Published by the
Chair and Department of Business Administration,
Public & Nonprofit Management,
University of Mannheim
Prof. Dr. Bernd Helmig
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Discussion Paper No. 2/2010
On the Effectiveness of Social Marketing – What Do We Really Know?
Prof. Dr. Bernd Helmig,
University of Mannheim
University of Mannheim
On the Effectiveness of Social Marketing – What Do We Really Know?
Bernd Helmig und Julia Thaler
Social marketing continues playing an important role as social problems within society are
omnipresent even though they may vary with regards to issues. Therefore, scientific findings
on the effectiveness of social marketing are particularly interesting. A rigorously elaborated
structured state of the art covering two aspects – not only the currently observed restricted
focus on health campaigns but the whole spectrum of topics and the diversity of applied
methodologies – is needed. Accordingly, this paper aims to identify and categorize relevant
findings on the effectiveness of social marketing in a tentative holistic model with a main
focus on framing determinants. A research agenda – which includes research propositions on
framing determinants in social marketing effectiveness – to enhance scientific progress in the
field, is deduced from this state of the art.
KEYWORDS: Social marketing campaign, effectiveness, framing, state of the art
SHORT TITLE: On the Effectiveness of Social Marketing
While sociologists already focused on social marketing in the 1950s (Wiebe, 1951), the
marketing perspective of social issues has firstly been taken into consideration since the late
1960s due to the debate on broadening the concept of marketing (Kotler & Levy, 1969).
Currently, social marketing reflects “the use of marketing principles and techniques to
influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon a behavior for the
benefit of individuals, groups or society as a whole” (Kotler, Roberto & Lee, 2002, p. 5). As
social marketing deals with diverse campaigns, e.g. on social change in diverse fields, such as
health prevention or environment protection, a multitude of scholarly literature can be found
in health research, psychology, sociology and marketing. This multidisciplinary approach
leads to a fragmented research with diverse findings (Lefebvre, 2001). In recent times “social
marketing increases in visibility and acceptability, [consequently] funders and policy-makers
are increasingly asking for hard evidence of its effectiveness. Providing this evidence is
challenging, not least because it is difficult to prove that many kinds of complex social
interventions work” (Gordon, McDermott & Hastings, 2008, p. 334). Furthermore, social
marketing effectiveness is indeed the most important aspect of social marketing in order to
derive managerial implications for improving the attempts to solve social issues. Although
first reviews on existing findings on effectiveness have recently been elaborated, these
scientific contributions are restricted. Researchers did not strictly focus on applied
methodologies nor did they include findings from both practical campaigns and,
simultaneously, tested conceptual models. Methodologically elaborated reviews are content-
wise restricted to health campaigns (Gordon, McDermott, Stead & Angus, 2006; Stead,
Gordon, Angus & McDermott, 2007), e.g. anti-violence, pro-tolerance or pro-environment
campaigns are neglected. Additionally, an interdisciplinary approach has been applied to
elaborate a complete overview on the fragmented field of social marketing effectiveness.
Therefore, this paper focuses on a fundamental analysis of findings in social marketing
research. The research objectives are fourfold:
1) To provide a short overview of different research streams in the social marketing field
in order to thoroughly classify research on effectiveness.
2) To systematically review studies on social marketing effectiveness with regards to
3) To synthesize findings on independent, mediating, and outcome variables as well as
on control variables and moderators in a holistic model of social marketing
4) To derive research propositions and implications for further research on the
effectiveness of social marketing by generating an instructive research agenda that
enhances scientific progress.
A structured review of papers dealing with social marketing was completed
203 articles of social marketing in a broader sense. In a next step the authors conducted an
unstructured search focusing on papers and books cited in the articles identified before
conduction of this research step led to the identification of another 123 articles.
In order to
avoid uncontrolled validity threats (Salipante, Notz, & Bigelow, 1982), the authors focused on
inclusivity according to Denyer and Tranfield (2009) which is shown by the wide range of
finally included journals and articles. This approach follows Boaz and Ashby (2003) who
focused on the selection of articles according to their fit to the review goal.
