Ross Gordon and colleagues at the University of Stirling and The Open University in the UK have just published a review of the effectiveness of social marketing in Public Health (2006;106:1133-1139). From the abstract [edited]:
The objectives were to document the effectiveness of social marketing interventions designed to improve diet, increase physical activity, and reduce substance misuse. The article summarizes three reviews of the literature that used pre-defined search and inclusion criteria and defined social marketing interventions as those which adopted six key social marketing principles.
The reviews provide evidence that social marketing interventions can be effective in improving diet, increasing exercise, and tackling the misuse of substances like alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. There is evidence that social marketing interventions can work with a range of target groups, in different settings, and can work upstream as well as with individuals.
The authors conclude that social marketing provides a very promising framework for improving health both at the individual level and at wider environmental and policy-levels. Problems with research design, lack of conceptual understanding or implementation are noted as valid research concerns.