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Social Marketing

Social marketing is the application of marketing techniques to influence the behavior of a target audience in order to improve their welfare and that of their community.

In a college environment, students face health and wellness issues specific to their stage of life and to the communities in which they live. The social marketing campaign uses national and UMass Amherst data to identify areas of concern and generate messages that promote critical thinking and reflection within the student population.

Messages may encourage students to reconsider risky health choices or validate healthy choices they are already making. Examples of message targets include healthy sleep patterns, anxiety and stress management, healthy sexual decisions, and awareness of alcohol policies.

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Social marketing theories

The health belief model


The health belief model (HBM) attempts to explain and predict health behaviors based on a person’s perceptions or beliefs. The HBM is based on several constructs:

  • Perceived susceptibility (e.g. As a smoker, do I feel susceptible to getting cancer?)
  • Perceived seriousness (e.g. If I do get cancer, do I perceive that as a serious situation?)
  • Perceived benefits (e.g. if I quit smoking my senses of smell and taste would improve, I would be able to climb stairs without stopping, etc.)
  • Perceived barriers (e.g. if I quit smoking I might lose that social time with my friends who smoke, I enjoy smoking, etc.)
  • Modifying variables (e.g. cancer runs in my family, I only smoke on weekends, I’ve been smoking for 10 years, etc.)

The HBM recognizes that the desire to change a behavior isn't enough, so it incorporates cues to action (factors that prompt a person to make change) and self-efficacy (the belief in one’s ability to change) to facilitate change.

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Social iunfluence theory

Social influence occurs when an individual’s thoughts or actions are affected by other people. Social influence theory informs us that students are more likely to:

  • be influenced by other students.
  • care more about students who're part of their own community and the choices they're making regarding healthy behaviors.
  • care less about what students at other campuses are doing in regards to healthy behaviors.

Why are the messages always changing?

There are some constants to college culture, yet the student body is always shifting and the health concerns of students change over the course of their college years. For example, a first-semester student adjusting to campus life is likely to have a very different set of concerns from a second-semester junior living in an off-campus apartment. Similarly, the concerns of men may vary from those of women.

Our messages are tailored to meet a variety of needs based on presenting issues, stage of life, and time of year. Messages are dynamic and evolving, just like our students.

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