• Users Online: 81
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page
Home About us Editorial board Ahead of print Current issue Search Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 187-192

Social marketing, the key for dealing with social pathology especially alcohol and substance abuse

1 Social Determinants of Health Research Centre, School of Management and Medical Information, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran
2 Health Management and Economics Research Centre, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran
3 Applied Physiology Research Centre, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

Date of Web Publication8-Jun-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Alireza Jabbari
Health Management and Economics Research Center, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2395-2296.158324

Rights and Permissions

Social marketing tries to affect the social behavior of the target audience in a way that is beneficial to the society and has wide use in international health programs such as dealing with alcohol and substance abuse. Therefore, the current study aimed to introduce a social marketing model developed for dealing with alcohol and substance abuse. This study uses review method by searching main keywords in credible scientific websites, books, research articles, scientific projects and dissertations. The main keywords included social marketing, social pathology, alcohol abuse and substance abuse, which were used separately and together. Main investigated websites included Web of Science, PubMed and Science direct websites. Afterwards the abstract and full texts of the gathered articles were investigated and unrelated articles were eliminated. The gathered data were then categorized and reported. Based on the results of this study, an effective strategy for dealing with alcohol and substance abuse needs to go through several stages, including product (including physical and virtual), cost (including the cost of methods used), place (the ways information can reach the audience), advertisement (notification methods), the availability of target audience, cooperation (by related people and organizations), political aspects (political fight against alcohol and substance abuse), public aspects (gathering humanitarian aids) and finally evaluation and implementation of the strategy. Selecting the behavior that needs to change, careful planning and cohesion of the aforementioned stages along with careful evaluation and implementation can help change undesirable behaviors and introduction of desirable ones. However, any strategy needs to change the attitude, awareness an behavior of the target audience in order to achieve the desirable results.

Keywords: Alcohol abuse, social marketing, substance abuse

How to cite this article:
Samouei R, Tavakoli N, Mirabdellahi M, Jabbari A. Social marketing, the key for dealing with social pathology especially alcohol and substance abuse. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2015;1:187-92

How to cite this URL:
Samouei R, Tavakoli N, Mirabdellahi M, Jabbari A. Social marketing, the key for dealing with social pathology especially alcohol and substance abuse. Int J Educ Psychol Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jun 21];1:187-92. Available from: https://www.ijeprjournal.org/text.asp?2015/1/3/187/158324

  Introduction Top

In every society, education, law enforcement and marketing are the three main tools used to control and guide the behavior of people. Among these, marketing is the only one of the available management tools for creating social change. [1] Using these marketing techniques helps the organizations to reach decisions regarding the characteristics, pricing, place, promotion and promotional methods used for their products and can help create marketing strategies based on market situation and standards. [2]

Social marketing is a type of marketing, which is used to guide the behavior of the populace and systematically uses marketing tools and other concepts and techniques in order to achieve goals that are beneficial to the society as a whole. [3] Social marketing believes that it is possible to use the ideas and techniques of commercial marketing in order to improve social behaviors. In recent years, social marketing has shown great success in dealing with alcohol and substance abuse. Social marketing experts claim that if commercial marketing can encourage people to buy an expensive luxury car, social marketing can encourage them to drive safely. [4] Therefore, marketing tools are used to change the attitudes, awareness and behavior of the populace. [5] In social marketing people are encouraged to adopt a specific, beneficial social behavior. [6],[7]

Psychologists believe that three factors of personal gain, social assimilation and dependence on social values can change the attitude and behavior of people. In personal gain, one prefers a behavior that is personally beneficial; in social assimilation, one picks the path that brings one closer to the society and common behavior. Furthermore, an attitude and behavior that is closer to the values held by a person is more likely to be selected. [8]

In order to change attitude to behavior, factors such as motivation, personal capabilities and the right opportunity are of great importance. [1] Opportunity includes all environmental factors that can help or hinder a certain kind of behavior. In order to successfully turn attitude into behavior, one must have a positive outlook regarding the target behavior which is even more important when the behavior is health related. [9] Also one must feel pressured to follow certain behavior and is provided with enough opportunity to behave in a certain way. [10]

On the other hand, psychology science believes that when a certain behavior successfully changes and the positive behavior is accepted, the society as a whole will be affected. In other words, a campaign against substance abuse can lead to improving other political, economical and social aspects of the society. [11] In this regard, Yothasamut et al. believe that the reason behind the success of social marketing interventions against alcohol abuse in Thailand is a correct understanding of the information provided by social marketing experts, which emphasis the importance of other social, cultural and economical factors. [12]

Therefore, one can conclude that using social marketing techniques in educational interventions for reducing alcohol [13] and substance abuse [14] in the youth is among the effective applications of social marketing in public heath area.

