Appealing to positive motivations and emotions in social marketing: Example of a positive parenting campaign

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure


Henley, N., Donovan, R. & Moorhead, H. (1998)Appealing to positive motivations and emotions in social marketing: Example of a positive parenting campaign. Social marketing quarterly, 4(4), 48-53. Original article available here


The decision whether to adopt a positive or negative appeal is fundamental to all social marketing campaigns. There is no universal agreement on what constitutes a"positive" and "negative" appeal, though the terms are used frequently by practitioners(Donovan, Henley, Jalleh & Slater, 1995). In the literature, positive appeals aregenerally considered to be appeals eliciting or promising positive emotions as a resultof using a product or adopting a recommended behavior. Conversely, negative appeals are considered to be those eliciting or promising negative emotions as a result of not using the product or adopting the behavior.The effective use of negative emotions such as fear has been researched extensively since the 1950s (see reviews by Higbee, 1969; Sutton, 1982, 1992; Boster &Mongeau, 1984; Job, 1988; LaTour & Zahra, 1988). There is some controversy over the use of fear in social marketing, particularly high levels of fear that may induce defensive or maladaptive responses in the target audience (Stuteville, 1970; Job, 1988).A few studies have examined the relative effectiveness of positive vs negative appeals(Brooker, 1981; Menasco & Baron, 1981; Donovan et al., 1995) while a number ofstudies have looked at positive and negative message framing (e.g., Maheswaran &Meyers-Levy, 1990; Block & Keller, 1995). However, to our knowledge, there is little research on the effective use of positive appeals per se in social marketing. This paper presents the theoretical basis for appealing to positive motivations and emotions, and evaluates a recent positive parenting campaign conducted by the Western AustralianFamily and Children's Services.





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