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Iceland: how social mechanisms drove the financial collapse and why it’s a wicked problem

Sarah Maree Duffy (School of Business, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)
Gavin Northey (Department of Marketing, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Patrick van Esch (Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to extend the macro-social marketing approach by detailing a framework to better understand the driving forces of wicked problems.


This is a conceptual paper that uses the financial crisis in Iceland as a demonstrative example to show how social mechanism theory can help social marketers and policy makers overcome complexity and strive for the social transformation they seek.


This paper suggests the utility of social mechanism theory for understanding wicked problems, how they came to be and how social marketing practices can be applied to resolve market complexities.

Research limitations/implications

Social marketers need to identify what is driving what, to plan and implement interventions that will lead to the social change desired. This paper presents a framework that guides the analyst through this social change process.


This work provides social marketers with the means to understand the “moving parts” of a wicked problem to identify where an intervention is required to achieve the social change sought.



Many thanks to the anonymous reviewers their thoughtful feedback has greatly improved this work.


Duffy, S.M., Northey, G. and van Esch, P. (2017), "Iceland: how social mechanisms drove the financial collapse and why it’s a wicked problem", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 330-346.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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