Journal of Social Marketing, Volume 6, Issue 3, July 2016.
Purpose This paper provides guidance on how midstream social marketing can be employed to understand and address wicked problems through adopting a collaborative systems integration approach conceptualised from a macromarketing perspective. Design/methodology/approach Rothschild’s motivation, opportunity and ability (MOA) framework is applied in this study to understand veterinarians as midstream microactors in the macrosystem of wicked animal welfare issues. Focus group and individual interview data from veterinarians were analysed through the lens of the MOA framework to understand veterinarians’ as midstream microactors within a systems continuum. Findings The MOA of veterinarians to engage downstream targets – cat owners – in behaviour change are identified. Fresh insights reveal the challenges and barriers to simply focusing on veterinarians’ as the key microactor required to address the wicked problem of cat overpopulation. Challenges identified include the cost of sterilization to both owners and veterinary practices, alongside vying beliefs about the capacity of individual veterinarians to persuade owners about the benefits of sterilization to improve animal welfare. Additionally, insight into veterinarians’ perceptions of upstream strategies to address the problem – in terms of marketing, education and law – expose further complications on where regulation and law enforcement can be integrated in future social marketing strategies to address the cat overpopulation problem. Practical implications The application of the MOA framework improves understanding of the concept and practice of midstream social marketing. It provides a practical and strategic tool that social marketers’ can apply when approaching behaviour change that leverages midstream actors as part of the social change solution. Originality/value Research and theorisation in this paper demonstrates an alternative pathway to address wicked problems via a collaborative systems integration approach conceptualised from a macromarketing perspective. Effective long-term change relies on understanding and coordinating a broad macrosystem of interconnected actors along a downstream, midstream and upstream continuum. This starts by understanding the microactions of individual actors within the macrosystem.


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