Social marketing: advancing a new planning framework to guide programmes

M. Bilal Akbar (Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Lawrence B. Ndupu (University of Derby, Derby, UK)
Jeff French (Strategic Social Marketing Ltd, London, UK)
Alison Lawson (University of Derby, Derby, UK)

RAUSP Management Journal

ISSN: 2531-0488

Article publication date: 31 May 2021

Issue publication date: 11 August 2021




This paper aims to develop and present a new planning framework of social marketing, known as consumer research, segmentation, design of the social programme, implementation, evaluation and sustainability (CSD-IES).


The proposed framework is based on recent theoretical developments in social marketing and is informed by the key strengths of existing social marketing planning approaches.


The CSD-IES planning framework incorporates emerging principles of social marketing. For example, sustainability in changed behaviour, ethical considerations in designing social marketing programmes, the need for continuous research to understand the changing needs of the priority audience during the programme and the need for explicit feedback mechanisms.

Research limitations/implications

The CSD-IES framework is a dynamic and flexible framework that guides social marketers, other practitioners and researchers to develop, implement and evaluate effective and sustainable social marketing programmes to influence or change specific behaviours based on available resources.


This paper makes an important contribution to social marketing theory and practice by integrating elements of behaviour maintenance, consideration of ethical perspectives and continuous feedback mechanisms in developing the CSD-IES framework, bringing it in line with the global consensus definition of social marketing.



Akbar, M.B., Ndupu, L.B., French, J. and Lawson, A. (2021), "Social marketing: advancing a new planning framework to guide programmes", RAUSP Management Journal, Vol. 56 No. 3, pp. 266-281.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, M. Bilal Akbar, Lawrence B. Ndupu, Jeff French and Alison Lawson.


Published in RAUSP Management Journal. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence maybe seen at


Social marketing is a compelling behaviour change approach (Kassirer et al., 2019), which has a growing theoretical base as well as growth in learning from a practical perspective (Lee, 2020). The interdisciplinary nature of social marketing is drawn from commercial marketing, psychology, behavioural science, sociology and many more (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015; Spotswood & Tapp, 2013; Wood, 2012; Donovan & Henley, 2010), resulting in constantly evolving principles (Deshpande, 2019). In 2017, social marketing principles were re-defined in a global consensus definition:

Social Marketing seeks to (1) develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviour that benefits individuals and communities for the greater social good. (2) Social Marketing practice is guided by ethical principles. (3) It seeks to integrate research, best practice, theory, (4) audience and partnership insight, to inform the delivery of competition sensitive and segmented social change programmes that are effective, efficient, equitable and (5) sustainable (ISMA et al., 2017).

This global consensus definition confirms that social marketing has moved on from using traditional marketing principles for influencing behaviours to a multidisciplinary approach, emphasising ethically guided, effective and sustainable solutions. However, “there is a growing recognition that the field lacks a unified theoretical framework that can help practitioners develop behaviour change interventions” (Cohen & Andrade, 2018, p. 84). Similarly, taking the global consensus definition as a reference, many existing social marketing planning (SMP) approaches can be considered incomplete, generating a critical research gap (Akbar, French & Lawson, 2019). Building on Akbar et al.’s (2019) analysis, this paper seeks to develop a new framework, in line with the field’s current theoretical development.

Social marketing planning approaches and social marketing theory development

Because of social marketing’s scope and diversity, many scholars have turned to established SMP approaches for guidance. A handful of these approaches have dominated empirical research (Davis, Campbell, Hildon, Hobbs, & Michie, 2015; Bloom, Gundlach & Lefebvre, 2015; Luca & Suggs, 2013; Painter, Borba, Hynes, Mays & Glanz, 2008). This paper briefly summarises some of the most often identified/cited approaches in this section because of space limitations.

Wiebe’s (1952) five principles (force, direction, distance, adequacy and compatibility and social mechanism) were considered the first-ever attempt to identify the idea of a social mechanism for translating the motivation of people into actions in a behaviour change programme. However, Wiebe’s (1952) principles lack practical guidance (Akbar et al., 2019). Even though Wiebe (1952) introduced commercial marketing techniques in a behaviour change setting, the principles remain unsuccessful in incorporating fundamental marketing tools. Kotler and Zaltman (1971) planning system overcomes the weaknesses noted in Wiebe’s (1952) work. This planning system introduces commercial marketing techniques, for example, scanning of the macro-environmental factors, market research and the 4Ps of marketing. The planning system was accepted broadly in social marketing practice (Kotler & Zaltman, 1971); however, it omitted behaviour change objectives and consumer research.

