I have written about how social marketing provides a complimentary approach to the more traditional public policy tools that are used to tackle these and many other types of social problems (see the previous links for more examples). For another, independent point of view (POV), I have selected some of the summary comments from the Australian Public Service [APS] Commission's report on Changing Behavior: A Public Policy Perspective (pdf). For those of you who work in and around policy-shapers and makers (for more about these people as market agents), it makes several relevant points about the need to move away from outmoded and largely discredited 'rational choice' models to more comprehensive approaches in which social marketing can serve as a useful heuristic and integrating framework. Be sure to share this with them.
Governments regularly use a range of traditional policy tools to influence citizens’ behaviour, including legislation, sanctions, regulations, taxes and subsidies, the provision of public services and information and guidance material. In many areas this range of traditional tools works well. For some social policy problems such as so-called wicked problems, however, influencing human behaviour is very complex and the effectiveness of traditional approaches may be limited without some additional tools and understanding of how to engage citizens in cooperative behavioural change. It has become increasingly clear that government cannot simply deliver key policy outcomes to a disengaged and passive public. In the areas of welfare, health, crime, employment, education and the environment, achieving significant progress requires changing behaviour.
Detailed cost-benefit analyses in a number of key areas of public policy such as health and crime have shown that more sophisticated behaviour-based interventions can be very much more cost-effective than traditional approaches to policy and service delivery. This is particularly the case if a longer-term time frame is taken to evaluate the constraints, costs and benefits. Agencies may have more impact on key policy outcomes by using their limited resources to more effectively engage, involve and change the behaviour of users and other parties, than by concentrating only on traditional policy tools and service delivery.Accordingly, policy makers in the APS need to have a better understanding of how the rational choice model of behavioural change can be supplemented by insights from behavioural change theory and evidence at the individual, interpersonal and community levels. A social marketing approach is one practical tool that tries to integrate these three levels of theories.
…The need to formulate a comprehensive approach to behavioural change, to understand how components interact, to work cooperatively across jurisdictions and organisations and to engage stakeholders, highlights the need for a range of core skills in addition to the more traditional analytical, conceptual and project management skills. These include communication and influencing skills, the ability to work cooperatively, and big-picture thinking skills. There is also a need for policy makers to be aware of and apply behavioural change theory, and to understand the importance of investing in evaluation and research.