The authors searched for “(social) marketing”, “prevention” or “campaign” in the full text of articles published
in scholarly journals of the marketing, nonprofit, health, psychology and sociology research relying on the VHB
Jourqual2 ranking (http://pbwi2www.uni-paderborn.de/WWW/VHB/VHB-
Online.nsf/id/DE_7EZGCN_Alphabeti-sche_uebersicht) and journals recommended by professors of the
Including the practical oriented journal Social Marketing Quarterly which was screened for articles focussing
on “effectiveness”, “evaluation” and “impact”.
A complete list of screened journals as well as identified articles can be ordered from the authors.
To systemize the total of 337 identified articles relevant to the field of social marketing, the
authors categorized the papers into three research streams that are illustrated in Figure 1.
FIGURE 1: Research streams in social marketing
Conceptual work has been conducted by focusing on what social marketing is or is not,
e.g. compared to social movements (Douglas, 2008) or education (Rothschild, 1999), on
definitions, development (e.g., Andreasen, 2003), and the social marketing process (e.g.,
Wymer, 2004). 187 articles followed this conceptual approach.
Researchers also analyzed the application of marketing tools to the social marketing
context and applied a descriptive approach using (single) case studies (e.g., Madill & Abele,
2007; Meyrick, 2007; Newton-Ward, 2007; Lavack et al., 2008). The descriptive approach
was found in 83 articles.
The third research field identified contains papers dealing with social marketing
effectiveness. With regards to this research stream, this paper adopts a new approach by
taking into consideration the evaluation of the effectiveness of certain campaigns (e.g.,
Darrow & Biersteker, 2008; El-Ansary & Kramer Jr., 1973; Lord, 1994) as well as social
marketing hypotheses and theoretical model testing, e.g. in experiments (e.g., Smith & Stutts,
2003). The analyzed social marketing campaigns were controlled for their fulfilment of
Andreasen’s inclusion criteria for social marketing campaigns (Andreasen, 1994; Andreasen,
2002; McDermott, Stead & Hastings, 2005). Andreasen’s benchmark criteria were judged as
fulfilled, when a campaign aimed to achieve behavioral change but in fact evaluated attitude
or intention change. Moreover, to identify all possible aspects of effectiveness in the field of
social marketing, analysis of pure social marketing advertisements were also included
although already Fox and Roberto classified social advertising as one single part of social
marketing (Fox & Kotler, 1980). Thus, 155 articles dealing with aspects relevant for the
effectiveness of social marketing could be identified.
Between the three very broad categories of social marketing papers, some articles were
identified as part of more than one category. For example, Bloom and Novelli (1981) focus in
a conceptual way on challenges and problems in social marketing. These challenges include
aspects on the effectiveness of social marketing, e.g. difficulties in defining effectiveness
measures and in measuring the campaign’s contribution to the achievement of certain
objectives (Bloom & Novelli, 1981). Fox & Kotler (1980)’s article is the only one that is part
of the conceptual, descriptive and effectiveness research stream at the same time. Firstly, the
authors discuss the development and critics of social marketing in a conceptual way.
Secondly, the application of social marketing in diverse fields such as family planning and
heart disease prevention is described. Thirdly, the authors focus on the evaluation of the
described social marketing campaigns even though not in detail.
The following systematic review focuses exclusively on social marketing effectiveness.
89.7% (n=139) of the 155 articles identified in the research stream of social marketing
effectiveness contain detailed information on variables and therefore constitute the basis of
the following analysis.
First of all, general results on academic papers dealing with social marketing
effectiveness are described. The authors put a focus on chosen social marketing topics, target
groups, applied methodology, outcome measurement methods and dependent measured
variables, as well as underlying theoretical models.
Social Marketing Topics
The analyzed articles cover the topics of smoking behaviour (28%), socially transmitted
diseases/aids prevention/condom use (18%), health behaviour (9.3%), drug use (8.7%),
alcohol use (7.3%), health prevention (7.3%), environment protection (6.7%), physical
activity (4.6%), healthy eating (2.7%), anti-violence (2%), not-specified (2%), drink and drive
(1.3%), safety belt use (0.7%), blood donation (0.7%), and attitude towards work (0.7%).