Andreasen’s (2002) benchmark criteria (behaviour change, consumer research, segmentation and targeting, marketing mix, exchange and competition) combines Wiebe’s (1952) principles and Kotler and Zaltman’s (1971) planning system, with a balance of marketing techniques, behaviour change objectives and consumer research. The benchmark criteria focus on understanding consumer values, experiences and needs based on exchange theory and became one of the most widely used tools for planning, designing and implementing social marketing programmes (Simiyu-Wakhisi, 2012; Carins & Rundle-Thiele, 2014; Kubacki, Rundle-Thiele, Lahtinen, & Parkinson, 2015; Akbar, French & Lawson, 2020). The lack of clarity on essential and non-essential components of criteria for designing programmes remains the main criticism (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015).

Hastings (2007) combined the health behaviour determinants (MacFadyen, Stead & Hastings, 1999), such as personal, social, cultural and environmental factors that influence behaviours into a conceptual model. Unlike Andreasen’s (2002) criteria, the emphasis on segmentation and the marketing mix is omitted in Hastings’ (2007) work; instead, it focuses on socio-cultural factors to initiate a behaviour change process, contradicting the notion that social marketing is built on fundamental marketing principles (Andreasen, 2006; Kassirer et al., 2019; Kotler, Roberto & Lee, 2002; Lee & Kotler, 2011a, 2011b; Lefebvre, 2011; French & Apfel, 2015).

Weinreich’s (2010) planning process presents a pyramid of sequential steps to design social marketing programmes. This hierarchical planning process unifies planning, pre-testing, evaluation and monitoring mechanisms. Like Hastings’ (2007) model, Weinreich’s (2010) planning process also rejects conventional marketing techniques. Instead, Weinreich (2010) offers the social marketing mix to be used in designing programmes, adding four extra Ps – public, policy, partnership and purse strings – to the existing 4Ps of marketing. This planning process encourages “developing partnership” through stakeholders’ involvement in the social marketing programme, thereby identifying the need for social marketing to look beyond commercial marketing techniques.

As social marketing theory developed further, Lee and Kotler (2011a, 2011b) introduced a lengthy planning process for social marketing, including ten steps (given below) that combine concepts from previously discussed SMP approaches:

  1. background/purpose/focus;

  2. situational analysis;

  3. target audience;

  4. behavioural objectives;

  5. research on the target audience;

  6. positioning;

  7. use of the marketing mix theory;

  8. monitoring and evaluation;

  9. budget; and

  10. implementation.

Lee and Kotler (2011a, 2011b) aimed to shift the focus from traditional marketing techniques to consumer-oriented approaches, incorporating Lauterborn’s (1990) 4Cs (consumer, cost, communication and convenience) alongside the traditional 4Ps (product, price, promotion and place). This ten-step planning process acknowledges the use of situational analysis, peer review, literature review, epidemiological and scientific data alongside consumer research to gain an in-depth understanding of a social issue.

As the expansion of the field continued, Robinson-Maynard, Meaton and Lowry (2013) put forward their 19-step criteria as a replacement for Andreasen’s (2002) benchmark criteria and Lee and Kotler’s (2011a, 2011b) 10-step planning process. Even though the 19-step criteria introduce ethical consideration while planning, designing and implementing social marketing programmes and sustaining the changed behaviours, the guidance on using these new principles is limited for practitioners. The same criticism is applied to the hierarchical model of social marketing (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015) that integrates value co-creation, citizens focus and building relationships using social offerings “in the form of ideas, tangible products, services, experience, systems, policies and environments” (p. 9).

The value co-creation concept characterises the numerous approaches through which producers and consumers could work together to create value for common gain (Schau, Muñiz & Arnould, 2009). This is reinforced by Lefebvre (2012), who perceives individuals as co-workers, co-creators, co-learners and mediators with social marketers, suggesting value co-creation is pertinent to social marketing. Practitioners have to recognise what is of value to both the audience and other stakeholders to identify, act on and go through new, collectively acceptable value proposals. The enabling of co-creating activities supports the social marketing principle because it “has the potential to provide focus and energy to what can otherwise be fairly slow-moving processes of social change” (Domegan, Collins, Stead, McHugh & Hughes, 2013, p. 250).

