Demarketing as a strategy for social marketers is a popular,
but unknown or poorly understood part of social marketing practice. Those are
my initial conclusions from the feedback and hits from the recent post,
Demarketing Sugar Consumption in Drinks. Popular in that many people are obviously interested in the topic; unknown or misunderstood either because people tell me they have never heard the term before, or thought 'it had something to do with counter-advertising.'
I have talked about how such
strategies were employed to frame tobacco control in the NCI ASSIST study [Social Marketing and Tobacco Control Policy], and
I noted in the Demarketing Sugar post that demarketing tobacco was studied
recently by Edward Shiu and his colleagues. Because of the curiosity in
demarketing approaches, here is a synopsis from their article to broaden your perspective on this social marketing strategy and how it intersects
with many public policy approaches to the topic.
In a social marketing context, they define demarketing as
having the objective to decrease demand
by discouraging consumption or use of products such as alcohol and cigarettes
that pose health risks. They note that while governments use various demarketing
strategies and instruments independently to curb smoking (increasing taxes, clean indoor
regulations, banning advertising), little research is available on how the 4Ps
work in conjunction with each toward reducing tobacco use and how they influence
consumer behavior over time.
To summarize their overall approach, the authors write:
Conceptualizing the 4Ps from a consumer perspective and
linking them to consumer intention via attitudinal mediators is novel and
contributes to the literature. Modeling governmental demarketing from a
consumer perspective allows one to determine the impact of this government
approach not only on consumers' intention to cease consumption, but also on consumer
attitudes both toward consuming the product and toward companies that promote
and sell these products.
They then go on to develop and test a model of demarketing using data from the International Tobacco Control
Four Country Survey (https://www.itcproject.org)
– a nationally representative, longitudinal panel survey of adult smokers that was
designed to evaluate whether and how a number of key government policy
initiatives led to reductions in tobacco consumption. The authors used
structural equation modeling to test the hypothesized relationships among
policy initiatives aimed at each of the 4Ps, attitudes towards smoking,
attitudes towards the tobacco industry, and intentions to quit smoking at two
points in time.
The results show that the two attitudinal variables only
partially mediated the effects of each of the 4Ps on intention to quit. In each
case, the direct effect of each demarketing element on intention is significant
over and above the effects of the mediators in the hierarchical regression. The
only exceptions to a number of hypotheses about the effects of
demarketing strategies on attitudes and intentions were:
1. The demarketing element of product does not affect their
attitude toward smoking nor their intention to quit (they suggest that many
smokers are already familiar with many of these quit smoking products and
services and have already been unsuccessful in using them to quit themselves).
2. Price does negatively affect their attitude toward the
tobacco industry (respondents attribute price increases to the industry, not government taxation policies, is
their assumption to explain this).
3. The demarketing element place does not affect their attitude
Their results demonstrated that governmental demarketing activities during 2002 and 2003 in the U.S. have resulted in significant beneficial changes in smokers' attitude toward smoking and their intention to quit. They conclude:
This study demonstrates the differential
effect of the 4Ps of demarketing and the central significance of promotion and price,
which are the only demarketing mix elements that influence all three outcome
variables, attitude toward the tobacco industry, attitude toward smoking, and
intention to quit smoking. At the same time, the empirical evidence from this study
shows that the demarketing mix element product, in terms of product replacement
and displacement through the promotion of NRT [nicotine replacement therapies] and
behavioral support programs, is less effective in terms of changing smokers'
attitude toward smoking and intention to quit smoking. Lastly, smoking
restrictions at work and in public places do not influence attitude but have a
small direct effect on intention to quit.
Two lessons the researchers draw for social marketers are:
1. Social marketers and consumer-policy makers cannot
assume individual demarketing measures will be effective in changing the
attitudes and behavior of the priority audience. Rather, a
comprehensive demarketing mix aimed at decreasing the attractiveness of
tobacco and impeding the availability and consumability of cigarettes is needed to result in measurable changes.
2. Ad hoc and one-off demarketing measures are unlikely
to have the desired effect. The results show an effect over time of the 4Ps of
demarketing, suggesting that governments should equip anti-smoking campaigns
with sufficient and sustained demarketing resources.
SO when you consider 'upstream social marketing,' think demarketing and all 4Ps.
Reference: Shiu E, Hassan LM & Walsh G. (2009) Demarketing tobacco through governmental policies – The 4Ps revisited. Journal of Business Research; 62:269–278