The variety of topics is reflected in a wide range of target groups. 47.5% of the studies
target adolescents or students. 14.2% target adults and 9.9% are aimed at children, school
children and/or their parents. 12.8% focus on (economically) disadvantaged, specific ethnic
groups or minorities. Households, smokers, and gender focused studies constitute together
and with equal contributions 12.8%.
Another important aspect is to find out what methodologies are applied in the social
marketing context. Thus, academic findings are systemized according to the type of study
conducted in the research stream of social marketing effectiveness.
76.6% of the studies are experiments (22.7% field experiments including e.g. mass media
campaigns , 33.3% laboratory experiments and 20.6% quasi-experiments including e.g.
school-based interventions in the sense of campaigns designed as school- or community-
based interventions). 41.7% of the experiments included a control group. 10.6% of the papers
are based on reviews or meta-analysis. 5.7% of the studies have been conducted as focus
group discussions and 7.1% as case studies. 26.6% of the studies compared baseline and post-
campaign data. The relatively low number of case studies is due to the fact that very few case
studies include a detailed evaluation of the presented campaign and have therefore been
classified as part of the descriptive research stream on social marketing.
Outcome Measurement Methods and Dependent Variables
Besides the acquired knowledge on applied methodologies in included social marketing
studies it is of great interest to get information on applied measurement methods from which
outcome evaluation is derived.
Used outcome measurements are self-reporting via quantitative surveys (via telephone
or face-to-face) (24%) as well as questionnaires (49.3%). Additional outcome measurement
methods – that are strikingly less used – are observations (8%) and objective measurement
methods, i.e. biochemical (e.g., carbon monoxide readings) and physiological measures (e.g.,
Body Mass Index) (17.3%). Furthermore, secondary data (2%) has been used to measure the
studies’ outcomes as well as qualitative interviews (4%).
In order to assess whether social marketing is effective, it is crucial to figure out the
outcome measurement variables (e.g., Homburg, Kuester & Krohmer, 2009). Research
findings portray a multitude of dependent variables that are measured in papers dealing with
the effectiveness of social marketing in a broader sense, i.e. the analyzed papers. Due to this
multitude of variables a distinction between final outcome variables and mediating variables
is indispensable in order to figure out the level of measured effectiveness. Accordingly, the
authors identified the first three mentioned variables as outcome variables, whereas the other
variables serve as mediators.
Behavior change accounts for the highest percentage of measured final outcome
variables (43.8%), followed by intention change (33.7%) and attitude change (23.1%). These
three outcome variables are followed by the mediating variables knowledge (19,5%) and
recall (12.4%). Awareness was measured in 8.9% of the dependent variables. Beliefs and
personal risk perception account for 7.7% of the measured variables. Emotions and
perception of social risk constitute each 4.1% of dependent variables. 3% of dependent
variables are perceived credibility, campaign effectiveness, and interpersonal communication.
The achieved attention change serves as dependent variables in 7.1% of measured variables.
1.8% of dependent measurement variables are social norms and perceived severity. Perceived
susceptibility, physiological and psychosocial outcome, behavioral control as well as
comprehension account each for 1.2% of the dependent variables. Several other mediators are
analyzed in one single study, such as subjective norms and perceived benefits.
In conclusion, 72 of 139 (51.8%) analyzed papers on social marketing effectiveness
measure the final outcome goal that is behavior change. 41 (29.5%) of the remaining studies
base their final outcome evaluation on intention change. 26 (18.7%) studies stop their
evaluation on a lower level.
Underlying Theoretical Models
In order systemize the variety of independent and mediating variables as well as
moderators and control variables, the authors analyzed the underlying theoretical models on
which studies have been based or which have been tested for their appropriateness in the
specific context of one social marketing topic.