While evaluating the current state of theory-based behaviour change interventions, Cohen and Andrade (2018, p. 84) argued that:

[…] models such as Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), Social Cognitive Theory, The Transtheoretical Model of Change and The Information Motivation-Behavioural Skills Model are limited by their attempt to base diverse behaviour change strategies and tactics on theoretical frameworks whose assumptions and purposes are much narrower (e.g., explaining all behaviours as a cognitively driven and reasoned outcome assessment process when that is often not the case).

To overcome this important conceptual gap, Cohen and Andrade (2018) introduced the accessibility, desirability and feasibility (ADF) framework. The ADF framework is consistent with the emerging literature of behavioural economics and psychology. Even though the ADF framework is action-oriented and unites elements from existing SMP approaches, for example, situational awareness and budget analysis (Lee & Kotler, 2011a, 2011b), partnership approach (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015), emphasis on behaviour change objectives and consumer research (Andreasen, 2002) and behavioural sustainability (Robinson-Maynard et al., 2013), it omits other essential strategies and tactics, such as segmentation strategies, message, medium and material development using the marketing/intervention mix and communication tactics. Though the ADF framework is multifaceted and offers various levers of behaviour change, the omission of fundamental marketing tools is notable. White, Habib and Hardisty (2019) suggested the significance of marketing techniques in encouraging sustainable outcomes in a conceptually developed framework known as SHIFT.

SHIFT proposes that consumers are more inclined to engage in behaviours when the message or context leverages psychological factors such as Social influence, Habit formation, Individual self, Feelings and cognition and Tangibility (White et al., 2019, p. 22).

The behavioural sustainability element is largely ignored in many existing SMP approaches, highlighting a call for developing new approaches that must be closely aligned to the global consensus definition of social marketing. These new planning approaches must be underpinned by a deep understanding of consumer behaviour, the process of co-creation, ethical principles and sustainability of changed or influenced behaviours, with a specific focus on defining social problems, developing and delivering solutions and evaluating success for sustainable results.

Consumer research, segmentation, design of the social programme, implementation, evaluation and sustainability framework

The proposed framework is conceptually developed and has not yet been tested in practice. The key strengths of existing SMP approaches were extracted (Akbar et al., 2019) and informed the development of the consumer research, segmentation, design of the social programme, implementation, evaluation and sustainability (CSD-IES) framework. The CSD-IES framework (see Figure 1) is an acronym coined from the six stages of the framework, i.e. consumer research, segmentation, design of the social programme, implementation, evaluation and sustainability. Each stage has corresponding activities from which practitioners can choose based on the type, purpose and scope of the social marketing programme.

Phase 1 proposes three stages, i.e. consumer research, segmentation and design of the social programme.

Stage 1: consumer research

The importance of consumer research in social marketing cannot be overemphasised; that is why it is incorporated in many existing SMP approaches. Consumer research usually focuses on the priority audience following the situational and environmental analyses (Andreasen, 2002; Lee & Kotler, 2011a, 2011b; European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control, 2014; French & Russell-Bennett, 2015). However, no specific sequence of conducting consumer research is suggested in social marketing. The CSD-IES framework starts by understanding the priority audience as the first stage in developing a social marketing programme (Foxall, Castro, James, Yani-de-Soriano, & Sigurdsson, 2013), making it unique and different from other SMP approaches. An efficacious social marketing programme ought to be founded on solid consumer research (Russell-Bennett, Fisk, Rosenbaum & Zainuddin, 2019) as a starting point in planning, helping to thoroughly understand the consumers’ needs, beliefs, desires and daily lives (Grier & Bryant, 2005), right from the beginning. This allows programmes to be steered in the right direction and ensures the focus is on consumers/citizens, giving them an opportunity to be part of this first exploratory process, i.e. programme ownership (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015; Weinreich, 2010).

