Social marketers go to war with obesity

Silhouette of cyclist with sun setting in background
Attitudes to physical activities are under the spotlight of social marketers.

Australia’s obesity epidemic is set to come up against a new adversary in the form of social marketing.

Researchers at Griffith University’s Department of Marketing are confident that innovative approaches can yield results to help combat the country’s obesity epidemic.

An extensive survey investigating physical activities was launched yesterday (Wednesday), representing the first step in this research project for project leaders, Associate Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele and Social Marketing Research Practice Fellow, Dr Krzysztof Kubacki.

“This country has waged war on obesity for the past few years, however Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the obesity problem isn’t going away,” Associate Professor Rundle-Thiele said.

“Social marketing, the use of commercial marketing techniques to change social behaviours, is a new tool that can be used to change behaviours and, in this case, encourage people to be more active.

“Social marketing is about changing people’s behaviour for the better, so by making physical activity alternatives fun and appealing, social marketers can encourage people to be more active.”

Approximately 50,000 volunteers will be invited to take part in the online questionnaire which examines attitudes towards the benefits of physical activity. This survey is part of a larger study that aims to extend academic understanding of physical activity behaviours and intentions, attitudes and knowledge of what it means to be healthy, perceptions of personal health and the use of technology and social media.

Researchers will build a valuable database focusing on physical activity from the questionnaire responses, and this information will lay the groundwork to evaluate subsequent dedicated interventions, using social marketing techniques and strategies.

“Social marketing endeavours to understand what people think before an intervention is implemented as opposed to health promotion, for example, where the focus of an intervention is often based on population level data,” Associate Professor Rundle-Thiele said.

A group of about 1500 volunteers will be monitored over a five-year period to investigate if and how their attitudes to physical activity change and, if so, why.

“We will track behaviour to see how physical activity changes over time,” Dr Kubacki said. “Social marketing offers us a new way to study how people can be encouraged to be more active and to make healthy choices and, in the process, reduce obesity.

“Social marketing promotes an alternative lifestyle or behaviour that is desirable and appealing to the target audience.”

To take part in the survey, click here.