Social Marketing of Water and Sanitation Products: A Systematic Review of Peer-reviewed Literature. Soc Sci Med, Mar 2014.
Authors: WD Evans, et al.
• Behaviors such as handwashing, and products such as those for oral rehydration treatment (ORT) can be marketed like commercial products
• There has been no systematic review of theory, research, and practice in this area
• We identified 32 articles over a 22 year period that met search criteria
• Evaluations show consistent improvements in behavioral mediators but mixed results in behavior change
• The quality of evaluations varied and more randomized controlled studies are needed
• Social marketing is a promising strategy to improve water and sanitation programs worldwide
Like commercial marketing, social marketing uses the 4 “Ps” and seeks exchange of value between the marketer and consumer. Behaviors such as handwashing, and products such as those for oral rehydration treatment (ORT), can be marketed like commercial products in developing countries. Although social marketing in these areas is growing, there has been no systematic review of the current state of practice, research and evaluation.
We searched the literature for published peer-reviewed studies available through major online publication databases. We identified manuscripts in the health, social science, and business literature on social marketing that used at least one of the 4 Ps of marketing and had a behavioral objective targeting the behaviors or products related to improving water and sanitation. We developed formalized decision rules and applied them in identifying articles for review. We initially identified 117 articles and reviewed a final set of 32 that met our criteria.
Social marketing is a widespread strategy. Marketing efforts have created high levels of awareness of health threats and solutions, including behavior change and socially marketed products. There is widespread use of the 4 Ps of marketing, with price interventions being the least common. Evaluations show consistent improvements in behavioral mediators but mixed results in behavior change.
Interventions have successfully used social marketing following widely recommended strategies. Future evaluations need to focus on mediators that explain successful behavior change in order to identify best practices and improve future programs. More rigorous evaluations including quasi-experimental designs and randomized trials are needed. More consistent reporting of evaluation results that permits meta-analysis of effects is needed.