Selling climate change? The limitations of social marketing as a strategy for climate change public engagement

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Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals relevant to the social good. Social marketing approaches are becoming increasingly popular among governmental and non-governmental actors seeking to engage the public on climate change. The effectiveness of social marketing in achieving specific behavioural goals is empirically well-supported. However, in the first systematic critique of social marketing as a strategy for engaging the public on climate change, we present evidence that social marketing alone is insufficient to build support for the more ambitious policy changes and interventions that constitute a proportional response to climate change. In some circumstances, social marketing approaches may even be counterproductive. We describe some alternative approaches for engaging the public, which may provide governmental and non-governmental actors with additional or preferable tools for promoting public engagement with climate change. Given the scale of the challenge, it seems critical that those seeking to engage the public are equipped with the most effective strategies available - a goal that this paper seeks to contribute to. We conclude that acknowledging the limitations of social marketing - and exploring alternative methods of engaging the public - is an urgent task for climate change communication researchers and practitioners. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.




Corner, A., & Randall, A. (2011). Selling climate change? The limitations of social marketing as a strategy for climate change public engagement. Global Environmental Change, 21(3), 1005–1014.

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