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Method mix in social marketing – The 4 Ps

Key concept 6: Method mix

A social marketing programme will normally consist of a mix of interventions, some appealing to logic and others focused on emotions and mindless choosing. To select the optimal mix of interventions it is important to rely on research evidence and data collection, e.g. end-user insights. The selection of the types of intervention and the weight given to them is driven by judgments based on data, evidence, acceptability and ability to implement and sustain these interventions. Five types of interventions have been identified. Figure 7 identifies a variety of actions that could be associated with each type of intervention.

Figure 7. Intervention types with associated actions [15]

Method mix

The 4 Ps

Another interventional framework used in commercial marketing focuses on the 4 Ps (Many leading social marketers believe it is time that the 4Ps were consigned to the history of social marketing. One of the big weaknesses these authors point out is that the 4Ps approach starts from the perspective of the social marketing planner and not the client. When using the 4Ps approach it is also possible to omit a consideration of wider influences on behaviour such as environmental and economic factors. However, the 4Ps are still a helpful conceptual model that can help in the development of social marketing plans alongside other conceptual models and tools.) of product, price, place and promotion. In social marketing, products may be tangible (vaccinations, condoms, fruit, nicotine patches) or intangible (ideas, values, services). Price represents the cost of adopting that behaviour/change. These may be monetary, (the cost of buying a vaccine), or psychological and emotional (anxiety related to vaccine safety concerns), social (the cost of looking different in one’s peer group), practical (getting to the GP’s office), temporal (the need to take time off work), physical (pain of injection), and so on. Place refers to the channels used to promote and support that behaviour/change. It might include distribution channels (sending reminders with SMS messages) and settings (bringing interventions to the consumer, into workplaces, schools, day care centres rather than expecting parents to bring their children to GP surgeries). Promotion refers to the means, tools and channels used to communicate the benefits of the change, e.g. advertising, PR, media advocacy, information materials, word of mouth, direct mail etc.

Advocates of this model stress that looking at the 4Ps ensures that public health programme managers go beyond just thinking about promotions. (If only the promotional P is used, it is more appropriate to describe the intervention as communication or advertising. Health campaigns which use only promotion are often described as Social Marketing when in reality they are simply social advertising.) They also consider what the benefit of the health behaviour is (core product) as well as the benefit of any tangible product, for example, a malarial net. The 4Ps model also encourages a better understanding of the costs of adopting behaviours (price) and the channels of persuasion that could be used (place).

The 4 Ps are often (though not always) used in conjunction with each other. Social marketing seeks the best combination of them to satisfy as much as possible the often changing needs of the population. For example, consumer research may show that a particular population is unaware of the benefits of vaccination, and so the promotional element of the method mix may be given greatest emphasis. However, as the campaign proceeds, awareness may become widespread and new problems may emerge as central concerns like having access to vaccine or its availability.

Table 2. Summary chart of key social marketing concepts

  • Concept 1: Insight
    • Social marketing is based on developing insight into people’s lives and on what motivates, enables or prevents them from behaving in health enhancing ways. By developing a deep understanding about why people think and act as they do it is possible to develop ‘actionable insights’ that inform the development of intervention programmes and tactics that people will respond to.
  • Concept 2: Exchange
    • Exchange is based on observing that we tend to change our behaviour when we perceive that it is in our interests to do so. We are also normally seeking value in experiences or things that make us feel better, safer or more respected. Forms of intervention include:
      • Hug: high cognitive engagement with a positive reward
      • Nudge: low cognitive engagement with a positive reward
      • Shove: low cognitive engagement with a penalty
      • Smack: high cognitive engagement with a penalty
  • Concept 3: Competition
    • Competition analysis examines both internal and external competition as well as barriers and enabling factors that impact on behaviour. Internal competition includes psychological factors, pleasure, desire, and risktaking
      whereas external competition includes wider influences and influencers on behaviour, promoting and reinforcing alternative or negative behaviours.
  • Concept 4: Behaviour
    • Social marketing is focused on influencing people’s behaviour, based on SMART objectives. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reliable and Time bound. Interventions are then developed to focus on specific behaviours. There is a focus on what triggers and establishes behaviours and what influences the maintenance, compliance and reinforcement of behaviour.
  • Concept 5: Audience segmentation
    • Target audiences are segmented using insight and behavioural data into sub-groups that share common beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Interventions are directly tailored to specific audience segments rather than relying on a broad approach which covers a large general audience. Segmentation strengthens traditional public health targeting with additional data focusing on ‘why people act as they do’ what they think and believe about health issues and data collected form observing their actual behaviour.
  • Concept 6:Method Mix
    • Social marketing applies an appropriate mix of methods to achieve the goals of the programme. A range of different approaches are examined and used to establish the most effective, efficient and cost effective mix of methods. Types of intervention include:
      • Control – to require, regulate, and enforce
      • Inform – to communicate facts and attitudes
      • Design – to alter social, physical or service environment
      • Educate – to enable and empower
      • Support – to serve and practically assist
      • Social marketing also considers the development and promotion of social products and services

© European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 2014

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