Liz Foote, Ph.D., is a 2022 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Abigail Abrash Walton, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Meaghan Guckian, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Kayla Cranston, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Nancy Lee, MBC, Committee Member


social marketing, social change, organizational change, social sciences, behavioral sciences, environmental studies, sustainability, conservation, institutionalization, diffusion of innovations, systems theory, self-efficacy, collective-efficacy

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As a social change discipline, social marketing has demonstrated its effectiveness in addressing many types of wicked problems. However, despite its utility in environmental contexts, it is neither well known nor widespread in its uptake in these settings. This study’s purpose is to reveal opportunities to drive the adoption, implementation, and diffusion (“institutionalization”) of social marketing within the domains of environmental sustainability and natural resource conservation. This research considers the use of social marketing as an innovative practice within a diffusion of innovations framework and uses a systems lens to examine early adopter social marketing professionals and the institutional contexts in which they operate. It employs an exploratory sequential mixed-methods research design within a two-phased inquiry consisting of three independent but interconnected studies. The dataset includes 90 qualitative interviews and two quantitative surveys. The first phase of this research examined 1) challenges and opportunities facing the discipline, and 2) status and trends within social marketing formal academic training. Findings from this phase included a thematic analysis of challenges related to institutionalization that centered the conceptualization of the discipline alongside the importance of key aspects of organizational culture and the critical role of formal education and professional development opportunities. Recommendations were developed to address these challenges broadly as well as increase social marketing academic programming. The second phase consisted of a case study of environmental social marketing within the Pacific Northwest United States. Findings revealed several aspects of organizational culture and practice that can be considered success factors driving social marketing implementation, particularly the diffusion concepts of observability, relative advantage, adaptation and reinvention, and innovation champions. This study also identified disconnects affecting social marketing’s institutionalization; most notably a gap between the initiation and implementation stages of the organizational innovation process, and a gap in perceived efficacy between the micro and meso systems levels. Recommendations for practice were proposed to address these gaps. This study’s contribution to theory and practice centers around demonstrating the utility of a systems approach to explore and identify elements of organizational culture that can be considered potential leverage points for advancing the institutionalization of social marketing.


Liz Foote

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0003-3668-6000