The social marketing paradox: challenges and opportunities for the discipline

Akbar, M.B. ORCID: 0000-0003-3092-6878, Foote, L., Lawson, A., French, J., Deshpande, S. and Lee, N.R., 2021. The social marketing paradox: challenges and opportunities for the discipline. International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing. ISSN 1865-1984

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This paper contributes to emerging discourse about the ongoing challenges and opportunities of social marketing as a discipline. The paper presents a qualitative perspective on existing challenges faced by social marketing and offers suggestions for addressing these challenges. Nine semi-structured interviews with social marketing academics and practitioners from six different countries were conducted. Thematic analysis was used to analyse and interpret the qualitative data. The study provides insight into existing challenges for social marketing, classified into three key themes according to their position within or outside of the discipline: 1) poor branding of the discipline as an internal challenge, 2) competing disciplines as an external challenge, and 3) overall reach of the discipline, seen as both an internal and external challenge. The findings suggest that social marketing needs to overcome poor branding issues to sufficiently address external challenges. We conclude by arguing for a more robust marketing of the discipline. While scholars have identified the challenges and opportunities for social marketing as a discipline, they have paid little attention to examining these challenges from the viewpoint of expert practitioners and academics. This paper presents a nuanced contextual understanding of the identified challenges through a qualitative perspective and explores how social marketing can overcome these challenges.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing
Creators: Akbar, M.B., Foote, L., Lawson, A., French, J., Deshpande, S. and Lee, N.R.
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Date: 22 August 2021
ISSN: 1865-1984
Rights: © The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 05 Apr 2022 08:13
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2022 08:13

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