In the mood for [the right kind of] social marketing communication

George Anghelcev (Department of Advertising and PR, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Sela Sar (Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising and Institute of Communication Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Publication date: 28 January 2014



The effectiveness of social marketing communication should depend both on message features and on the psychological characteristics of message recipients. This premise was tested in an experiment focused on why consumers may respond differently to different types of pro-recycling advertisements. The message feature was the way in which the advertisements were framed. The psychological characteristic of the message recipient was the respondent's mood. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Hypotheses were tested in the context of an experiment focused on paper recycling.


It was hypothesized that congruity between mood and the frame of the message would result in more favorable message evaluations and higher intentions to recycle than incongruity. Supporting the study's hypotheses, the data showed that participants in a negative mood had higher intentions to recycle paper and evaluated pro-recycling advertisements more favorably when the ads emphasized avoiding negative consequences as opposed to attaining desired benefits. Among participants in a positive mood, desired benefit advertisements induced higher intentions to recycle paper and were evaluated more favorably than advertisements framed in terms of avoiding negative consequences.

Practical implications

A clear message placement strategy is suggested to increase the effectiveness of social marketing communication campaigns.


This mood congruity effect has not been reported before in the context of pro-environmental communication. Furthermore, the study provides empirical evidence of the underlying psychological mechanisms that cause the observed interaction. The evidence suggests the data could be predictive of similar response patterns in other social marketing communication domains (e.g. in response to health messages, volunteering, charity, etc.).



Anghelcev, G. and Sar, S. (2014), "In the mood for [the right kind of] social marketing communication", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 38-57.

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