The proposed activities for the “Consumer Research” stage include various techniques (qualitative and quantitative) such as interviews (Rabiee, 2004), questionnaires (Navarro-Rivera & Kosmin, 2013), surveys (Mathers, Hunn, & Fox, 2007) and visualisation research methods, such as the Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique (Coulter, Zaltman & Coulter, 2001; Bagnoli, 2009; Croghan, Griffin, Hunter, & Phoenix, 2008; Reavey, 2012). These research methods are significant in obtaining information about the priority audience concerning the phenomenon under investigation, thereby increasing the possibility of successfully achieving intended behaviour change objectives (Weinreich, 2010). For example, a social marketing programme to reduce tobacco smoking among pregnant women in Alaska successfully used various research methods for a better understanding of the priority group before designing the programme (Patten et al., 2018). Another activity that can be used to understand the priority audience is identifying the problem using epidemiological, consumer and service uptake data based on the type of social problem. For example, if the social problem is a disease such as diabetes, epidemiological data will be required (Fairchild et al., 2018). If the social problem involves consumers’ behaviours, consumer data will be imperative to have a deep insight into their views, opinions, habits and competing factors (Hastings, 2003). For example, to improve condom use in developing nations, consumer data regarding existing condom purchase and reported use is vital to understand the background of the priority audience, resulting in enhancing the effectiveness of such programmes (Sweat, Denison, Kennedy, Tedrow, & O’Reilly, 2012). Suppose the social problem has to do with service provision adherence, acceptance or improvement. In that case, service uptake data will also be necessary to identify the service uptake’s enablers and barriers. For example, to understand people’s engagement with the services, service uptake data will be imperative to enhance the promotion of the uptake of services such as cancer screening, HIV testing and immunisation (Grilli, Ramsay & Minozzi, 2002).

An important activity during this stage is the identification of a specific social issue based on the in-depth consumer research that could help design specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) behavioural goals. Consumer research that involves these activities may assist in assessing the pertinent internal, external and situational influences that may affect the audience at the start of a social programme (Vrontis & Kogetsidis, 2008).

The significance of rigorous consumer research informs and conceptualises co-creation (Piligrimiene, Dovaliene & Virvilaite, 2015). The CSD-IES framework proposes the co-creation of value in the “Consumer Research” stage while designing the behaviour change objectives. Building on the service sciences discipline, i.e. establishing a basis for organised service improvement, value co-creation uses insight to develop people’s capability to create, enhance and measure service systems (Spohrer & Maglio, 2008). The service system is a composition of creating value propositions for individuals through technology, linking interior and exterior service systems and collecting information such as regulations, dialects, approaches and measures (Vargo & Akaka, 2009). The idea of service science fuses programme initiators and priority audience with insights from various stakeholders to classify and expound on the numerous kinds of service systems in existence and how service systems interact and advance to co-create value. The addition of value co-creation in the proposed framework will involve collaborative assessment, development of tactics and organised learning to accomplish behavioural change. Participants in co-created programmes are presumed to deliberately take part in exchange rather than being “passive consumers of messages and programs” (Lefebvre, 2009, p. 143). The co-creation of values is informed by consumer research in the CSD-IES framework recommending that the value co-creation process must also be further developed at later stages of the programme such as “Segmentation” and the “Design of the Social Programme” stages.

Stage 2: segmentation

The “Segmentation” stage in the CSD-IES framework directly follows the “Consumer Research” stage, as targeting the right segment is believed to be a crucial decision that social marketers will have to make during the development of programmes (Canhoto, Clark & Fennemore, 2013; Lefebvre & Flora, 1988; Dietrich et al., 2015; Newton, Newton, Turk & Ewing, 2013; Smith, 2006). In the social marketing context, segmentation is propelled by the aspiration to generate considerable social transformation through the influence of specified groups’ behaviour (French, 2016). It strives to foster a robust, precise and profound understanding of a segment (i.e. target audience) that shares mutual features (French, 2016; Zainuddin, Dent, & Tam, 2017), helping to advance tailored programmes intended to influence certain behaviours. Even though the importance and utility of segmentation in social marketing are evident (Dietrich, Rundle-Thiele, & Kubacki, 2016), it is frequently a disregarded part of programme development in practice (Eagle et al., 2013). Segmentation theory holds that individuals designated as belonging to a segment are likely to be comparable in terms of opinions, mindsets, sex, age, setting, attitudes and behaviours, etc. (depending on which segmentation bases are used). The “Segmentation” stage ensures that available resources are effectively used to design programmes capable of influencing behaviours. Segmentation helps identify the groups that are generally willing to be influenced, minimising potential ethical issues (Kirby & Andreasen, 2021), to ensure that programmes are acceptable and meaningful to the priority audience (French, 2016; Newton et al., 2013).

