Applying Social Marketing to Healthcare: Challenges and Opportunities

Applying Social Marketing to Healthcare: Challenges and Opportunities

Maria do Rosário Cabrita (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal) and Miriam Cabrita (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7357-1.ch044
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There is now an emerging view of health care as a sector of the economy. The subject is increasingly gaining the interest of policy makers and health care industry researchers as a way of modifying the incidence and impact of unhealthy behavior and disease. Health-related social marketing is the systematic application of commercial marketing principles to achieve behavioral goals relevant to improving health and reducing health inequalities. Whilst commercial marketing seeks to influence behavior for profit, social marketing encourages behaviors that provide well being for individuals or for society as a whole. Several studies set out the importance of using a social marketing approach to encourage positive health behavior. There are therefore a number of challenges and opportunities for social marketing to be used to change health care consumer behavior. Social marketing has been used to persuade a specific audience, mainly through mass media, to adopt an idea, a practice, a product, or all three. To develop social marketing programs, marketers must know about the problem to be addressed, understand the audience to be targeted, and interpret the environment in which the program will be applied. The premise is that all program planning decisions must emanate from a consideration of the consumers' wants, demands, and needs. The aim of this chapter is to examine ways in which social marketing can help to promote health care attitudes. Exploring key concepts, the study focuses on the application of social marketing theory and principles to healthcare. Using a social marketing approach, it was examines the program UpForIt, which aims to influence students aged 16-24 years old to increase their levels of physical activity and adopt healthy eating behaviors. By examining strategies implemented, it identifies that young adults are willing to voluntarily change their lifestyle behaviors, given the appropriate target audience.
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Defining Social Marketing

Debates on concept of social marketing indicate that it is vague (Maben and Clark, 1995; Grace, 1991). Although a variety of definitions have been proposed and debates around the concept continue, social marketing is typically defined as a program-planning process that applies commercial marketing concepts and techniques to promote voluntary behavior change (Andreasen, 1995; Kotler et al., 2002).

The term “social marketing” emerged with the work of Kotler and Zaltman (1971), being described as “a promising framework for planning and implementing social changes”. Social marketing is particularly useful to promote the procedure of individual’s behavior change to reduce social problems or remove barriers that prevent behavior change (e.g. decreasing of fat consumption; increase fruit and vegetable consumption; promote physical activity). Andreasen (1995) defines social marketing as “an application of proven concepts and techniques drawn from the commercial sector to promote changes in diverse socially important behaviors such as drug use, smoking, sexual behavior…This marketing approach has an immense potential to affect major social problems if we can only learn how to harness its power…”. Kotler and Andreasen (1996) describe social marketing as ‘‘differing from other areas of marketing only with respect to the objectives of the marketer and his or her organization. Social marketing seeks to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target audience and the general society.’’ In addition, Donovan and Henley (2003) refer to social marketing as the process of using marketing principles and methods to achieve change in the social determinants of health and wellbeing. Many other definitions abound in the literature however there is still room for debate over what the definition of social marketing is. As Dann (2009: 147) states “social marketing is a crowded field of existing definitions”.

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