Social marketing is broadly defined as applying principles, techniques, and tools of marketing to achieve socially desirable goals. The fundamental objective of social marketing is to motivate or persuade people to embrace behaviors or courses of action that are deemed generally beneficial. Social marketers use the NSMC’s marketing benchmarks to develop programs that borrow from the best practices. The purpose of this paper is to describe how behavior, as one of the social marketing benchmark criteria, has been applied in the health promotion program in Australia.
Behavior as a Social Marketing Benchmarking Criteria
The NSMC’s social marketing benchmarks were developed by analyzing successful social marketing projects and reviewing key characteristics that led to their success. Behavior, as one of the benchmarks, primarily focuses on changing people’s actual behaviors. A critical analysis of behavioral attributes is undertaken to develop a clear picture of the current patterns and trends (Luca & Suggs, 2013). An important aspect of the benchmark is the analysis of both the desired and problem (current) behaviors. Intervention programs are clearly focused on specific behaviors (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015). As a result, the point of focus is not just passing information and knowledge, but rather changing people’s behaviors.
There are many examples from Australia and around the world whereby public health promotion campaigns have benefited immensely from the social marketing approach. For instance, social marketing has been applied to a variety of health issues, such as tobacco control programs, condom use, vegetable and fruit consumption, sun protection, road safety, and physical activity. Specifically, this paper discusses how social marketing has been used in the tobacco control program in Australia to promote behavioral change. According to Donovan (2011), the involvement of several people with a marketing background in Australian health promotion campaigns shows how the marketing approach has been used in achieving the desired lifestyle changes in the country. Social marketing is both a necessity and a useful tool in health education intervention programs (Thackeray & Brown, 2005). The application of social marketing strategies in public health programs has produced positive and encouraging results.
Social Marketing in Tobacco Control Programs
The Australian national tobacco campaign is aimed at reducing the smoking rates in Australia. Since its launch in 1997, the campaign has become one of the longest-running public health promotions in the country (Australian Government, Department of Health, 2020). Tobacco use has received significant attention from social marketers because it is a major cause of premature death and preventable illnesses in most countries. Global statistics on the effects of smoking are a bit worrying. For example, in the United States, it is estimated that about 440,000 people die prematurely annually as a result of smoking. According to Dewhirst & Lee (2011), tobacco use causes more deaths among Americans than those caused by suicides, AIDS, vehicle accidents, and illegal drug use combined. As a result of the negative consequences of smoking, tobacco control programs have become socially viable projects for governments and many not-for-profit organizations worldwide.
The key objective of public health is to promote and improve health with a special focus on at-risk groups as a way of preventing health problems from occurring. Health educators and planners focusing on addressing key challenges affecting community health use social marketing tools to influence behavior (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015). Over recent years, communication channels for health information have changed significantly. Social marketers understand that it is very difficult to employ only one way of disseminating information targeting behavioral change in society. The increased number of issues competing for the public’s attention presents a serious challenge to social marketers. As a result, a multi-modal approach becomes the most effective way of reaching the target audience with regard to health issues.
In Australia, the national tobacco campaign is extremely important due to various reasons. For example, tobacco use resulted in approximately 21,000 deaths in 2015 (Australian Government, Department of Health, 2020). Additionally, tobacco use has been termed the leading cause of preventable disability and deaths in the country. The social, financial, economic, and health costs that follow tobacco use is another significant factor that calls for a robust intervention plan to solve the problem. Within five years after the national tobacco campaign was launched, it was reported that adult smoking had reduced by 3.7% (Australian Government, Department of Health, 2020). Australia has been regarded as a global leader in broadcasting and producing mass media campaigns to address smoking behavior. These results indicate that proper social marketing campaigns have a huge potential in solving social health problems in society.
