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Social Transformation and Vulnerable Populations

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Social Marketing

Guest Editors:

Lukas Parker, RMIT University, [email protected]
Krzysztof Kubacki, Griffith University, [email protected]
Linda Brennan, RMIT University, [email protected]
Mike Reid, RMIT University, [email protected]
Natalia Szablewska, Southern Cross University, [email protected]

Deadline for submission: 30 September 2019

This special issue aims to build on the theme of social transformation in social marketing (e.g. Brennan et al. 2014, Domegan et al. 2015; Hastings and Domegan 2018; Lefebvre, 2012). Social transformation is conceptualised as going beyond a single target audience, traditionally towards the individual at the micro level or policy-makers at the macro level. Social transformation is about systemic change brought about by engaging with micro, meso and macro level stakeholders, and is often community led or driven.

Increasingly, social marketing is called upon to realign market structures with wider societal values instead of merely applying business models to the day-to-day management of social problems (Hastings and Domegan, 2018) or focusing on participatory social transformation instead of merely concentrating on behaviour change (Saunders et al., 2015). Kotler and Lee (2009) in their foundation text ‘Up and out of poverty’ propose that social marketing can change the world by focusing on behaviours while recognising that behaviour change is normally voluntary. In order to do this, marketing principles and techniques are used to influence target markets while recognising that the beneficiary is the individual, group or society as a whole. However, the premise underpinning this type of construction of social change is that consumers, users, citizens and participants can be adequately and truthfully informed about the antecedents to and accepting of the consequences of proposed changes to lifestyles that can lead to substantive social transformations. As social marketers, we have a duty of care to those we serve to critically reflect on whether or not the proposed social transformation we conceive is possible considering the societal landscape in which we operate.

An important consideration in changing societies is that of the vulnerable consumer (e.g. Brennan, et al., 2011). Vulnerability is conceptualised as individuals or groups with the diminished capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of natural or human-made hazards (IFRC, 2018). It does, however, have broadened meaning depending on the domain. Vulnerable people are exposed but can often be invisible to the wider population. Although different forms of vulnerability, including but not limited to economic, social, physical and environmental, have become a pervasive issue in both developed and developing economies, scholarly social marketing research has accorded the vulnerable less systematic treatment than they deserve. Yet vulnerability is not just a descriptive characteristic, it is relative and dynamic, it can change according to circumstances or context, and some groups can be made even more vulnerable by norms and values embedded in social marketing practices.

This issue aims to bring together academic and practitioner researchers interested in social transformation and vulnerable populations to provide an intellectual vehicle to present and discuss current research relevant to these issues. Although there have been relevant individual studies published in the last ten years (e.g. Brennan et al., 2011; Kubacki and Szablewska, 2017; Szablewska and Kubacki, 2018), the topic of this special issue has not been well covered in the social marketing academic literature to date. This special issue will be the first in social marketing to bring together studies providing greater emphasis on issues affecting vulnerable populations at the heart of social transformation.

This special issue calls for papers on topics including, but not limited to, the following:
•    Vulnerable consumers and populations
•    Social transformation
•    Social transformation and equality/human rights
•    Systemic change
•    Market and social dynamics leading to social issues such as human trafficking, modern slavery (i.e. behavioural ecologies)
•    Poverty alleviation
•    Invisible vulnerability
•    Vulnerability and risk
•    Transformative social marketing and social well being
•    Social marketing strategies to overcome vulnerability
•    Empowerment, social transformation and vulnerability
•    Theoretical approaches to vulnerability in social marketing
•    Antecedents and consequences of vulnerability
•    Social marketing formative research methods to identify and understand vulnerability
•    Approaches to engaging vulnerable audiences
•    Critiques of Vulnerability
•    Interdisciplinary Insights into social marketing and vulnerable populations

Early expressions of interest and enquiries can be directed to the special issue Guest Editors via [email protected] and [email protected].

The submission process is as follows:

Step 1:     Authors need to adhere to the guidelines of the Journal of Social Marketing (JSOCM). The JSOCM word limit is 6000‐8000 words. For other information about the journal, including specific author guidelines, please visit
Step 2:     Articles aimed at JSOCM should be submitted via Scholar One. Authors must indicate the paper is submitted for this Special Issue in the submission process.
Step 3:     Manuscripts will undergo a blind peer-review process. We hope to notify authors of the review outcome in December 2019. Authors may need to revise their papers following the initial review.
Step 4:     Following additional rounds of revision as needed, final papers must be submitted in February 2020 for inclusion in Volume 10, Issue 3 of JSOCM.


Brennan, L., Binney, W., Parker, L., Aleti, T., & Nguyen, D. (2014). Social marketing and behaviour change: models, theory and applications. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Brennan, L., Zevallos, Z., & Binney, W. (2011). “Vulnerable consumers and debt: Can social marketing assist?”, Australasian Marketing Journal, 19(3): 203-211.
Domegan, C., McHugh, P., Devaney, M., Duane, S., Hogan, M., Broome, B. J., Layton, R. A., Joyce, J., Mazzonetto, M., & Piwowarczyk, J. (2015). “Systems-thinking social marketing: conceptual extensions and empirical investigations”, Journal of Marketing Management, 32(11-12): 1123-1144.
Hastings, G., & Domegan, C. (2018). Social Marketing: Rebels with a Cause (3rd Ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
IFRC, 2018. What is vulnerability? International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. 
Kotler, P., & Lee, N. R. (2009). Up and Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solution. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.
Kubacki, K., & Szablewska, N. (2017). “Social marketing targeting indigenous peoples: a systematic review”, Health Promotion International, doi: 10.1093/heapro/dax060
Lefebvre, R. C. (2012). "Transformative social marketing: co‐creating the social marketing discipline and brand", Journal of Social Marketing, 2(2): 118-129.
Saunders, S. G., Barrington, D. J., & Sridharan, S. (2015). “Redefining social marketing: beyond behavioural change”, Journal of Social Marketing, 5(2): 160-168.
Szablewska, N., & Kubacki, K. (2018). “Anti-human trafficking campaigns: a systematic review”, Social Marketing Quarterly, 24(2): 104-112.