Current Themes in Social Marketing

text_mining340x220I recently held a workshop in Hamburg on research in Social Marketing and one of the bits of data I used to inform the discussion was a “Top 100 of Social Marketing Terms”.

I obtained the data by text mining articles with the keywords Social Marketing published over the past five years and available from the EBSCO Business database of peer-reviewed, academic journals. In total, there were around 400 articles which had the keywords “social marketing”, though over 100 of these were actually on non-social marketing topics, such as social media (vast majority) and sustainable marketing ( only a hand full). Thus, after “eyeballing” the articles I was left with 272 articles for the analysis, which all were “genuine” social marketing articles.

The full terms are given below. But here are some headline points:
Maybe not surprisingly, currently published social marketing researcg seems to be mostly concerned with health: public health is no 2 on the list, followed by health care (6), health promotion (12) etc. In terms of actual behaviours that are the subject of journal articles, again, health-related topics come out on top: with smoking & tobacco (23) and physical activity (31) leading the way. Interesting is what did not make it into the top 100: Sexual Health (102) & Pregnancy (129), though Alcohol prevent did make it (50), as did organ donations (27) and breast cancer (48).

Many published articles seem to be concerned with strategy: either as general marketing strategy (8) or specific Social Marketing Strategy (11). It was also good to see that market research was written about substantially (20). Interesting to note maybe that behaviour change did not make it into the Top 3 as might have been expected, but was found at 36.

The only theoretical framework that made it was “Protection Motivation Theory” (71), and related to this there appears to be a vivid discussion regarding the use of fear appeals (46) – a pretty controversial topic.

The table surely makes for an interesting discussion starter, particularly when thinking about what is all not in the top 100 (or sometimes anywhere). Few keywords seem to indicate that Social Marketing is slowly branching beyond the health realm and into other areas, such as environmental behaviour, financial behaviour (e.g. saving & pensions) and crime and crime-prevention.
Also the lack of theories seems worrying: while there is a lot of discussion about strategy (and to a lesser extent behaviour), the lack of theories in the list seem puzzling. Equally, hard to reach groups are not top of the list, as might be expected: Young consumers only make it at 62, and there is no mentioning of low income, low literacy and culturally diverse populations. On a similar note, while most of the published literature seems to talk about the successful campaigns, barriers to communication don’t appear: there is no mentioning of reactance, and no discussion of limitations.

Of course, the table is just a small snapshot of a large field, much of which is not always focused primarily on publishing in peer-reviewed, academic journals. In fact, it seems that if you take social marketing as a field, the practice of it is much more diverse and up-to-date than the published research. Which really should be a wake up call to the academic community.

Term Score
social marketing 688.05
public health 98.23
social marketing campaign 49.63
social policy 38.10
public sector marketing 26.94
health care 26.30
social marketing program 24.36
marketing strategy 23.50
social change 23.00
social marketer 23.00
social marketing strategy 22.77
health promotion 19.13
voluntary sector marketing 19.02
united states 17.20
commercial marketing 16.00
social responsibility 16.00
social marketing conference 15.85
health communication 15.54
social marketing approach 14.85
marketing research 14.33
medical care 14.26
health care service 14.25
tobacco industry 14.00
disease control 13.00
new york 13.00
health service 12.78
organ donation 12.00
welfare fund 12.00
corporate social responsibility 11.68
social marketing framework 11.68
physical activity 11.67
consumer behavior 11.09
public health programs 11.09
social marketing principle 11.09
social marketing process 11.09
behavior change 11.00
marketing management 11.00
public sector 11.00
american marketing association 10.09
public health communication 10.09
sustainable development 9.80
vocational rehabilitation 9.50
occupational safety 9.33
brand identification 9.00
fear appeal 9.00
health education 8.67
social issue 8.56
breast cancer 8.50
fair trade 8.50
alcohol consumption 8.00
great britain 8.00
new zealand 8.00
social problem 8.00
social science 8.00
tobacco product merchant wholesaler 8.00
nonprofit organization 7.92
public opinion polling 7.92
advertising campaign 7.50
private sector 7.00
smoking cessation 7.00
target audience 7.00
young consumer 7.00
national youth anti-drug media campaign 6.97
effective social marketing 6.92
social change group 6.92
social marketing intervention 6.92
social marketing message 6.92
social marketing research 6.92
european union 6.60
health insurance 6.44
protection motivation theory 6.34
public health management 6.34
social marketing effort 6.34
social marketing theory 6.34
social service 6.34
vocational rehabilitation service 6.34
advertising material distribution service 6.00
business research 6.00
cancer research uk centre 6.00
disease prevention 6.00
european social dialogue process 6.00
family service 6.00
florida prevention research center 6.00
formative research 6.00
integrating social marketing into routine public health practice 6.00
internet resource 6.00
market research 6.00
marketing practice 6.00
new york state department 6.00
oklahoma health sciences center 6.00
other tobacco product manufacturing 6.00
practical implication 6.00
primary health care service 6.00
public health administration 6.00
service learning 6.00
service quality 6.00
social advocacy organizations 6.00
tobacco industry manipulation campaign 6.00
young people 6.00

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