Stage 3: design of the social programme

Following the identification of a specified segment and SMART objectives, the CSD-IES framework emphasises developing the social marketing programme using a suitable intervention mix (Luca & Suggs, 2010). The “Design of the Social Programme” stage can be contingent on the type of social marketing programme involved, the aims (either long or short term) and an assessment of resources. This stage is similar to other SMP approaches because the ultimate goal of effective social marketing programmes is to change behaviour (Aceves-Martins et al., 2016). Evidence suggests that if a programme design is poor and not aligned with the fundamental messaging of the anticipated programme, results will be undermined, whereas an effective design reflects the professionalism of social marketers, the positioning and quality of the programme (Dahl, Metanchuk & Marshall, 2010). A well thought-out design strengthens messaging to influence the priority segment, thus stimulating a response or change in a specific behaviour (Dahl et al., 2010). During the “Design of the Social Programme” stage, the proposed activities include using the 4Ps of the marketing mix or Lauterborn’s (1990) 4Cs individually or in combination to choose appropriate positioning, targeting, messaging and communication tactics. This is aligned with Lee and Kotler’s (2011a, 2011b) beliefs, indicating that a combination of the 4Ps and 4Cs may be an effective approach to behaviour change programmes. When this is not done well, and the design is poor, there may be unintended consequences. For example, lack of consumer research resulted in fat-shaming the target audience in an anti-obesity cancer research campaign (Azevedo & Vartanian, 2015). Thus, the use of an appropriate intervention mix informed by consumer research and situational data reduces potential ethical issues and adds to the value proposition process. A value proposition process is a strategic tool facilitating communication to share resources and offer a superior value package to a priority audience (Payne, Frow & Eggert, 2017).

As social marketing aims to enhance peoples’ overall health and well-being, it is important to consider the ethical implications of social marketing programmes for both the primary and secondary audiences (Eagle, Bird, Spotswood & Tapp, 2015). A major ethical issue in designing social programmes is how people’s rights and their autonomy to choose are weighed against societal needs. The selection of the priority audience presents additional ethical issues. If social marketers choose priority audiences because they can influence them (Kotler et al., 2002), some segments may be ignored because they are challenging or relatively expensive to reach (Brenkert, 2002). Another ethical factor to consider is the potential harm to the target segment or other audiences that could occur as a result of social marketing programmes. This could involve unexpected effects of health communication promotions; for example, sexual health messages may upset specific ethnic or religious groups (Brenkert, 2002) who may not be the primary target group but nevertheless witness the programme.

Another vital ethical concern for social marketers is the morals of using fear to influence certain behaviours (Hastings, Stead, & Webb, 2004). Fear-stimulating promotion (i.e. threatening an audience about the undesirable physical, social or mental effect that may arise from engaging in a specific behaviour) has been claimed to compromise people’s ability to make a reasonable and uninhibited choice; to manipulate a specific susceptibility in a particular group (e.g. adolescent, unwell or addicted consumers); and possibly produce unwarranted consumer apprehension. However, the use of fear is justified in situations of extreme threat (Steimer, 2002), but its use should always be tested prior to implementation.

Phase 2 proposes two stages, i.e. implementation and evaluation.

