The very limited use of theories and models for change, when applied at all, has been one of the constraining factors for the success of social marketing programs. Conscious and deliberative use of these tools either opens our minds, or closes them, to the possibilities of helping create healthier populations and environments. Our second class in social marketing focused on a variety of theories that are commonly used in social marketing programs [pdf file], as well as ones that are not and should be – diffusion of innovations and social capital in particular. The voices:
There are multiple theories that social marketers should consider when designing programs because different theories take you to difference places and help you achieve different objectives.
We must have a “deep portfolio” of knowledge in theory because not all problems (social or behavioral) can be cured with one frame of reference or explanation.
Many social marketing and public health campaigns fail when planners become complacent after target populations embrace new behaviors. They forget that people often relapse and need reinforcement.
Models describe events while theories guide decision-making.
Diffusion of Innovation is an untapped theory in the public health field.
A purpose of social marketing is to rapidly increase a rate of adoption. Organizations need to be concerned about this because products become outdated so quickly.
We need to focus on “boundary spanners” who bring new information into the network and enhance the attractiveness of the “out-group”.
Social Network Theory - we need to especially know who’s the alpha pup.
Social capital theory seems to be gaining momentum in the field of social marketing – perhaps because of a growing focus on attributes of social networks and communities in relation to health status.
Dr. Lefebvre made it a point to use whatever combination of behavioral change theories to stimulate the desired effect in the target population while keeping in mind that resourcefulness, consumer advocacy, technology and good communication skills are helpful tools any social marketer can benefit from.
At what point is the theory too complex? With social marketing the “marketing mix” includes the 4 P’s: product, price, place, promotion. However, you could also include: policies, politics, public perception...? These are important factors to consider, but at what point is the theory trying to do too much and no longer useful?
We need to be resourceful marketers – we need a big tool belt, a big bag of tricks to get the job done.