63.3% of the studies do not explicitly rely on existing theoretical models. Accordingly, in
36.7% of the studies the authors identified a variety of underlying models. Mostly mentioned
is the Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen & Madden, 1986) with 22.1% followed by the Social
or Observation Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) and Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura,
1991) with 16.2% as well as the Health Belief Model (Janz, Champion & Strecher, 2002) with
11.8%. Furthermore, the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991) and the Protection
Motivation Theory (Rogers, 1975) play a relatively great role with 10.3%. The
Transtheoretical Model of Change (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983) is used in 8.8% of the
studies mentioning their underlying model. The Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty,
Cacioppo & Schumann, 1983) as well as the Ordered Protection Motivation Theory (Tanner,
Hunt & Eppright, 1991) are used in 4.4% and followed by diverse underlying models each
used in one single study: the Precaution Adoption Process (Weinstein & Sandman, 2002),
Lazarus's General Theory of Emotion and Adaptation (Bagozzi & Moore, 1994), the
Extended Parallel Process Model (Witte, 1992), the Expectancy-Value Model (Bagozzi,
1981), the Triandis Model (Bagozzi, 1981), the Prospect Theory (Jones, Sinclair & Courneya,
2003), the Motivation, Opportunity, Ability Framework (Rothschild, 1999) and the Attention,
Interest, Desire, Action Model (Arulmani & Abdulla, 2007).
Due to the fragmented use of theories, the authors analyzed the most frequently
underlying models with regards to a marketing, psychological or health research perspective.
In marketing the Transtheoretical Model of Change, Social Learning and Protection
Motivation Theory play an equal role and account for 18.2% of the underlying models each.
In psychological research the Theory of Reasoned Action is the most used in this context
(31.8%), followed by Social Learning Theory (18.2%) and Theory of Planned Behavior
From a health perspective the focus on theories is quite similar to the psychological
focus: Theory of Reasoned Action plays the most important role (54.5%) followed by the
Theory of Planned Behavior (27.3%).
TOWARDS A TENTATIVE HOLISTIC MODEL
Against the background of these descriptive results, the authors analyzed independent,
mediating and moderating variables as well as control variables, which contribute or are
supposed to contribute to the effectiveness of social marketing campaigns. Thus, a tentative
holistic model of social marketing effectiveness can be derived.
FIGURE 2: Tentative holistic model of social marketing effectiveness
General Campaign Characteristics
In the following section the authors discuss relevant general characteristics of social
Concerning a social marketing campaign’s scope, findings show that in a comparison of
a state wide campaign to a community-based campaign the former revealed better results in
behavior change (Friend & Levy, 2002). Concerning targeting, the following findings are of
importance: Culturally sensitive messages and messages focused on a small target group are
important to increase awareness and intention change (Talbert, 2008). Nevertheless, existing
findings also support that through targeting the general population compared to only youths
increases the impact on behavior change (Friend & Levy, 2002). Furthermore, gender targeted
social marketing materials did not increase recall and behavior change to a greater degree than
gender neutral materials (McCulloch, Albarracin & Durantini, 2008). Additionally, smokers
or non-smokers react differently to anti-smoking messages, i.e. smokers belief in messages to
a greater extent but both groups have an equal level of recall (Hawkins & Hane, 2000).
Several studies discuss the relevance of diverse channels for social marketing (Doyleet
al., 2006; Lord, 1994; Schneider et al., 2001; Smith & Stutts, 2003). Mass media campaigns
impact positively on recall, awareness, and knowledge as well as on attitude and behaviour
change. Audio channels, i.e. radio spots, create a high level of behavior change (Schneider et
al., 2001). Exposure to media has been analyzed in several studies (Basil & Brown, 1997;
Bauman, Padgett & Koch, 1989; Bauman, LaPrelle, Brown, Koch & Padgett, 1991; Fishbein
et al., 1993; Karan, 2008; McCausland et al., 2009; Meyer et al., 2004). The impact of
exposure on social risk perception is contradictory. However, exposure to media increases
personal risk perception, awareness, attention, intention and behavior change. Furthermore,
the viewing context, e.g. confrontation of social marketing advertising spots within a romantic
comedy or an action thriller, has an impact on recall, attitude and intention change (Smith &
Interactive elements increase knowledge and are followed by greater attitude change
than in a non-interactive campaign (Tobler & Stratton, 1997). In the context of interactive
campaigns, feedback has a positive impact on behavior change (Komaki, Heinzmann &
Lawson, 1980). Personal messages have positive impact on behavior (Brinberg & Axelson,
2002). Additionally, group support versus one-to-one support in social marketing campaign
has been discussed with contradictory results (MacAskill et al., 2008; Meyer, Niemann &
Abel, 2004). Furthermore, the long term effects of campaign were discussed for two
campaigns with interesting findings indicating the necessity of repeated campaigns and the
need for longitudinal studies: the longer the remoteness, the lower the effects of recall and
perceived effectiveness (Biener, Ji, Gilpin & Albers, 2004). After only two weeks, results in
recall, thoughts and intentions did not differ (Jones, Sinclair & Courneya, 2003).