The reason behind the specific interest in alcohol and substance abuse is the fact that the abuse of intoxicating substances can directly affect driving accidents, violence, suicide rates, academic failures and dangerous sexual relations with increased substance abuse leading to increased social problems. [15] Therefore this problem can be the root of many social issues. On the other hand, the recent three times increase in the international substance abuse has turned this problem into an international issue. [16] This international issue leads to great costs in financial and human resources and is the reason behind many challenges and problems such as physical and psychological illnesses, social pathology and crises, therefore making it an important subject of study. [17]

Next some of the studies regarding the effects of social marketing on alcohol and substance abuse are presented.

In a program, it was suggested that if people were to stop alcohol abuse or don't drive while under influence, they can be eligible for certain discounts. The results showed that during the 1 st year of the program, driving while intoxicated (DWI) accidents were reduced by 17%. [18],[19]

In another program, the slogan "Don't let your friends drive while drunk" was used that lead to a 10% reduction in deaths related to alcohol abuse. [20]

Another program emphasized in creating social norms regarding drinking and driving and was able to control the use of illegal substances. [21]

In order to reduce the number of DWI incidents, the slogan "We don't drink and drive" was used during US election campaigns, which resulted in acceptable results. [22]

In England, in order to control public drinking of the youth, the government encouraged the stores to prevent sales of alcohol to people under the legal age. [23]

In another program the social norms regarding drinking of the youth and the amount of alcohol drunk were changed, which lead to acceptable results.

In US, academic studies show that the reason behind high amount of alcohol consumption among the youth is a misunderstanding regarding the amount of drinking done by their peers, which is usually wrong and exaggerated. In order to control this problem, certain massages were created to change this wrong belief and achieving a more realistic outlook. [24],[25],[26],[27],[28]

Berkowitz in a study showed that most students misunderstood the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption by their peers. By increasing the awareness in this regard they managed to significantly changes alcohol consumption patterns in the youth. [29]

Other studies also used social marketing tools to reduce alcohol abuse among students and youth. [30],[31]

Another program encouraged moderation in drinking alcohol by emphasizing on alteration between alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, resting between drinks and adopting healthy lifestyles. [32] Most of the participants in this program decreased their alcohol consumption as a result. [33]

Another study reported that social marketing has managed to decrease the number of DWI incidents by 17% in the 1 st year and great reduction in drinking with no great costs and that this new behavior is now part of the social lifestyle. [19]

A similar study used social marketing techniques to reduce the number of people DWI. [22]

Two studies showed conflicting results and reported no noticeable change in alcohol drinking patterns during the program. [34],[35]

The results of various studies show that social marketing techniques can be successful in changing the behavior of the populace. Of course there are reports of conflicting results, which are partly due to the method and social marketing tools used in these studies. This study aims to emphasis the importance of social marketing techniques and introduces applied models or methods for successfully changing social behaviors especially in the areas of public health.

  Methods Top

This study uses review method and was carried out by searching credible scientific sources for certain English and Persian keywords. The most important Persian source used was Scientific Information Database (SID) while a variety of English sources such as Web of Science, PubMed and Science direct were used. The keywords used included social marketing, social pathology, alcohol abuse, alcoholic, substance abuse and addiction. In total 20 English articles and two Persian articles were recovered using these keywords. The unrelated articles were eliminated after careful study of abstract and full text of the articles (one needs to remember that the probability of wrong elimination of a related article or a lack of access to a related article existed). After studying the full text of the related articles the related information was extracted by using the main keyword of social marketing and other secondary keywords and later summarized and categorized.

  Results Top

A sample of social marketing strategy for dealing with alcohol and substance abuse based on the results of this study is as follows:

First step is initial planning and selecting priorities that need to change in the society, which are alcohol and substance abuse in this example.

Product is one of the most effective parts of marketing strategy. In a social marketing strategy, the product isn't necessarily physical. When dealing with substance abuse the product can include distribution of personal and disposable syringes, condoms and medical tests and services. It can also include certain behaviors such as providing suitable opportunities for sports and healthy eating and visits to qualified psychologists in order to determine the mental health and the possibility of various risks.

The cost of dealing with these behaviors include financial costs such as the costs of the tests, checkups and visits to professionals and nonfinancial costs such as the time and effort spent on the subject, potential troubles or shames and the possibility of returning to substance abuse.

