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Macro‐social marketing and social engineering: a systems approach

Ann‐Marie Kennedy (Department of Marketing, Advertising, Retailing, and Sales, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Andrew Parsons (Department of Marketing, Advertising, Retailing, and Sales, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 10 February 2012



The purpose of this paper is to show how macro‐social marketing and social engineering can be integrated and to illustrate their use by governments as part of a positive social engineering intervention with examples from the Canadian anti‐smoking campaign.


This is a conceptual paper that uses the case of the Canadian anti‐smoking campaign to show that macro‐social marketing, as part of a wider systems approach, is a positive social engineering intervention.


The use of macro‐social marketing by governments is most effective when it is coupled with other interventions such as regulations, legislation, taxation, community mobilization, research, funding and education. When a government takes a systems approach to societal change, such as with the Canadian anti‐smoking campaign, this is positive use of social engineering.

Research limitations/implications

The social marketer can understand their role within the system and appreciate that they are potentially part of precipitating circumstances that make society susceptible to change. Social marketers further have a role in creating societal motivation to change, as well as promoting social flexibility, creating desirable images of change, attitudinal change and developing individual's skills, which contribute to macro‐level change.

Practical implications

Social marketers need to understand the structural and environmental factors contributing to the problem behavior and focus on the implementers and controllers of society‐wide strategic interventions.

Social implications

Eliminating all factors which enable problem behaviors creates an environmental context where it is easy for consumers to change behavior and maintain that change.


The value of this paper is in extending the literature on macro‐social marketing by governments and identifying the broader strategy they may be undertaking using positive social engineering. It is also in showing how marketers may use this information.



Kennedy, A. and Parsons, A. (2012), "Macro‐social marketing and social engineering: a systems approach", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 37-51.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited