Evaluating social marketing's upstream metaphor: does it capture the flows of behavioural influence between ‘upstream’ and 'downstream’ actors?

Joshua D. Newton, Fiona Newton, Stephanie Rep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Metaphors are powerful forms of communication that can both facilitate and constrain disciplinary discourse, so the choice of metaphor used to explain concepts of disciplinary importance should not be undertaken lightly. A single case study methodology involving an ‘upstream’ firm considering whether to manufacture products with environmental attributes was consequently used to test three previously unexamined assumptions associated with the upstream/downstream metaphor, a metaphorical distinction that continues to have sway within the social marketing discipline. Contrary to these assumptions, the flows of behavioural influence between ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ actors were found to be bidirectional (rather than unidirectional), interactive (rather than independent), and distinctive (rather than non-distinctive). These findings suggest the need for alternative models that can better reflect the complex, multidirectional relationships responsible for the emergence of many social issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1122
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Marketing Management
Issue number11-12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Social marketing
  • Environment
  • Marketing

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