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This article chronicles a brief history of social marketing practice in the Caribbean by reviewing the thinking that led to the introduction of social marketing in the region. The early years of social marketing in the Caribbean were characterized by donor-funded programs and projects that addressed social issues such as environmental protection, family planning, contraception and fertility control, and sexual and reproductive health matters. Various examples of Caribbean media campaigns and interventions that have utilized social marketing principles are presented. While these initiatives have made a contribution, perhaps the strongest impetus for sustaining social marketing practice in the region has been the introduction of education and training in social marketing in Caribbean academia. With the increasing institutionalization of social marketing, Caribbean researchers and practitioners of social marketing are now poised to make a further contribution to the field.
From the foregoing overview of social marketing practice in the Caribbean, it is clear that the application social marketing in response to social issues in the region has grown. Some may argue that it is still largely associated with health-related or environmental-related behaviors such as safer sexual practices or bird conservation. But this impression may be due in part to that fact it was mostly donor-funded initiatives that were likely to be documented and accessed for a review like this. The absence of documented experiences in using social marketing in other areas such as injury prevention, community involvement, and financial well-being does not mean social marketing thinking is not being used to inform interventions in these areas.
Indeed, the Caribbean region continues to experience a range of common social issues from substance misuse and abuse, road accidents, gender-based violence, crime, poverty, and within the last decade, more recent problems are emerging associated with climate change, human rights, conflict, security, and trafficking in persons. Perhaps one hindrance to the acceptance of social marketing in some development contexts is the view that it is being imposed by foreign donors operating on timebound project cycles within the region. In this scenario, there isn’t much consideration for how it can be adapted to the Caribbean experience. Funding and other resource limitations within the region may mean that all aspects of a social marketing program may never be designed and implemented to the extent that it achieves impactful results. Past efforts that incorporate social marketing suggest that this approach will probably continue to be seen as part of an amalgam used when designing development programs.