Challenging the planned behavior approach in social marketing: emotion and experience matter

Joy Parkinson, Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Josephine Previte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: There is a dominance of cognitive models used by marketers when studying social phenomena, which denies the complexity of the behavior under investigation. Complex social behaviors are typically emotionally charged and require a different perspective. The purpose of this research is to challenge the planned behavior approach and reframe marketers’ perspectives on how to study complex social phenomenon such as breastfeeding. Design/methodology/approach: An online survey of 1,275 American and Australian women was undertaken to test the Model of Goal Behavior in a breastfeeding context. Structural equation modeling and multi-group analysis of novice (first-time mothers) and experienced mothers is used to test the hypotheses. Findings: The findings demonstrate emotion and experience matter when understanding a complex social behavior such as breastfeeding. The emotional variables in the model had significant relationships, while the cognitive variables of instrumental and affective attitude did not. As women progress through their customer journey (from novice to experienced), the behavioral drivers change. Practical implications: This research demonstrates an emotion, and experience-focused approach should guide the design of social marketing interventions aimed at changing complex social behaviors. Originality/value: This research presents empirical evidence to challenge the pervasive use of planned behavior models and theories in marketing. Importantly, in social behavior models, emotion rather than attitudes have a larger role in determining intentions and behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-865
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


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