Success and failure in social marketing programs: A qualitative exploration
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The world is facing a number of complex, interconnected crises that require rapid social transformation. Social change approaches such as social marketing have a role to play in this transformation. In order to strengthen the discipline’s ability to add value to solving or mitigating these crises, social marketers need to better understand what makes social marketing programs succeed or fail. The purpose of this thesis is to explore the reasons why social marketing programs succeed or fail so that the discipline may learn from this in order to improve future program outcomes, particularly at the upstream level. Chapters 2 and 3 of this thesis involved a two-part qualitative study that explored the perceptions of social marketing professionals with regard to mistakes and failures in the field. In the first part of the study, the principal researcher interviewed 17 social marketing experts about their understanding of the most common mistakes made by social marketers. The interviews revealed nine mistake categories: Inadequate research, poor strategy development, ad hoc approaches to programs, mismanagement of stakeholders, weak evaluation and monitoring, poorly designed program objectives, poor execution of pilots, inadequate segmentation and targeting, and poor documentation. The interviews also revealed two emergent, cross-cutting themes that affect the mistakes being made: External influences that the social marketer does not have direct control over, and the social marketer’s preconceptions that they bring to the program. In the second part of the study, the researchers surveyed 100 members of the social marketing community in order to understand their perceptions of mistakes and failures in the field. According to the data analysis, the social marketing community believes that inadequate research, poor strategy development, and mismanagement of stakeholders are the most common mistakes made by social marketers. Weak evaluation and monitoring is considered to be the least well-managed program element. Poor strategy development, external influences, and poorly designed program and behavioral objectives are considered to be the primary reasons for social marketing program failure. Chapter 4 involved a qualitative study that explored what the discipline of social marketing can learn from social movements in terms of successfully engaging upstream stakeholders to create socio-behavioural change. The principal researcher interviewed seven people who were involved with the New Nordic Food movement, and analyzed 53 documents related to the movement. The data analysis revealed a four-point strategy that the organizers of the movement used to engage upstream stakeholders: • Identify key upstream stakeholders • Present a compelling concept to key upstream stakeholders at the right time, with dynamic leaders who have high levels of social capital • Promote the concept using both instrumental and inspirational approaches • Take action to realize the concept The data analysis also revealed that the organizers of the movement had been highly impactful in terms of motivating upstream stakeholders to provide funding and start up government programs to make the New Nordic Food concept a reality. Recommendations for social marketers with regard to what they might learn from the New Nordic Food movement include partnering with mid-stream stakeholders, promoting a concept rather than only products, services, or campaigns, finding the right time to promote the concept, using both instrumental and inspirational approaches, and taking action to realize the concept. All of the data collection and analysis for the three research chapters was qualitative and exploratory, and was conducted using Charmaz’s (2014) grounded theory approach. Future research may explore the extent to which external influences lead to social marketing program success or failure, particularly in comparison to mistakes made by social marketers. Future research may also consider further exploring the spiritual and emotional energy-related aspects of heliotropy in social marketing programs at the upstream level to see if they correlate with program success.
Cite this version of the work
Julie Cook (2022). Success and failure in social marketing programs: A qualitative exploration. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18810