Document Type


Publication details

van Esch, P 2016, 'The dimensions of religion as underpinning constructs for mass media social marketing campaigns', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright P Van Esch 2016


Religion and mass media social marketing (MMSM) could be regarded as major influencing factors within popular culture. Religious affiliations help to shape attitudes towards dancing, magazines, restaurants, political ideas and tend to influence the way people live, the choices they make, what they eat and with whom they associate. MMSM derives from two distinct movements: marketing and social sciences. Both movements are concerned with how best to influence people’s behaviour through controlled communication and specific identified channels. Because both aim to influence public opinion, it is conceivable that religion may be used in MMSM campaigns.

While a substantial body of work is available on both religion and MMSM campaigns, the literature and intersect between the two phenomena is limited. It is unclear whether and how religion is used in MMSM campaigns. It is unclear if MMSM practitioners can identify and accept the link between religion and social marketing and would be willing to apply religion to MMSM campaigns. This research sought to address these two gaps in knowledge.

Specifically, this research explores the following questions: 1. Are the seven dimensions of religion (DOR) – [(1) Practical and ritual, (2) Experiential and emotional, (3) Narrative or mythic, (4) Doctrinal and philosophical, (5) Ethical and Legal, (6) Social and institutional, and (7) The material] – currently used or identified within mass media social marketing campaigns?

2. What views do MMSM practitioners hold toward applying the seven DOR to MMSM campaigns?

Two distinct qualitative research methods were used to investigate each of the research questions. The method used to investigate the first research question entailed a textual analysis of five MMSM campaigns, which had national distribution (i.e. all Australian states and territories) between the years 2005–2010. Each campaign aimed to address a different social problem, namely low activity children, skin cancer, child abuse, smoking and low activity parents. NVivo was used to identify the DOR and their identifiers.

The second research question was investigated through in-depth interviews with five MMSM practitioners. These experts were identified from government and/or private agencies located in Australia that specialise in the design, creation and evaluation of MMSM campaigns.

Results of the research indicate that, while there is not a full committal to use all of the dimensions, those key dimensions which emerged as being particularly pertinent included the: Practical and ritual, Experiential and emotional, Doctrinal and philosophical, Ethical and Legal and the Social and institutional DOR which are applied in MMSM campaigns in a rather specific and targeted way. Two particular themes regarding religion in MMSM campaigns, which emerged in this research were:

1. The use of a patriarch in MMSM campaigns as a driver for voluntary behaviour change. 2. The use of fantasy in MMSM campaigns as a driver for voluntary behaviour change.

The seven DOR taxonomy may help MMSM practitioners design, execute and evaluate MMSM campaigns. To help drive voluntary behaviour change in a certain target audience, specific DORs’ and/or identifiers could be scaled up/down. For further research, using either of the emergent themes could be tested in an attempt to drive mass voluntary behaviour change within a mass media social marketing setting.