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A meta-analysis of social marketing campaigns to improve global conservation outcomes

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Green, Kevin M. (main author), Crawford, Brian A. (author), Williamson, Katherine A. (author), DeWan, Amielle A. (author)
Online journal article
Publication Date:
SAGE Journals
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
analysis, attitudes, behavior, conservation, interpersonal communication, marketing, natural resource management, sustainability, interdisciplinary communication, public communication campaign
19 pages., via online journal., The rapidly increasing rate of biodiversity and habitat loss across the globe can be largely attributed to human behaviors. Conservation practitioners have struggled to influence behaviors through traditional awareness-raising efforts and been slow to adopt techniques from the behavioral sciences such as social marketing to change behaviors and improve conservation outcomes. We conducted a meta-analysis of 84 social marketing campaigns that applied the same theory of change for human behavior to disrupt patterns of destructive activities such as illegal hunting and overfishing. Questionnaires of more than 20,000 individuals across 18 countries measured changes in behavioral variables pre- and post-campaigns, including knowledge, attitudes, interpersonal communication, behavior intention, and behavior. For each campaign, we extracted data and validated data for behavioral variables, estimated mean effect sizes for each variable across all campaigns, and used path analysis to measure relationships among variables included in seven different models. On average, all behavioral variables increased significantly (p < .001) from 16.1 to 25.0 percentage points following social marketing campaigns. The full model used a combination of all variables and had the highest explained variation in behavior change (71%). Our results highlight the importance of (a) incorporating behavioral theory and social marketing into traditional conservation programs to address threats to biodiversity across the globe; (b) designing interventions that leverage a combination of community knowledge, attitudes, and communication about a behavior; and (c) facilitating more opportunities for interpersonal communication as a main driver of behavior change. We conclude with potential applications for practitioners interested in behavior change campaigns.