Consumer-dominant social marketing: a definition and explication

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European Journal of Marketing


Purpose: The emerging consumer-dominant logic of marketing captures consumers’ active and primary role in a range of mainstream marketing processes such as branding, product development and sales. However, consumers’ active role in driving pro-social behaviour change has not yet received close attention. The purpose of this paper is to introduce and explore consumer dominance in social marketing. The authors propose a definition of consumer-dominant social marketing (CDSM) and explicate five key elements which underpin the phenomenon. Design/methodology/approach: This conceptual study offers an analysis informed by exemplars with significant representations of consumer-dominant pro-social behaviours and projects. The methodological approach is characterised as “envisioning conceptualisation”, which is explained in terms of MacInnis’ (2011) framework for conceptual approaches in marketing. Findings: As a phenomenon, CDSM operationalises the following elements: power, agency, resources, value and responsibility. The authors demonstrate how these elements are interconnected and define their meaning, significance and implications in the context of social marketing and pro-social behaviour change. The authors also identify this new form of social marketing as existing on a continuum depending on the level of involvement or dominance of the consumer and of social marketers; at one end of this continuum, exclusive CDSM is entirely consumer-driven and does not engage with businesses or organisations, while on the other end, inclusive CDSM encompasses partnership with external stakeholders to achieve pro-social behaviour change. Research limitations/implications: The existence of inclusive and exclusive CDSM points towards an intricate power balance between consumers, mainstream social marketers and businesses. While this study identifies and explains this substantial distinction, it is an important task for future research to systematise the relationship and explore the optimal balance between consumer activism and involvement of formalised organisations such as charities and businesses in pro-social behaviour change projects. Practical implications: The study provides social marketing professionals with an understanding of the benefits of harnessing consumer empowerment to enhance the impact of social marketing interventions. Originality/value: The study makes a theoretical contribution by introducing, defining and explicating consumer dominance as a substantive area of social marketing.

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