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A review of social marketing interventions in low- and middle-income countries (2010–2019)

David James Schmidtke (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia)
Krzysztof Kubacki (Department of Marketing, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Sharyn Rundle-Thiele (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 17 May 2021

Issue publication date: 26 July 2021




This study aims to review social marketing interventions reported in peer-reviewed literature from 2010 to 2019 that were conducted in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This paper seeks to further contribute to understanding on the health of the social marketing field, synthesising studies to examine the extent of use of social marketing’s core principles.


A total of 17 interventions, discussed in 31 papers, were identified in the review. Social marketing interventions were assessed against eight elements (social marketing benchmark criteria): behavioural objectives, customer orientation, theory, insight, exchange, competition, segmentation and methods mix.


Evidence in this review found that most interventions yielded positive outcomes. This supports social marketing’s efficacy in addressing the United Nations sustainable development goals within LMIC contexts. None of the social marketing interventions used all eight benchmark criteria. The study found that there was limited use of insight, competition and segmentation principles followed in social marketing interventions in LMICs. Finally, although present in a number of studies, theory and customer orientation were not applied to the full extent needed.

Research limitations/implications

Findings indicate the social marketing field will greatly benefit from capacity building and training. Too few interventions labelled as social marketing are able to clearly apply and report application of social marketing’s fundamental principles, which is limiting programme effectiveness.


To date evidence reviews draw on interventions applied in high-income countries demonstrating extent of application of fundamental social marketing principles positively linked to behaviour change. This study extends the assessment of social marketing principles, delivering assessment of eight benchmarks encompassing insight and theory in an LMIC setting, demonstrating gaps in application and clear examples of application across all benchmarks to deliver a guide that people new to the social marketing field can follow.



Schmidtke, D.J., Kubacki, K. and Rundle-Thiele, S. (2021), "A review of social marketing interventions in low- and middle-income countries (2010–2019)", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 240-258.



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