Purpose – The social marketing literature tends to focus on upstream marketing (policy) and downstream (individual behaviour change) and has a limited view on midstream (working with partners and community groups) social marketing. The paper proposes midstream social marketing should also include an understanding of how services and service employees influence and support individual behaviour change goals. The paper presents four key services marketing principles – derived from services theory and thinking – which the paper believes to be essential for implementing effective midstream social marketing.
Design/methodology/approach – This is a conceptual paper that uses service theory and case-examples to show how service thinking can be used as a midstream social marketing approach.
Findings – For effective uptake and impact of social marketing services amongst people and populations, social marketers need to design programs that consider the service experience, the service employee, service quality/customer value and the active role of the customer in value creation.
Research limitations/implications – Services marketing is a well-established sub-discipline of marketing which, until recently, has not interacted with social marketing. The extension and application of services theory for social marketing can enrich and propel the social marketing discipline forward. Further research is recommended to evaluate how service principles can be applied in practice.
Social implications – Given that social marketing services tend not to be accessed in sufficient numbers by the people who most need them, social marketers need to think beyond the technical, cognitive, and organisational-focused goals when designing social services.
Originality/value – This paper identifies key service theories that social marketers should understand and use and is thus a source of fresh ideas for theory and practice.