What is it?

Drawing on a range of possible ways to influence a person’s behaviour to help shape your intervention.

In social marketing we can affect behaviour via a number of areas of influence: that is, inform, educate, service, design and control. This is known as the ‘intervention mix’. Normally your intervention will draw on at least two of these areas of influence.

It is also using the traditional marketing mix of ‘product, price, place and promotion’ to set out the detail of your planned intervention.

Also called ‘marketing’s 4Ps’, the marketing mix relates to creating the right product, promoted at the right price and delivered in the right place for the target audience. It is also useful to consider additional elements of the marketing mix which are specifically relevant to services - people, process and physical evidence.

The Marketing Mix (the 4 P’s of marketing)


A key question is – ‘what are people actually buying? What is the ‘core benefit’ for the target audience? For example, are they buying health or a new lifestyle and how can the product be augmented by additional benefits, services and features?

For commercial marketing the role of price in exchange is usually clear. The monetary cost is often the main focus (although there may be other costs, such as opportunity or psychological costs). Monetary costs may also be incurred when adopting social marketing products – buying nicotine substitutes or healthier food. But unlike commercial marketing, little or no cost is required from the actual consumer. However, the concept of sacrifice is a key one - what is given up to acquire a product/service/idea. In addition to monetary cost, there are non-monetary costs of effort (including emotional effort), time and risk.

Place refers to distribution and therefore the ways in which consumers access the services they require. Convenience is a major factor influencing their decision, and lack of convenient facilities can be an important barrier to adopting or sustaining behaviours.

Promotion plays a major role in both commercial and social marketing. It is often the most visible element to the consumer and other stakeholders. It includes a wide range of communications, including advertising, personal selling, public relations, sales promotions, direct mail and so on. Decisions include: what type of communication to adopt; which media to use; the nature of the message and the method of evaluating success.

Since the 4 P’s of marketing were established, there has been a debate about their relevance and application to social marketing context. Part of this has involved people proposing the addition of other P’s into the mix.

Additional P’s of social marketing

The people providing the service are the ‘product’ or ‘brand’ from the customer’s perspective. The helpfulness, knowledge and concern of staff is a major determinant of whether consumers return to the service or act on the information provided.

Process involves service delivery and operating systems. Because services are consumed as they are produced, the consumer is involved in the production process, so the impact on the consumer should be assessed. For example, is it clear what they should do or where they should go? The process may be complex (and possibly overwhelming) from the consumer’s perspective; for example, services delivered in a hospital or surgery. Helpful signage is useful and personal attention from staff can put the consumer’s mind at rest. An important element of process for many services is the waiting time involved.

Physical Evidence
This includes: the appearance of staff (which can provide important indicators and messages, for example of professionalism, approachability, cleanliness); logos, signage, graphics and correspondence; and the physical environment or ‘servicescape’ (Oh God!). It covers exterior elements (such as signage, parking, landscape) and interior elements (such as design, layout, equipment, décor). The ambience of the environment (music, smells, colour schemes) impacts on the mood of customers, their perceptions and consequent behaviour. The layout impacts on the degree and nature of social interaction and conveys messages about status and the consumer’s role.

Policy / Politics / Politicians / Professionals / Proposition

Many other P’s have been identified and each can help in reflecting on what needs to be addressed

Why do this?

Single isolated interventions rarely have the ability to influence behaviour significantly. Only if the behaviour in question is straightforward will a one-off action (or limited set of actions) be likely to work. In order to influence, and to sustain this influence over time, a range of approaches is required. Hence, we usually need a mix of methods and approaches.

How might you do this?

Pick up from the point you reached at the end of the scoping phase and review your plans in light of the development work to date.

Consider what can be done in terms of key strategic areas of influence (educate, inform, service, design and control) to support your intervention.

Use the marketing mix to set out what the product or service is; how it will be offered at an attractive price for the audience; the place/s where they will be able to engage with it; and how you propose to promote it to them
As you did in scoping, assess the potential impact of each element of the proposed intervention for the target audience.

For example:

  • How will this impact on the costs of the desired and problem behaviours - in terms of money, inconvenience, risk, opinions of others, self-perception and so on.
  • How will this impact on the benefits of the desired and problem behaviour - financial savings, lifestyle, opinions of others, self-perception.
  • How will this strengthen/enhance any existing incentives for the desired behaviour?
  • How will this reduce/remove any incentives for the problem behaviour?
  • How will this strengthen/enhance any barriers or blocks to the problem behaviour?
  • How will this reduce/remove any barriers or blocks to the desired behaviour?

Continue to ask yourself if your planned interventions are ethically acceptable.

The following questions can assist:

  • Does the method mix meet ethical standards?
  • Will people be hurt or damaged by the intervention?
  • Are you being entirely truthful?
  • Are you inadvertently perpetuating inappropriate or harmful stereotypes?

Develop (if appropriate) a core message that will reach and resonate with the target audience

The message must be specifically relevant to the target audience. What is meaningful to group may not be understood by another. Issues which could be considered are:

The purpose of the message. Is it to create awareness of an issue, to provide information about a new service, or to persuade the target market to change behaviour?

What type of message do we want to develop? Two main approaches here are an informational or an emotional message.

How will the message be designed and delivered? Consider what you want to convey and how best to convey it, reasons why the target audience might fail to accurately understand the message, and the issue of ‘noise’ (other messages people are trying to deliver) which might distract the receiver.

How will message credibility be established? One of the most important issues from the target audience’s point of view is the credibility of the message.

How will the message be tested? It is essential that the message and the media used to deliver the message are pre-tested with the specific target audience.


Remember to stay focused on how to increase the target market’s perception of value.

The elements of the methods mix have to be integrated with each other - key messages should be consistent.

Do a final check that the target audience will be receiving a coherent and consistent message from all elements of the methods mix.

Double check that you will be acting ethically.


Well developed plans for a mix of methods for each target audience.

Intended Outcome

Clarity and detail on what the intervention will deliver through the methods mix.