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ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #410790

Research Project: Preventing the Development of Childhood Obesity

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Social marketing and the challenges of participant recruitment

item BARANOWSKI, TOM - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item O'CONNOR, TERESIA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item JIMENEZ-GARCIA, JOHN - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item RADHAKRISHNAN, KAVITA - University Of Texas At Austin
item ARRENDONDO, ELVA - San Diego State University
item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe

Submitted to: Translational Behavioral Medicine
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/10/2024
Publication Date: 5/18/2024
Citation: Baranowski, T., O'Connor, T.M., Jimenez-Garcia, J.A., Radhakrishnan, K., Arrendondo, E.M., Thompson, D.J. 2024. Social marketing and the challenges of participant recruitment. Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Interpretive Summary: Recruitment for research projects has been challenging, putting studies at risk of not being able to adequately test a priori hypotheses. Social marketing, an adaptation of traditional marketing principles and practices, may provide a solution. Marketing was developed to sell commercial products to consumers, and the strategies and practices therein could be applied to selling participation in the "intervention" (the health program) to "end users" (participants). The four Ps, product, price, place, and promotion, are the conceptual elements considered in a marketing plan. Applying a social marketing approach to recruitment for research projects has been demonstrated to be successful in a small number of cases. Implementing this approach would require preimplementation research to specify the key characteristics of the target audience; continuous monitoring of recruitment success during the research to assess changes in strategies, as needed; and enhanced funding to accommodate the additional research within an expanded early project time frame.

Technical Abstract: Recruitment of research participants often has not obtained a desired sample size, thereby becoming a major problem inhibiting investigators' ability to adequately test the specified hypotheses. Social marketing with its four Ps, originally developed by the business world to sell products and adapted for public health initiatives, is proposed as a dynamic comprehensive conceptual framework to apply marketing principles and practices to enhance participant recruitment. Applying a social marketing approach to research recruitment would require initial investigation to understand the motivations of the target audience in regard to research participation, and continued research throughout the main project to adapt the recruitment efforts as limitations arise. Additional funding would be needed for successful social marketing research recruitment programs to be systematically implemented and evaluated as part of research projects. In this paper, we define social marketing concepts, briefly review the available literature supporting social marketing applied to recruitment for research studies, and consider ethical issues that may arise when using a social marketing approach.