Regarding the place, one must remember that the place of a product is rarely certain and depends on the decisions make regarding the path taken in order to provide the target audience with information and education. For example place can include a clinic, a social consultation center, home or other places chosen based on the needs of the target audience.

Advertisement can be carried out using public announcements, billboards, group posts, media and multimedia methods, ads, newspaper articles, advertisements in certain stores and other possible methods used in the society.

Social marketing experts deal with a large and variable number of audiences and therefore need to know the address of their target audience. These groups can include unemployed youth between ages 18 and 25, people close to those with dangerous behaviors, peer groups that can affect people's behaviors, policy makers, managers, media representatives and anyone that can play a role in implementation of the program.

Since social and health issues are complex by nature, many organizations in a society need to cooperate in order to create a successful program. Therefore one needs to identify organizations with close (but not necessarily similar) goals and invites them to cooperate in the program. When dealing with alcohol and substance abuse, these organizations can include nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), private institutions, philanthropists and humanitarians, consultation centers, rehab centers, media and other related organizations.

Social marketing plans can show great performance when it comes to encouraging behavioral changers but keeping and preserving the results is also important. Therefore one needs to support these plans in the long run. The political aspects of fight against alcohol and substance abuse, especially during election period, might emphasis on facilitating access to professional medical and rehab facilities by reducing the costs of these centers, the need for coverage of addiction treatment costs by social welfare and increased budgets for studies aimed at controlling alcohol and substance abuse.

The organizations supporting social media programs need financial backing and must have access to financial resources in order to succeed in their endeavors. There are many different ways to gain this financial backing, which include government backing, World Health Organization and various private humanitarian organizations and NGOs dedicated to victims of substance abuse.

Finally, the evaluation of the program and understanding its strengths and weaknesses is the last stage before implementation of a social marketing program in the society.

  Discussion Top

This study showed that social marketing had models and applied methods that can be used in social and public health areas in order to change unhealthy behaviors. The main focus of this study was alcohol and substance abuse and a social marketing strategy with clearly defined scientific stages was presented in the results section. Since the presented model covers all aspects of social marketing from planning and knowing the target audience to evaluation of the program in a categorized manner, follows knows psychological principals and is defined according to the target audience, it shows a reasonable effectiveness. In other words in this intervention program the psychological and cultural aspects of society and target audience is considered.

Among different stages of aforementioned intervention strategy, first stage includes initial planning. In this stage, the health problems of the society are identified and prioritized. Alcohol and substance abuse, which is the focus of this study was considered to be of high priority and factors affecting it were investigated. Audience analysis, careful knowledge regarding target audience and categorizing the target audience were carried out in the next stage. Categorization of the audience is an important part of the strategy and is based on the education level, attitudes, beliefs, likes, needs and behaviors of alcoholic and addicted individuals. Before it was mentioned that the psychologists emphasis the role of personal attitudes and beliefs for changing the awareness and behavior of people. One must remember that this gains even greater importance in health related behaviors that can have widespread social implications. [4]

After knowing the audience and target group, knowing and analysis of the market is also needed because market is where the product is presented to the audience. Regarding the product, those involved in alcohol and substance abuse must accept that they have a problem and that the provided product is a suitable way for fixing their problem. Psychologists believe that clear understanding of substance abusers regarding the problem and product is necessary in order to take steps for fixing the undesirable behavior. [6],[8] Other factors that can affect the attraction of the products to the target audience include intermediaries, partners, rivals, resources, support systems and marketing environments including geographical, social, economical and political environments.

The pricing of the products needs to happen in this stage as well. One of the most important costs is the financial costs of the treatments. One must know whether these costs are covered by health insurance or not.

Regarding the costs, one must remember that if the cost of the program is heavier than its benefits, its perceived value for the target audience will decrease. When pricing the products, especially physical products such as medicines for facilitating rehabilitation, a balanced price needs to be set. If the price is too low, there is a risk of the services appearing worthless while too high a price can make the produces inaccessible for the target audience.

Next the desirable idea and behavior must be presented to the target audience using suitable means, encouraging a change in behavior. Based on the results by Prue and Daniel, an opportunity for reconsideration must be available for both the consumer and the provider. [36]

In the next stage, the product or service package must be defined based on the latest medical standards and the needs of the consumer and revised and monitored a suitable number of times and by suitable authorities to ensure that it has a high possibility of success. This revision and monitoring is useful when one needs to introduce changes and upgrades to the package.

In order to ensure the effectiveness and general success of the program, evaluations must be carried out. In these evaluations, the main questions are answered and the results of feedbacks are gathered. Some of the main questions are whether we managed to access the group defined as alcohol and substance abusers, whether the intervention program was successful in introducing change in the undesirable behavior of the target audience and whether the program was successful in introducing changes to the society.

