The role and application of social marketing in managing water consumption: a case study

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Lowe, Ben ; Lynch, David ; Lowe, Julian (2014)

•Water shortages are an increasingly significant social and economic issue in many countries. Increasing the supply of water is one solution (e.g. desalination plants, new dams), but such measures are expensive. Using price to manage household water demand may be viewed as socially unequitable and politically contentious. Social marketing campaigns, where voluntary behaviour change is the goal, provide the potential to foster sustainable consumption of an increasingly scarce yet essential resource. This paper details a case study of successful water demand management in a drought affected region of South-Eastern Australia. In this region, water consumption was reduced to more sustainable levels through a targeted and successful social marketing campaign. This case is of significant relevance to the field of Social Marketing where there are increasing calls for research into environmental issues in general and water consumption in particular (Kotler, 2011). The extant research literature and this case study are integrated to form several propositions about household water consumption behaviour. Consequently, this paper contributes to the literature by providing a conceptualisation of how residents respond to water conservation related social marketing campaigns. Key issues include the potential for reciprocal behaviour by consumers when a water authority is perceived to manage the water problem effectively, and linking behaviour change through structural approaches (e.g. subsidies and restrictions) and voluntarist approaches (e.g. attitudinal change).
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