Stage 4: implementation

Implementation of a programme is important because, if conducted properly, it increases the possibility of anticipated change taking place. Several activities are proposed in the CSD-IES framework to guide practitioners in implementing efficient programmes. For example, implementation involves the general management of the social programme with a major focus on developing a value proposition (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015), constructing and capturing first-hand accounts from people in the target audience (French, 2016), as well as modelling the anticipated behaviour through advertisement and endorsement (Lally, Van Jaarsveld, Potts & Wardle, 2010), to persuade the priority audience to transform their behaviours. Even though the “Consumer Research” stage informs the value proposition process, it should be further developed in the “Design of the Programme” stage, explaining how values will be delivered, experienced and acquired by the priority audience. In addition, the usage of the value proposition process in the implementation of the programme must aim to educate the priority audience about the reasons for changing their behaviour through active listening and engagement in social media discussions (Thackeray, Neiger & Keller, 2012). Empowering and involving the target audience as partners (French & Russell-Bennett, 2015) throughout programme implementation to build relationships is also key. In accordance with Huang, Clarke, Heldsinger and Tian (2019), social media’s usage as a two-way communication tool is dynamic. It can attract considerable attention from the priority audience as well as providing an appropriate platform for communication. Huang et al. (2019) suggested that the audience’s engagement was more pronounced when social media channels were used, thus establishing the significance of using social media as an effective platform for two-way communication in social marketing programmes. This is consistent with Peattie and Peattie’s (2011) findings, which revealed that social network services, such as Twitter and Facebook, are becoming increasingly important as information sources and interfaces for understanding people. Peattie and Peattie (2011) further argued that social network services dominate the conventional promotional networks for communications from both social policy and commerce and are at the same time displacing conventional electronic media.

Stage 5: evaluation

Once the social programme is implemented, the next stage involves the evaluation of the programme. Evaluation is significant in social marketing to determine if the anticipated audience was reached and how efficiently this was achieved (process evaluation); to determine if the priority audience engaged in the expected behaviour after exposure to the programme (impact evaluation); and determine if engaging in the behaviour brought the required change (outcome evaluation). Therefore, evaluation helps to ascertain the effectiveness of a social change programme, demonstrating that social marketing programmes must have a clear process of planning and evaluation to be successful (Stead, Hastings & McDermott, 2007). In the evaluation stage, strategies to perform effective programme evaluation should be considered and guided by the items in the activity section of the CSD-IES framework to measures the programme performance and to identify prospects for further ways to enhance the effectiveness of the programme.

The CSD-IES framework recommends that social programmes with short-term goals should be stopped following the evaluation stage. Short-term goals indicate that only a short-term behaviour change is sought, rather than a sustained change. However, Simiyu-Wakhisi, Allotey, Dhillon, and Reidpath (2011) note that numerous social marketing programmes, for example, those involving unwanted teenage pregnancies, do not sustain the changed behaviours because of having short-term goals. This is not necessarily a result of poor planning but could be a result of a lack of funds for the long-term programme leading to short-term impact. Conversely, if the objective is to change behaviour with long-term goals, practitioners can progress to the next phase of the CSD-IES framework to foster the required behavioural sustainability.

Phase 3 proposes one stage, i.e. sustainability.

Stage 6: sustainability

The last stage of the CSD-IES framework involves assessing the sustainability of the changed behaviour, specifically for those social programmes with long-term goals. Sustainability is an evolving concept in social marketing (Trivellas, Kakkos, Vasiliadis & Belias, 2016). It has been recognised for some time that social marketing is not only about changing behaviours but ensuring that these changes are maintained (Lu, 2012). Despite the significance of maintaining behaviours in social marketing, the sustainability concept is generally underdeveloped (Stead et al., 2007; Akbar et al., 2019). Conversely, evidence from other fields such as psychology, behavioural economics and public health suggests that the maintenance of changed health behaviour is vital (Abdi, Eftekhar, Estebsari & Sadeghi, 2015; Gardner, Sheals, Wardle & McGowan, 2014; Tappin et al., 2012; Connelly & Birch, 2020). Therefore, one of the CSD-IES framework’s novelties is the inclusion of the “Sustainability” stage.

Measuring the sustainability of social programmes is imperative because a key issue in evaluating social marketing’s efficacy is to determine if it truly leads to a sustained change in behaviour (Firestone, Rowe, Modi & Sievers, 2017). For example, the Lifebuoy campaign was maintained over a long period to educate and support children about the importance of washing their hands at key occasions, resulting in saving children’s lives globally, especially in the developing nations (Unilever, 2014). This programme demonstrates that promoting health-enhancing behaviours through social programmes and sustaining such behaviour change has continued benefits for both the individual and the community.

