Understanding ‘‘place’’ in social marketing: A systematic review

Timothy Edgar, Marian Huhman, Gregory A. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Critiques of the social marketing literature have suggested the place strategy is a key component within the 4 Ps of the marketing mix that simultaneously has been misunderstood and underutilized. This study sought to conduct a systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature to better understand how place has been conceptualized and operationalized over multiple decades. Application of inclusion criteria resulted in a sample of 84 articles published from 1988 to 2015 representing work in 20 different countries in North America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. Content analysis showed that almost half (46.4%) of the descriptions of place strategies operationalized the component by including at least one element of placing messages within communication channels or information delivery such as print, interpersonal, traditional broadcast, or digital. The heavy emphasis on communication channels and information delivery contrasts sharply with definitions of place that thought leaders have offered historically. Results revealed that authors from the United States especially have a tendency to operationalize place as message placement. Discussion speculates on why conceptualization and operationalization have diverged and considers the implications for clarity within the field of social marketing as a whole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-248
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Marketing Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Channels
  • Marketing mix
  • Place strategy
  • Social marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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