Besides these general campaign characteristics, framing aspects are of great importance
in the context of social marketing (e.g., Block & Keller, 1995; Jones, Sinclair & Courneya,
2003, Lindenmeier, 2008). Furthermore this is shown by the fact that 37% of the identified
studies on social marketing effectiveness cover aspects of framing. The framing paradigm has
been discussed by various authors and can be understood as the way information is
communicated including how and what kind of information is presented (e.g., Entnam, 1993;
Levin, Schneider & Gaeth, 1998; Scheufele, 1999). Thus, this paper discusses the relevance
of focus, direction, tonality, time horizon, and content as framing determinants. Figure 3
illustrates the identified framing determinants. Furthermore research propositions are derived
in order to foster future research in the respective field (Mazumdar, Raj & Sinha, 2005;
FIGURE 3: Framing determinants in social marketing effectiveness
First, papers deal with the focus of social marketing messages which includes the
subitems self vs. others, known vs. unknown testimonials, and ingroup vs. outgroup, i.e.
”stranger” vs. “friend” (King & Reid, 1989; Loroz, 2007; Newcomb, Mercurio & Wollard,
2000; Reardon & Miller, 2008; Samu & Bhatnagar, 2008; Wakefield et al., 2003). Self-
focused messages (i.e. “you can get cancer if moking”) have been found to contribute
positively in the context of drink & drive and smoking. Whereas in the context of
environmental protection self (other)-focused messages had a positive impact in combination
with positive (negative) messages. Testimonials, particularly well-known testimonials (i.e.
celebrities), were found to be effective in the context of smoking and drug-use. “Friends” (i.e.
a person who is likely to be perceived as similar to the target group of the campaign) instead
of “strangers” in a campaign contributed to its success in the context of smoking. Hence, we
put forward the following:
Research proposition 1a: The influence of other framing determinants (i.e.
direction, tonality, time horizon and content) in combination with self vs. other
focus on the effectiveness has to be tested.
Research proposition 1b: An analysis of the effectiveness of self vs. other has to be
conducted for diverse social marketing topics.
Secondly, direction, i.e. positive vs. negative messages, is analyzed (Austin, Mitchko,
Freeman, Kirby & Milne, 2009; Block & Keller, 1995; Jones, Sinclair & Courneya, 2003;
Lord, 1994; Loroz, 2007; Peracchio & Luna, 1998;Schneider et al., 2001; Steward, Schneider,
Pizarro & Salovey, 2003; Wilson, Wallston & King, 1990; Wong & McMurray, 2002; Zhao
& Pechmann, 2007). For diverse social marketing topics both messages that were framed
positively (i.e. protection of environment through a certain preserving behavior) or negatively
(i.e. horrific scenario due to bad environmental behavior is communicated) turned out to be
effective. The contradictory results can be explained by the interaction with other framing
determinants as well as by moderating variables such as perceived self-efficacy or level of
motivation. Therefore, we derive the following:
Research proposition 2: In order to generalize findings on framing direction, an
analysis with regards to a variety of moderating variables relevant in the context of
social marketing has to be conducted.