After answering these questions and evaluating the success of the program, the program can be introduced to the society in a widespread and frequent manner. Evidence suggest that the changes created in health related behaviors need to be repeated and maintained in long term.

  Conclusion Top

Since social marketing doesn't simply emphasis on the needs and wants of the people of the society, but instead affects the behavior of people in the society in a more widespread manner and due to the fact that methods and principals of social marketing prioritize the target audience and based on the target audience's needs and wants changes the beliefs and attitudes of the audience in order to reach a desirable behavior, it can be used in areas other than alcohol and substance abuse in order to create desirable behaviors in the public heath area. If social marketing covers these aspects the final goal, which is "A health approach in all policies" and removing all inequalities in public health area can be achieved.

Therefore we suggest the following points to be considered. The needs and problems of people with alcohol and substance abuse problems need to be identified. Furthermore, the most effective communication method with these people, the content of the necessary educational programs and the method of offering these educational programs to the target audience need to be determined. One also needs to understand the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful programs in this area. Finally given the effectiveness of social marketing strategies it is suggested that such strategies and models should be used in order to change undesirable behaviors such as alcohol and substance abuse and other similar problems.

  References Top

Rothschild, ML. Some ethical cosiderations in support of the marketing of public health issues, American Journal of Health Behavior, 2000;24:26-35.  Back to cited text no. 1
Zarchi MR, Jabbari A, Rahimi SH, Shafaghat T, Abbasi S. Preparation and designing a checklist for health care marketing mix, with medical tourism approach. Int J Travel Med Glob Health 2013;1:103-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
French J, Blair-Stevens C, McVey D, Mervitt R. Social Marketing and Public Health: Theory and Practice. United States of America: Oxford University Press; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 3
Hastings G, McDermott L. Putting social marketing into practice. BMJ 2006;332:1210-2.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kotler P, Zaltman G. Social marketing: An approach to planned social change. J Mark 1971;35:3-12.  Back to cited text no. 5
Kotler P, Roberto EL. Social Marketing for Changing Public Behavior. New York: Free Press; 1989. p. 24.  Back to cited text no. 6
Ricordeau P, Durieux P, Weill A, Chatellier G, Vallier N, Bissery A, et al. Effect of a nationwide program of educational outreach visits to improve the processes of care for patients with type 2 diabetes. Int J Technol Assess Health Care 2003;19:705-10.  Back to cited text no. 7
Karimi U. Attitudes and Attitude Change. Tehran: Virayesh Publication; 2006.  Back to cited text no. 8
Clarke KE, Aish A. An exploration of health beliefs and attitudes of smokers with vascular disease who participate in or decline a smoking cessation program. J Vasc Nurs 2002;20:96-105.  Back to cited text no. 9
Abad SC, Mehri A, Abad MM, Fallahzadeh H. Application of extended model of planned behavior in predicting helmet wearing among motorcyclist clerks in Yazd. Birjand Univ Med Sci 2006;14:33-40.  Back to cited text no. 10
De Stefano ME. The power of social marketing: Concept and application to sustain. Posit Health Behav 2013.  Back to cited text no. 11
Yothasamut J, Teerawattananon Y, Tantivess S, Putchong C, Pilasant S, Khampang R, et al. The effectiveness of social marketing interventions in reducing alcohol consumption among construction workers and other residents in a community in Bangkok, Thailand. Value Health 2010;13:A545.  Back to cited text no. 12
Lowery RJ, Hardy S, Jordan C, Wayman G. Using social marketing to increase recruitment of pregnant smokers to smoking cessation service: A success story. Public Health 2004;118:239-43.  Back to cited text no. 13
Palmer RS, Kilmer JR, Larimer ME. If you feed them, will they come? The use of social marketing to increase interest in attending a college alcohol program. J Am Coll Health 2006;55:47-52.  Back to cited text no. 14
Gilmore L. Alcohol and social marketing. BMJ 2009;339:B3646.  Back to cited text no. 15
Samouei R, Sohrabi A, Yarmohammadian MH. Why some previous drug abuse preventive programs had low effectiveness? Med Arch 2013;67:68-72.  Back to cited text no. 16
Samouei R. Examine Ways of Preventing Drug Abuse and Psychotropic Medications Appropriate to the Type and Pattern of Drug use in Adolescents and Young Adults. Directorate General of Social Studies, Department of Social Security Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 17
