated approach to behaviour change

October 2012

How to incorporate social marketing into your behaviour change programmes.

Social marketing uses an integrated ‘whole person’ approach to support behaviour change. It is based on understanding people and the way they behave, and developing appropriate and targeted interventions which reflect the reality of often busy and sometimes chaotic lifestyles.

Changing Behaviour, Improving Outcomes: A New Social marketing Strategy for Public Health comments that, “changing health-related lifestyle behaviours is seldom easy”. The strategy quotes a number of ‘universal insights’, identified by Oxford Strategic Marketing, which can increase success, including:

  • there are a small number of teachable moments when major lifestyle events (such as the arrival of a new baby) mean that people are more open to change and actively seek new information
  • people are more likely to modify a behaviour if they can make a series of small changes
  • people are prepared to make changes for others (children can be motivators and change-agents within families)
  • in general, people respond to more positive, optimistic messages.

Six principles of social marketing

The six features and concepts which underpin social marketing are:

  • consumer orientation: gaining deep insight and understanding about the consumer, their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, and the social context in which they live and work
  • behaviour and behavioural goals: understanding existing behaviour and key influences on it, to enable the development of clear behavioural goals
  • ‘intervention mix’ and ‘marketing mix’: using a range of different interventions or methods to achieve a particular behavioural goal
  • audience segmentation: making use of audience segmentation in order to target effectively
  • ‘exchange’: understanding the ‘cost’ and the ‘benefit’ to the individual
  • competition: understanding all the factors which compete for people’s attention and willingness to adopt a particular behaviour.

Social marketing toolkit

The National Social Marketing Centre produces a social marketing planning guide and toolbox which sets out six key stages to the social marketing planning process, from getting started through to evaluation and follow-up.

Updated June 2013