Table of Contents

Social Marketing and Behaviour Change

Social Marketing and Behaviour Change

Models, Theory and Applications

Linda Brennan, Wayne Binney, Lukas Parker, Torgeir Aleti and Dang Nguyen

This book provides a concise overview of the behaviour change models that are relevant to social marketing in order to assist academics and practitioners in social marketing program development. The book features a review and analysis of the most validated models of behaviour change, together with a number of case studies from international researchers that illustrate these models in practice. The models covered include cognitive, conative, affective, social-cultural and multi-theory models, consumer behavior decision models and social change models.

Chapter 2: Theories and their uses in social marketing

Linda Brennan, Wayne Binney, Lukas Parker, Torgeir Aleti and Dang Nguyen

Subjects: business and management, marketing, politics and public policy, public policy


‘Theory’ is a term that can be used formally and informally in academic and non-academic language. It is used in non-academic language to describe something that is abstract or unknown. Words that are often used interchangeably with ‘theory’ are words such as guess, supposition, proposition and hunch. People say things like ‘in theory’ or ‘hypothetically’ without consideration for the real meaning of the terms. The words theory and hypothesis have specific meanings that influence how research and investigation take place. A theory is a structured system of concepts that explain an existing set of observations and can eventually be used to predict future observations (Kemp et al., 2010). The system of concepts explains the observations and does not need to be directly observable. For example, the concept ‘attitude’ is not directly observable. However, it can be inferred from (manifest) observations such as self-reported survey answers, behaviours, and so on. A theory is based upon hypotheses (formalized questions) or research questions (concepts and ideas that are not yet formalized) and is backed by evidence. Therefore, a theory presents a concept or idea that is testable. A theory is not a guess. A theory is a fact-based framework for describing a phenomenon. In social marketing, theories are used to provide a model for understanding humans (influences, responses and behaviours) in a social change (usually persuasive) context. In addition, theories can be used to develop strategies based on generalizations.

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