Public Health England announced their organisational structure last week which included a social marketing unit in the Health Improvement and Population Health Directorate. With the government's emphasis on using behavioural economics it is good to see that there is still a role for social marketing within public health. However there are a number of concerns about how it is envisaged that social markeitng will be used and its relationship with the use of behavioural economics and science as described in the publication.
There still exists a misconception that organisations should be using either social marketing or behavioural economics when looking to acheive behaviour change rather than seeing them as complimentary methodologies. Social markeitng is a planning approach used to develop behaviour change interventions. It uses social research, marketing and other methodologies including behavioral economics to develop and evaluate programmes. Commercial marketing has been using behavioural economics for years to influence purchasing behaviour and it only seems to be within the public sector that practictioners are looking to seperate the two. Social marketing provides a planning framework for practitioners to decide how to use behavioural economics and other approaches to achieve behaviour change. Behavioural economics provides social marketing with new ideas and tools in how to influence behaviours. Social marketing takes a customer centred approach to understand why people behave they way they do and what will influence them to change. By using this understanding practitioners can then decide what tools they use, including behavioural economics to develop services and programmes to achieve their behavioural goals.
The paper also suggests that social marketing will only be used on a number of already nominated national social marketing programmes and that they will focus on using behavioural economics and sciences for other programmes. Doug Mckenzie-Mohr a prominent environmental psychologist suggest that national organisations should take the lead in developing new research insights and test new interventions that can then be used regionally and locally - developing Turn Key projects as he describes them. The old Social Marketing Unit in the Department of Health started on this approach by developing the Healthy Foundations Segmentation Model - and it will be interesting to see if Public Health England take this approach in the coming months.
Other social marketing and behaviour change blogs that we read: