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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Social Marketing, Volume 1, Issue 2
Welcome to the second issue of the Journal of Social Marketing. The first, we are pleased to say, has been well received. It is satisfying to have the academic and practitioner community provide positive feedback. This can already be quantified. In December 2010 and January 2011, Emerald provided free online access to the Journal of Social Marketing papers in Emerald EarlyCite for Volume 1, Issue 1 papers. This free trial was offered to Emerald Marketing past author lists. During that period 1,404 users accessed the Journal of Social Marketing. This figure is a few hundred more than a similar trial. The trial uptake provides support for the need to offer a devoted Journal in Social Marketing. The challenge now is to continue to build on this success.
From my early days, as a PhD student in Geography, I was convinced that what we did as geographers had to be relevant. Research had to have an impact, be a change agent in people’s lives. My view, that academic research should have an impact on policy and practice, has not changed over the years and if anything my belief that academics, whatever their field, should reach out and engage their relevant practitioner community is stronger than ever. The impact of our research should be measured beyond any single measure of impact (e.g. journal citations or journal ranks). Any individual measure is flawed. For example, journal rankings may reflect the opinions of people involved in deciding on rank or they may simply reflect longevity (how long a journal has been published for). Thus, let us not underestimate the importance of getting the message out into the public domain via a range of methods and approaches. How then does this relate to social marketing?
In working at Stirling University, in Scotland, I facilitated the transfer of the Institute for Social Marketing from Strathclyde University to the University of Stirling under a joint venture with the Open University in the UK. This cluster of researchers offers a world-class example of how a focused and committed team can work effectively together under the leadership of a key person, in this case Professor Gerard Hastings. This model has achieved success over 30 years and must be an exemplar on how to develop and sustain research performance while undertaking studies of relevance and importance in many areas of social marketing. That impact can be measured in a variety of outputs from publications in a variety of forms including journals articles, project reports, book chapters, conference presentations, newspapers, to press appearances (e.g. television appearances) as well as expert evidence to government inquiries at the national or international level. For any aspiring academic or research student with a concern for relevance, involvement with creating the framework for this activity to thrive within a university environment is about as rewarding as it gets.
Another important factor that perhaps has become more crucial over the years is the need for interdisciplinary work in the field of marketing. This, I think is very much at the core of where social marketing is heading as the leading thinkers and researchers in the field move forward with their various research agendas. Social marketing researchers can benefit from input from sociologists, psychologists, health experts, economists and public policy planners. It is also possible that we should be including political strategists too as much of the work conducted has a political dimension which needs to be carefully navigated in order to come to fruition as public policy. This is such a vital point – many of these disciplines have perspectives which are unique and offer part of the truth or potential solution but together all are needed to provide a solution.
So, as research in social marketing issues continues, the perspective brought to the table by marketing is unique. I have a view that much of the research conducted since the emergence of social marketing as a sub-discipline of marketing in the 1970s has reached out to other disciplines and gradually gained their trust and respect. This process is not complete, rather it is ongoing. I find that many especially those in the public sector/government have an enormous suspicion of marketing when they first come across it. Too impregnated with the “for-profit” concepts, they find it hard to get beyond their natural suspicion of being sold something they do not want or need and so many view marketing as a bad thing. Once beyond the “hocus-pocus” view of marketing, and a few case studies later to demonstrate the nitty-gritty of the concept and its application, for most the dawn begins to break and the fit of marketing to health or other socially relevant issue becomes more apparent.
In this issue, we have two theoretical papers which look at conceptualizing social marketing. The first, by a young researcher (Ross Gordon), attempts to define social marketing from a critical perspective by extending our understanding of critical marketing and social marketing. It is a challenging and well-constructed piece. The second conceptual paper by Linda Brennan, Joseph Voros, and Erica Brady is a fascinating and well-written article which addresses the search for validity in social marketing research. In describing the measures of validity available to researchers, it is clear that social marketing is multi-disciplinary in practice. A new taxonomy is offered and explained. As Editors we thought this to be a particularly coherent article and we commend it to you as a good read. The next two papers in this issue deal with empirical papers in the social marketing field and so Judith Holdershaw, Philip Gendall, and Malcolm Wright look at blood donation behavior and the application of the theory of planned behavior. Can we use intention to donate measures to predict actual blood donation? It seems in many of the papers we have had submitted to the journal so far that this theory is a popular one to test empirically as is the topic of blood donation. The second empirical paper (James M. Cronin and Mary B. McCarthy) is a stimulating look at the role of food choices in the context of the video games subculture. With gamers typically making unhealthy choices, how can we better understand their behavior to bring about positive change? The final paper returns to our conceptual starting point for this issue and is a viewpoint by Jeff French who makes a compelling argument for why “nudging” is not enough when trying to achieve voluntary and involuntary change. So, with some intriguing diagrams and headings, French will explain why nudging should be utilized alongside hugging, shoving and smacking! As Editors, we enjoyed the creativity of this paper.
French observes that Gallie described social marketing as an “essentially contested concept” and while our inaugural issue and indeed the initial paper in this issue search for a definition of the domain of social marketing our final one focuses on dealing with areas of concern within social marketing – rational and non-rational choice and the role of rewards and penalties within the menu of potential interventions. And so as French suggests the debate surrounding social marketing will not reach an end point but will continue and through this evolving process our understanding of social marketing will continue to evolve. All the papers in this issue represent a contribution to this process. Enjoy.