Thirdly, several authors studied the tonality of messages (Arthur & Quester, 2004;
Bennett, 1996; Bagozzi & Moore, 1994; Biener, Ji, Gilpin & Albers, 2004; Dickinson &
Holmes, 2008; Durkin & Wakefield, 2006; Flora & Maibach, 1990; Jones & Owen, 2006;
King & Reid, 1989; Milne, Sheeran & Orbell, 2000; Murray, Johnson, Luepker & Mittelmark,
1984; Murray et al., 1992; Reichert, Heckler & Jackson, 2001; Samu & Bhatnagar, 2008;
Schoenbachler & Whittler, 1996; Struckman-Johnson, Gilliland, Struckman-Johnson &
North, 1990; Tanner, Hunt & Eppright, 1991; Tanner Jr., Carlson, Raymond & Hopkins,
2008; Wakefield et al., 2003). According to these findings, normative and rational messages
have a smaller impact than emotional messages. Threatening messages (i.e. communication of
likeliness of death due to driving while intoxicated) impact on the effectiveness of a social
marketing campaign, however, findings on the impact of physically versus socially
threatening messages as well as on the level of threat are diverse within and between different
social marketing topics. Consequently, we state the following:
Research proposition 3a: Physical versus social threat has to be tested against the
background of different social marketing topics taking into consideration the level
of outcome variables.
Research proposition 3b: Level of threat has to be analyzed taking into
consideration moderators (i.e. gender, age of target group, personal
characteristics) and other framing determinants (i.e. focus, direction, time horizon
Another important framing determinant is the time horizon of communicated
consequences (i.e. possibility of the emergence of lung cancer as a result of smoking
behavior) (Murray, Johnson, Luepker & Mittelmark, 1984; Peracchio & Luna, 1998; Smith &
Stutts, 2003; Smith & Stutts, 2006). Time horizon has only been tested for smoking and
resulted in diverse findings due to the impact of moderating variables. As a result, we suggest
Research proposition 4: Time horizon has to be analyzed in its interaction with
moderating variables (i.e. gender, age of target group, personal characteristics) as
well as in further contexts other than smoking.
Concerning the content of social marketing messages multiple messages within one
campaign, the description of the recommended behavior, known and unknown as well as
quantitative and qualitative information can contribute to the effectiveness of social marketing
(Beltramini, 1988; Haldemann & Turner, 2009; Hawkins & Hane, 2000; Kalsher, Clarke &
Wogalter, 1993; Keller & Lehmann, 2008; Linn, Vining & Feeley, 1994; Pechmann &
Ratneshwar, 1994; Pechmann, Zhao, Goldberg & Reibling, 2003; Peracchio & Luna, 1998;
Ray & Ward, 1976; Slater, Karan, Rouner, Murphy & Beauvais, 1998; Snyder et al., 2004;
Struckman-Johnson & Struckman-Johnson, 1996; Tanner, Hunt & Eppright, 1991; Veer,
Tutty & Willemse, 2008; Whittam, Dwyer, Simpson & Leeming, 2006; Yzer, Cappella,
Fishbein, Hornik & Kirkland Ahern, 2003). Thus, we constitute the following:
Research proposition 5: Subitems of content have to be analyzed systematically
comparing their impacts on diverse social marketing topics.
According to e.g. Vakratsas and Ambler (1999) firstly cognition or emotions, secondly,
the intention to change behavior, and thirdly, an obvious behavior change can be measured.
Moreover, a change in attitudes directly leads to an intention to change behavior and is
regarded as outcome variable in the context of social marketing (e.g., Bagozzi, 1981).
Consequently, the authors put a focus on the level of cognitive and emotional responses as
mediating variables that contribute to the outcome variables.
With regards to cognitive responses, recall, perceived campaign credibility, and
campaign effectiveness – in terms of created attention and awareness – are measured (e.g.,
Biener, Ji, Gilpin & Albers, 2004; Chaudhuri & Ray, 2004; Karan, 2008; Wakefield et al.,
Besides these cognitive responses, emotions such as fear, anger, sadness as well as
empathy and affect, are important mediators in the context of social marketing (Arthur &
Quester, 2004; Bagozzi & Moore, 1994; Basil & Brown, 1997; Chaudhuri & Ray, 2004; King
& Reid, 1989; Montaño, Thompson, Taylor & Mahloch, 1997; Morton & Duck, 2006).
