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RecensionsBook Reviews

Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good By Philip Kotler and Nancy R. Lee. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2008, 446 pp. + 1 CD, 3rd ed., ISBN 978-1-412956-47-5 (pbk.: alk. paper).

  • Jeanette Burrows

…more information

  • Jeanette Burrows
    Queensland, Australia

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This book, by Philip Kotler and Nancy R. Lee, is a blueprint for organizations with an interest in developing and implementing programs for influencing public behaviours. It is very useful for those engaged in community and not for profit activities and, indeed, many of the case studies contained in the book focus on the impact that such programs have had in modifying social behaviour.

Kotler and Lee's contention is that it is considerably more difficult to sell behaviour modification than goods or services. For example, how does one convince people to spend more money or engage in uncomfortable or unfamiliar activities? This book provides many examples of how it is possible and it sets out the basics of how it may be achieved, down to obtaining funding for awareness campaigns.

The majority of the case studies centre around health and environment and this publication demonstrates that social marketing can have a significant impact upon a wide variety of issues. The book demonstrates the critical importance of transforming attitudes to matters of concern such as suicide (we are informed that 9.4% of 9th-12th graders attempted suicide one or more times during the past 12 months), binge drinking, school and domestic violence, HIV/AIDs and animal adoption (10 million unwanted animals in animal shelters are euthanized each year).

Examples vary from those in their infancy such as the impact of the prevention of methamphetamine use project in Montana to those which have had a measurable and positive impact on communities. Research shows encouraging results in campaigns designed persuade the public to wear seatbelts, refrain from littering, use water wisely, protect wildlife and use less plastic bags. A campaign to save commercial crab populations was successful when marketers appealed to the target audience's appetites rather than their environmental awareness.

The book is divided into five sections with the first part defining the history and concept of social marketing. It also examines strategic planning processes and success indicators within the context of social marketing. Part two deals with the social marketing environment and demonstrates how to determine research needs and options by analyzing this social environment. Parts three and four look at establishing target audiences and the development of marketing strategies including the nitty gritty of managing budgets, implementing plans and sustaining behavioural change by selecting incentives and disincentives. The final section of the publication sets out the management of social marketing programs, including how to source funding.

This publication also explores the area of competition which is an interesting component in a largely not for profit sector. For example, how does one ask teens to abstain from or delay sexual activity in the wake of peer pressure? Other related components deal with rewarding desired behaviour either by monetary or non monetary awards or decreasing the cost of such behaviour. This method has had impressive results in Ireland where a tax introduced on plastic bags has led to a drop of 83% in the number of plastic bags used in that country.

Whilst this book provides useful information for organizations of all sizes, it is apparent that, to a large extent, the most successful campaigns have significant backing if not monetary resources and Kotler and Lee provide information concerning the tapping of such resources. As society becomes increasingly more complex, social issues are having a greater impact on the general population and the use of resources, in particular, is set to become an even greater concern. I recommend this publication to anyone who is involved with encouraging people to abstain from undesirable or risky behaviours and persuading them to modify their behaviour for their own and the common good.