Kotler P, Lee N. Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 18
Rothschild ML, Mastin B, Miller TW. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving crashes through the use of social marketing. Accid Anal Prev 2006;38:1218-30.  Back to cited text no. 19
Advertising Educational Foundation. Drunk Driving Prevention (1983-Present); 2003. Available from: http://www.aef.com/exhibits/social_responsibility/ad_council/2399/:pf_printable.  Back to cited text no. 20
International Center for Alcohol Policies. Social Marketing and Alcohol. ICAP Issues Briefings; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 21
Perkins HW, Linkenbach JW, Lewis MA, Neighbors C. Effectiveness of social norms media marketing in reducing drinking and driving: A statewide campaign. Addict Behav 2010;35:866-74.  Back to cited text no. 22
National Social Marketing Center. Reducing Underage Kerbside Binge Drinking: National Learning Demonstration Site Scheme; 2010. Available from: http://www.sub21.co.uk/docs/north_tyneside_outcome_evaluation_report_final.pdf. [Last retrieved on 2011 Sep 12].  Back to cited text no. 23
Glazer E, Smith SW, Atkin C, Hamel LM. The effects of sensation seeking, misperceptions of peer consumption, and believability of social norms messages on alcohol consumption. J Health Commun 2010;15:825-39.  Back to cited text no. 24
Perkins HW. College student misperceptions of alcohol and other drug use norms among peers: Exploring causes, consequences and impications for prevention programs. In: Designing Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Programs in Higher Education: Bringing Theory into Practice. Newton, MA: The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention; 1997. p. 177-206.  Back to cited text no. 25
Perkins HW. Misperceptions of peer drinking norms in Canada: Another look at the "reign of error" and its consequences among college students. Addict Behav 2007;32:2645-56.  Back to cited text no. 26
McAlaney J, McMahon J. Normative beliefs, misperceptions, and heavy episodic drinking in a british student sample. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2007;68:385-92.  Back to cited text no. 27
Higher Education Center. Introduction to Social Norms and Social Norms Interventions. Available from: http://www.higheredcenter.org/environmental-management/change/normative/social-norms. [Last retrieved on 2011 Jun 07].  Back to cited text no. 28
Berkowitz AD. An overview of the social norms approach. Changing the culture of college drinking: A socially situated health communication campaign (193-214). Creskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 29
Perkins HW, Craig DW. A successful social norms campaign to reduce alcohol misuse among college student-athletes. J Stud Alcohol 2006;67:880-9.  Back to cited text no. 30
Glider P, Midyett SJ, Mills-Novoa B, Johannessen K, Collins C. Challenging the collegiate rite of passage: A campus-wide social marketing media campaign to reduce binge drinking. J Drug Educ 2001;31:207-20.  Back to cited text no. 31
NHS Blackpool. (n.d.). Blackpool Life: ALTN8. Available from: http://www.blackpool.nhs.uk/index.php/blackpool-life/altn8/. [Last retrieved on 2011 Mar 24].  Back to cited text no. 32
Treasure I, Lewis C. ALTN8 Public Health Campaign for Alcohol Misuse in Blackpool: 3 Month Evaluation; 2006. Available from: http://www.dhs.de/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/Innovative_Projects/United_Kingdom/Binge_drinking_jan_07_evaluationuk2.pfd. [Last retrieved on 2011 Mar 24].  Back to cited text no. 33
Clapp JD, Lange JE, Russell C, Shillington A, Voas RB. A failed norms social marketing campaign. J Stud Alcohol 2003;64:409-14.  Back to cited text no. 34
Polonec LD, Major AM, Atwood LE. Evaluating the believability and effectiveness of the social norms message "most students drink 0 to 4 drinks when they party". Health Commun 2006;20:23-34.  Back to cited text no. 35
Prue CE, Daniel KL. Social marketing: Planning before conceiving preconception care. Matern Child Health J 2006;10:S79-84.  Back to cited text no. 36

This article has been cited by
1 Towards Noncustodial Harm Reduction in Substance Abuse among Youths: The Need to Incorporate Social Marketing Interventions into the Nigerian Legal Framework
Macpherson Uchenna Nnam,Victoria O Onya,Chinazor Franca Obi,Chisom E Ogbonnaya,Mercy Chioma Arua
Scientific African. 2021; : e00799
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Effectiveness of Interventions Based on Social Marketing Theory in Promoting Healthy Eating Habits: A Systematic Review
Vahid Ranaei,Sakineh Dadipoor,Hossain Davoodi,Teamur Aghamolaei,Zahra Pilevar
Journal of Education and Community Health. 2020; 7(2): 135
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded409    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 2    

Recommend this journal