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Yuan Xia, Sameer Deshpande, and Tiberius Bonates


Social marketing managers promote desired behaviors to an audience by making them tangible in the form of environmental opportunities to enhance benefits and reduce barriers. This study proposed “benchmarks,” modified from those found in the past literature, that would match important concepts of the social marketing framework and the inclusion of which would ensure behavior change effectiveness. In addition, we analyzed behavior change interventions on a “social marketing continuum” to assess whether the number of benchmarks and the role of specific benchmarks influence the effectiveness of physical activity promotion efforts.


A systematic review of social marketing interventions available in academic studies published between 1997 and 2013 revealed 173 conditions in 92 interventions.


Findings based on χ2, Mallows’ Cp, and Logical Analysis of Data tests revealed that the presence of more benchmarks in interventions increased the likelihood of success in promoting physical activity. The presence of more than 3 benchmarks improved the success of the interventions; specifically, all interventions were successful when more than 7.5 benchmarks were present. Further, primary formative research, core product, actual product, augmented product, promotion, and behavioral competition all had a significant influence on the effectiveness of interventions.


Social marketing is an effective approach in promoting physical activity among adults when a substantial number of benchmarks are used and when managers understand the audience, make the desired behavior tangible, and promote the desired behavior persuasively.