Application of ‘Behavior’ Benchmark in Australia’s Tobacco Control Program
Social marketing is used in the tobacco control program to encourage, induce, and promote social change entirely rather than just providing ideas and information. Behavior and social change theories are integrated into marketing programs to understand specific individuals and society at large. These theories enable social marketers to measure, assess, and analyze the issue that results in individuals making decisions that impact their health (Dewhirst & Lee, 2011). Social marketing uses commercial marketing strategies to influence voluntary behavioral change. Additionally, social marketers focus on improving societal and individual wellbeing. The Australian tobacco control program has applied the benchmarks stipulated by French and Blair-Stevens (2006) in designing social marketing programs in various ways. The application of the ‘behavior’ benchmark in the program can be analyzed from the perspective of the four crucial levels as proposed in the social marketing benchmark criteria as discussed below;
Intervention Focuses on Specific Behaviors
The mission of any social marketing plan must seek to intervene in changing a specific behavior that results in positive social goals. As such, identifying the social problem that needs intervention is the first step in any social marketing endeavor (Da Silva & Mazzon, 2016). The national tobacco control campaign specifically stipulates the kind of behavior that it seeks to address; smoking. The program addresses the need to quit smoking by looking at two at-risk groups: passive and active smokers. Changing the behavior, therefore, affects active smokers and helps protect passive smokers from being exposed to serious health risks. By stipulating the specific behavior that the tobacco control program seeks to change, it is clear that the social marketing program follows the benchmark stipulated by the UK’s social marketing benchmark criteria.
Robust and Broad Behavioral Analysis
Social marketers must perform a robust and broad behavioral analysis to develop a clear picture of the trends and patterns associated with the desired change in behavior. This analysis involves two major steps: diagnosing the current problem and then analyzing the desired behavior. Social marketers in Australia utilized this concept when developing the tobacco control campaign. Data on the current and past trends in smoking prevalence rates in the country were analyzed to do this. Tobacco smoking in Australia can be traced back to the early 1700s when visiting Indonesian farmers introduced smoking to northern-dwelling indigenous communities. By the early 1800s, tobacco had grown to become an essential commodity used regularly by servants and prisoners as an inducement to work (Scollo & Winstanley, 2012). With time, smoking became rampant, with the mid-1970s seeing female smoking reach a peak. As the smoking patterns increased, so did the negative health effects become more serious. Understanding behavioral patterns enable social marketers to develop interventions that best meet the desired goals.
Specific Measurable and Actionable Goals
Social marketers must develop a social marketing program that seeks to meet specific objectives that are both measurable and actionable. The primary goal is behavior change, which, in turn, leads to a common social good. The Australian tobacco control campaign program seeks to achieve the following goals: discouraging people from smoking, having strong tobacco control policies, changing community attitudes towards smoking, and discouraging people from smoking. These goals are both measurable and actionable. For instance, to establish whether people have been discouraged from smoking, statistics of the people using tobacco products annually can be collected and compared with previous periods. Similarly, control policies can be measured by the number of regulations passed by the country to control the use of tobacco in Australia. The tobacco control campaign program uses different social marketing strategies such as TV adverts, social media materials, digital apps, partnerships with various mental health organizations, and DVDs, and other resource kits for people use in prisons to meet these objectives.
Interventions in social marketing campaigns need to address four key areas of behavioral change; formation of the desired behavior, reinforcement and maintenance of behavior, behavior change, and behavior control. The Australian tobacco control program addresses all these four aspects of behavioral change. Concerning the formation of the desired behavior, the program’s objective is to prevent those who are yet to start smoking from starting the behavior, thus instilling the desired behavior of non-smoking. Similarly, changing community attitudes towards smoking allows social marketers to reinforce non-smoking behavior by creating a permanent behavioral change. The behavior change results from campaign programs that encourage people to quit smoking. Strong tobacco control policies play a huge role in controlling smoking behavior by creating deterrent guidelines.
The primary goal of social marketing is to persuade or motivate people to embrace behaviors deemed socially beneficial. To develop social marketing campaign programs that are consistent with the world’s best practices, social marketers use UK’s social marketing benchmark criteria as a guide. This paper has described how behavior, as one of the benchmarks, has been applied in the Australian tobacco control campaign program. The program follows all the four crucial levels proposed in the benchmark: intervention focusing on specific behavior, robust and wide behavioral analysis, adoption of specific measurable and actionable goals, and intervention that addresses all key areas of behavior change.
Australian Government, Department of Health. (2020). National Tobacco Campaign. Retrieved 8 October 2020, from https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/national-tobacco-campaign#about-the-national-tobacco-campaign
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