Several activities are suggested in the “Sustainability” stage to guide assessments of behavioural maintenance. For example, evaluation helps determine what has gone well and what has not, thereby giving insight into how sustainability might be achieved (Peattie & Peattie, 2009). The maintenance of social marketing programmes’ effects could be linked to the availability of resources such as funding. Findings from previous studies (Brennan & Binney, 2008; Chang, DiGiovanni & Mei, 2019) suggest that numerous social marketing programmes may not be continuously funded, limiting the sustainability of the programme and changed behaviour. This is further reinforced by Simiyu-Wakhisi et al. (2011), who demonstrate that sustaining social marketing programmes may be challenging mainly because of limited financial resources and a lack of long-term preparation. Therefore, the CSD-IES framework provides a choice to stop the social programme at the “Evaluation” stage prior to progressing to the “Sustainability” stage if there are challenges in funding the programme. However, if there is enough funding, the programme can progress to the “Sustainability” stage, signifying the flexibility of the CSD-IES framework to be adapted based on accessible funding, available resources and the nature of social marketing programmes.

Continuous consumer research/feedback loop

Most SMP approaches, such as Andreasen’s (2002) benchmark criteria, the social marketing process (Weinreich, 2010) and Lee and Kotler’s (2011a, 2011b) planning process, reiterate the importance of consumer research as well as a feedback mechanism. Even with this emphasis on the significance of both consumer research and feedback from the priority audience, they are sometimes overlooked. To overcome this limitation, the CSD-IES framework recommends continuous consumer research and feedback mechanisms that track the target audience’s varying needs, which is another unique feature of this framework. Ongoing and varying consumers’ needs may affect the sustainability of changed behaviour (Shams, 2018). Thus, a regular assessment of the audience’s varying needs based on feedback provided through various mechanisms may assist in tracking these variations and may help in modifying the social programme while it is still active. The proposed continuous consumer research and feedback mechanism is interconnected with all the phases of the CSD-IES framework (including stages and activities), thereby providing an instrument that allows continuous modification of social marketing programmes centred on the varying needs of the priority audience, thus increasing the probability of congruent and sustained outcomes.

There is often a lack of normative reporting on the implementation process and a lack of critical reflection in social marketing (Gordon, 2018). Evaluation of social marketing has already faced criticism for failing to systematically account for robust and reliable measures of behaviour change (Truong, 2014), and more recently for failing to systematically include reflective practice with relation to the processes of developing and delivering social marketing offerings (Dietrich et al., 2019; McHugh & Domegan, 2017). The addition of a “Continuous Consumer Research/Feedback Loop” adds to the call for systematic reflection on the processes of programme management to be included in social marketing scholarship for collective learning, to move from a “prove” to “improve” mentality (Dietrich et al., 2019).


This paper has sought to advance the theoretical base of SMP by presenting the conceptualisation of the CSD-IES framework. The step-by-step application of the CSD-IES framework for influencing or changing behaviour is developed as a resource to help social marketers, practitioners or those who want to initiate behaviour change programmes. The proposed framework is developed from the key strengths of existing SMP approaches and seeks to address the identified weaknesses or omissions from these existing models. The CSD-IES framework unifies emerging principles of social marketing (i.e. sustainability, co-creation, ethical consideration and continuous consumer research), which are in line with the recent theoretical development of the field and in accordance with the global consensus definition of social marketing. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the CSD-IES framework is the first of its kind, and we envisage several versions of this framework in the future as the field of social marketing progresses. Further implementation is required to establish how far the CSD-IES framework can support the effective development of more efficacious SMP.

Like any conceptual development, the proposed framework has some limitations. Firstly, the CSD-IES framework is a new framework and thus needs to be verified and validated in diverse settings and may require improvements. Secondly, even though the key strengths of existing SMP approaches informed the development of CSD-IES, there is the possibility of selection bias, i.e. some pertinent existing SMP approaches might have been missed during review and analysis. Thirdly, judgement is unavoidably necessitated in critiquing existing SMP approaches. There are many ways of doing this, and no assurances are given that the SMP approaches selected to inform the CSD-IES framework are optimum. It should also be noted that existing SMP approaches may be less or more beneficial in some contexts. Lastly, although the CSD-IES framework seems to be all-inclusive and could be consistently used to characterise social marketing programmes, it is plausible that it might prove challenging to implement. Nevertheless, the methodical manner in which the development of the CSD-IES framework was approached should allow it to offer a robust starting point for creating better quality and effective social marketing programmes.


CSD-IES planning framework of social marketing

Figure 1.

CSD-IES planning framework of social marketing


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