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A national policy process on social marketing

Carlos Oliveira Santos (Institute for Public and Social Policy, Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 16 January 2019

Issue publication date: 12 March 2019




Since 2004, the British Government has delivered a national policy on social marketing that has created a new frame of reference in this field. This paper aims to study the genesis, evolution and implementation of the policy process that led to an important development in British public health.


An in-depth multifaceted single case study, mixing qualitative and quantitative data including participatory research, enabled by a cognitive approach based on elements of knowledge, ideas, representations and social beliefs in the elaboration of a public policy.


This approach to understanding the British policy on social marketing process demonstrates a useful explanatory capacity, producing a comprehensive articulation of the main cognitive, normative, and instrumental dimensions of this policy, including its significant mutations influenced by the 2008 Great Recession and subsequent political evolution.

Research limitations/implications

This paper has followed the British social marketing policy’s implementation in England. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, this national policy had specific developments that it was not followed in our study In general, subject to complex historical, social and political conditions, this is a field that preserves its dynamism and the ability to question concepts and processes. Ever seeking new directions and solutions, it requires an ongoing research study.

Practical implications

Conclusions speak in favour of a prescriptive framework for a national policy on social marketing that can inform other government entities’ efforts to develop similar policies in other countries. A correct understanding of such a political process can lead to better management of its development and its consequent contribution to improving social marketing policy and interventions.

Social implications

A proper conception and management of a social marketing policy can contribute to improving the well-being of citizens.


It is the first time that this specific cognitive approach has been applied so systematically to a national social marketing policy through a long-term research, providing a prescriptive framework for other’ efforts to develop similar policies.



Special thanks to Jeff French and all the NSMC staff. And also, Fiona Adshead, Julie Alexander, Mehboob Umarji, Bruno Jobert, Pierre Muller and Vivien A. Schmidt. All of them provided information, expertise and support that greatly assisted this research during all the years that it lasted.


Santos, C.O. (2019), "A national policy process on social marketing", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 5-25.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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