The analyzed cognitive and emotional responses mediate between the independent and
outcome variables. Additionally, they enhance further mediators, such as interpersonal
communication (see e.g., Basil & Brown, 1997; Durkin & Wakefield, 2006; Fishbein et al.,
1993; Komaki, Heinzmann & Lawson, 1980; Morton & Duck, 2006; Tanner Jr., Carlson,
Raymond & Hopkins, 2008; Traeen, 1990), knowledge (see e.g., Givaudan, Van de Vijver,
Poortinga, Leenen & Pick, 2007; Hassan, Walsh, Shiu, Hastings & Harris, 2007; Kalsher,
Clarke & Wogalter, 1993), beliefs and perception of consequences.
With regards to the role of beliefs in the context of social marketing the following
findings are of interest: Behavioral beliefs influence attitude (Albarracin, Fishbein &
Goldestein de Muchinik, 1997; Blue, 1995; Bogart, Cecil & Pinkerton, 2000; Bosompra,
2001; Fisher, Fisher & Rye, 1995; Montaño, Thompson, Taylor & Mahloch, 1997).
Normative beliefs influence social or subjective norms (Albarracin, Fishbein & Goldestein de
Muchinik, 1997; Blue, 1995; Bogart, Cecil & Pinkerton, 2000; Bosompra, 2001; Fisher,
Fisher & Rye, 1995). Perceived social norms either directly influence intention or behavior
change or they mediate between normative beliefs and changed intentions (Artz & Cooke,
2007; Bogart, Cecil & Pinkerton, 2000; Goldberg, Niedermeier, Bechtel & Gorn, 2006;
Haldemann & Turner, 2009; Millstein, 1996; Montaño & Taplin, 1991). The same is true for
subjective norms (Albarracin, Johnson, Fishbein & Muellerleile, 2001; Blue, 1995;
Bosompra, 2001; Craig, Goldberg & Dietz, 1996; Fisher, Fisher & Rye, 1995; Gastil, 2000;
Givaudan, Van de Vijver, Poortinga, Leenen & Pick, 2007; Goldberg, Niedermeier, Bechtel
& Gorn, 2006; Marcoux & Shope, 1997; Montaño, Thompson, Taylor & Mahloch, 1997;
Steen, Peay & Owen, 1998). Control beliefs influence perceived behavioral control as part of
self-efficacy (Blue, 1995).
Furthermore, the perception of consequences contributes as important mediator to the
effectiveness of social marketing. This mediator includes perceived severity of harm (e.g.,
Arthur & Quester, 2004; Beltramini, 1988; Desvousges, Smith & Rink III, 1992; Fishbein et
al., 1993; Gastil, 2000; Harrison, Mullen & Green, 1992; Tanner, Hunt & Eppright, 1991),
perceived probability of harm (e.g., Arthur & Quester, 2004; Chaudhuri & Ray, 2004; Gastil,
2000; Harrison, Mullen & Green, 1992; Stacy, MacKinnon & Pentz, 1993; Tanner, Hunt &
Eppright, 1991), expectations of physical and psychosocial outcomes (e.g., Du, Sen &
Bhattacharya, 2008) as well as perceived benefits and costs and social and personal risk
(Argo & Kelley, 2004; Harrison, Mullen & Green, 1992; Montaño & Taplin, 1991; Reardon
& Miller, 2008).
MODERATING AND CONTROL VARIABLES
Moderating variables influence the impact of independent variables on mediating
variables as well as the effects of mediating variables on outcome variables. The authors
classify personal characteristics as moderators. Findings on personal characteristics include
demographics, prior experience, involvement, level of motivation to change and sensation
seeking and are diverse (Chaudhuri & Ray, 2004; Smith & Stutts, 2006). For example, gender
has a significant influence on communication and awareness as well as on reactions to low
versus high fear arousing messages with regard to perceived probability of harm and intention
to not change behavior in the recommended way. Low fear arousing increases men’s
favourable intentions, whereas females are influenced by high fear arousing messages.
Prior trail behavior has been discussed by several authors (Arthur & Quester, 2004; Basil &
Brown, 1997; Beltramini, 1988; Best et al., 1984; Chaudhuri & Ray, 2004; Montaño &
Taplin, 1991; Tangari, Burton, Andrews & Netemeyer, 2007; Traeen, 1990). The influence of
prior trial behavior on beliefs and intentions is discussed controversially. Literature suggests a
positive influence on changes in behaviour as it enhances the effect on recall and attitude
In addition, the stage of the targeted persons and thus the motivation level has an impact
on intention and behaviors, e.g. persons in a preparation and contemplation stage react to
campaigns with more favourable attitudes (Berger & Rand, 2008; Wilson, Wallston & King,
1990; Wong & McMurray, 2002). Sensation seeking is another characteristic with impact on
social marketing effectiveness (Palmgreen, Donohew, Lorch, Hoyle & Stephenson, 2001).
High sensation seeking moderates the effect of negative emotional response on behavior
change. Besides sensation seeking involvement in the subject has to be considered (Flora &
Maibach, 1990; O'Cass & Griffin, 2006). Both high and low involvement moderate the impact
of messages on recall. High involvement has a positive impact on attention and attitude.
Besides the analyzed moderating variables in the context of social marketing
effectiveness, the authors studied control variables. Social marketing topic and environmental
impact characteristics, e.g. general exposure to wrong behaviour, and social influence (e.g.,
Andrews, Netemeyer & Durvasula, 1990; Artz & Cooke, 2007; Basil & Brown, 1997;
Bauman, Padgett & Koch, 1989; Bauman, LaPrelle, Brown, Koch & Padgett, 1991; Best et
al., 1984; Evans et al., 1981; Fishbein, Middlestadt & Trafimow, 1993; Samu & Bhatnagar,
2008; Smith & Stutts, 2006), have been identified as control variables. For example, the
acculturation of a family has an impact on behavior change (Du, Sen & Bhattacharya, 2008).
In addition, e.g. general smoking exposure impacts on outcome variables (Tangari, Burton,
Andrews & Netemeyer, 2007).
DISCUSSION AND AVENUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
The authors elaborated a state of the art on the research field of social marketing based
on multidisciplinary and a multitude of social marketing topics covering findings. An attempt
has been made to systemize diverse and sometimes even controversy findings in a tentative
model. Due to the fact that findings do not only have a multidisciplinary background but are
also based on a variety of theoretical underlying models, the elaboration of such a more or
less holistic model contributes to the scientific progress in this field. In addition, the state of
the art serves to generate a research agenda as the need for further research is obvious.
First of all, content-wise further research is needed in the currently highly relevant topic
of violence-related issues. From a methodological viewpoint, experiments should be carried
out more rigorously with regards to control groups. Moreover, case studies could be used for
research on social marketing effectiveness if they contained consequently evaluation details.
With regards to outcome measurement methods, the dominance of data based on self-
reporting should be decreased. More studies on social marketing effectiveness aiming at
measuring behavior change are needed. Little focus has been put on delayed post-campaign
evaluation. This research gap could be filled by researching the long-term impact on social
marketing campaigns instead of focussing merely on short-term effectiveness.
As the authors synthesized findings based on the variety of underlying theoretical
models as well as findings from diverse research disciplines in a tentative holistic model of
social marketing effectiveness, further research concerning this model is needed: As it is a
holistic model no empirically validation of the whole model can be achieved in a first step.
Nevertheless, the model should be tested partially regarding the existing links among
mediating variables as well as the relevance of mediating variables for different social
marketing topics in detail. Moderating and control variables have been deduced from the
fragmented existing findings and have to be completed as well as tested for their relevance.
Besides these general implications for further research in the field of social marketing,
the authors focused on the elaboration of concrete research propositions regarding framing
determinants. The authors’ focus on framing determinants is due to the fact that these
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