The possibility of influencing consumer demand is a valuable entrepreneurial driver that is usually utilized to increase sales of specific goods or services. However, in some cases, marketing practices are aimed in the opposite direction and involve active advertising in relation to reducing the share of product sales. This phenomenon is called demarketing and is used in various fields due to various reasons. The healthcare sector is a priority industry in this research paper, and the practice of demarketing is often found in this public environment. Interested parties work actively to minimize the entry of goods with a potentially dangerous effect on human health into the market. As an example, consumer smoking will be considered as an aspect that encourages the medical community to develop strategies to reduce tobacco sales. During all the stages of work in this direction, interested parties may encounter a number of difficulties, which prompts them to develop special tactics and create opportunities for implementing demarketing strategies.
The concept of demarketing may be observed in different industries, and it is designed to decrease customer demand, but in the field of medicine, its manifestations are common and objective. In this sector, creating the conditions to minimize the sales of goods or services of certain groups is aimed at increasing the level of public health. As Cappel, Waikar, and Root (2016) note, for the first time, the concept of demarketing in healthcare was introduced in 1987. The authors state that this principle implied “finding ways to discourage demand… through the use of… such steps as raising prices and reducing promotion, access, or service” (Cappel et al., 2016, p. 8). The key objective of these actions is to influence public health and introduce potentially effective measures to reduce the sales of harmful products.
When considering the implications of this phenomenon in healthcare, one can note that demarketing in this sector is different from that in the business sphere. In standard entrepreneurial practices, this principle is often aimed at reducing demand if this indicator exceeds supply significantly. In the medical industry, this approach involves creating conditions of social importance. Minimizing the sales of harmful products is one of the examples of this practice. According to Cappel et al. (2016), restriction procedures are generally regulated by supreme regulatory boards. Thus, in healthcare, demarketing is not a financial but a socially significant concept.
Primary Concepts of Demarketing
Demarketing as a phenomenon is not static and consists of several categories that determine the nature of interventions and final objectives. Seeletse (2016) views it as a set of measures that may be divided into three key concepts – “general demarketing, selective demarketing and ostensible demarketing” (p. 231). Each of these strategies is characterized by unique manifestations and provides for the application of distinctive activity principles.
General demarketing is the most common practice in various industries. As Seeletse (2016) notes, its key goal is to minimize demand when this parameter exceeds supply. If manufacturers or sellers cannot offer consumers goods or services in the proper amount, this approach is promoted. Selective demarketing is a more complex workflow, which, however, also aims to lower demand. Farquhar and Robson (2017) analyze this concept and remark that it is relevant when firms intend to reduce the share of demand among specific categories of consumers. The authors argue that this principle is often applied in healthcare and provide an example of restrictions on the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of majority (Farquhar & Robson, 2017). Finally, ostensible demarketing is a business principle that involves a targeted reduction in demand in order to further increase sales under new conditions. Seeletse (2016) states that this practice allows sellers to pause the sales of goods or services to increase their price subsequently and achieve an increase in profits. All three concepts are applied in accordance with the current conditions of demand and consumer needs.
Opportunities in Healthcare to Utilize Demarketing Strategies
Opportunities for implementing demarketing in healthcare are not limited to a selective principle exclusively. For instance, Bogueva, Marinova, and Raphaely (2017) provide an example of a practice based on reducing the consumption of meat products among the population. The authors argue that excessive consumption of animal protein can affect people’s well-being adversely, and the demarketing measures used are a convenient approach to increase public health indicators (Bogueva et al., 2017). At the same time, in the industry in question, changes may be directed both to the target audience and employees involved. Reducing jobs as an optimization stage, engaging lower-skilled specialists to monitor patients with good health, and other examples prove that the trend of demarketing is relevant to solving various problems.
The social nature of the impact of demarketing in healthcare is explained by the concerns of the medical community on existing issues. Seeletse (2016) analyzes smoking as an addiction and provides examples of opportunities to reduce tobacco use in the population. In addition to products of this type, other harmful goods are also presented to the public as potentially dangerous and are utilized as objects for demarketing. All such practices have one common goal – to improve the quality of public health, and opportunities appear when alarming data come from responsible organizations that monitor people’s medical indicators.
Demarketing Tactics Used by Healthcare Organizations
In the process of demarketing activities, healthcare organizations resort to various tactical decisions to achieve the set objectives. Roulin and Bhatnagar (2018) note that education is one of the simplest forms of impact on the target audience. The authors focus on identifying opportunities for reducing tobacco use among the population and note that promoting knowledge of health risks is an integral aspect of relevant demarketing policies (Roulin & Bhatnagar, 2018). Another measure of impact is the promotion of specific initiatives at the legislative level through reporting to the authorities on population health indicators. As Roulin and Bhatnagar (2018) remark, healthcare organizations play an important role in enforcing special anti-tobacco laws and smoking bans in public places. These tactical measures are widespread and are utilized in many countries as generally accepted demarketing strategies.
More complex steps for implementing demarketing programs in the medical industry are associated with stigmatization. Roulin and Bhatnagar (2018) give an example of campaigns aimed at creating a negative image of heavy smokers and depopularizing this habit among people and reduce selective demand. Social advertisements, presentations for patients in healthcare facilities, and other tools are applied to reduce the total tendency of smoking among different consumers. All of these steps may be utilized in parallel for a stronger impact on the population and stimulate interest in a healthy lifestyle and, in particular, the rejection of the consumption of tobacco products.
Dangers Associated with the Demarketing Approach in Healthcare
Despite the value of many health-related demarketing tactical steps, these interventions may be accompanied by some dangers and challenges. For instance, regarding the issue of education as the method of work in this direction, Ştefan, Bratucu, and Chitu (2016) note people’s unwillingness to participate in special propaganda campaigns aimed at improving public health. As the authors note, one of the main reasons is the unwillingness of some citizens to change their lifestyles and adopt new behavioral habits (Ştefan et al., 2016). Therefore, searching for optimal paths of exposure is an important aspect of the success of demarketing practices.
When considering the dangers associated with the implementation of such programs in relation to their organizers, some legal aspects may be an obstacle to the introduction of these projects. Roulin and Bhatnagar (2018) review campaigns to encourage people to quit smoking and note that this habit is often perceived as deviant behavior. Nevertheless, while assessing this problem from the perspective of human rights, some people argue that coercion cannot take place in this case due to the freedom of choice provided to every citizen. As a result, dissatisfaction with too active propaganda may be fraught with lawsuits by individuals against demarketers. In order to avoid such an outcome, it is essential to take into account the principles of law and provide objective arguments regarding the alleged practice of reducing demand for potentially harmful goods.
Health Risk Demarketing on Consumer Smoking
As an example of developing relevant demarketing strategies, the issue of the high consumption of tobacco products among the population will be used as a background for intervention. Potentially effective practices will be proposed, and the analysis of existing demand for this strategy will be conducted. This plan may allow involving target consumers in the program aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and smoking cessation.
Potential Demarketing Opportunities
Since smoking is a critical public health problem in many countries, creating an environment to minimize tobacco use among the population is a significant policy. According to Chauhan and Setia (2016), among young people, this trend is widespread and based on their research, a large number of this audience smoke in order to get rid of anxiety. Consequently, creating conditions to help young people overcome psychological challenges and stresses may be a valuable step from the perspective of demarketing. This program can be implemented by engaging interested parties to interest clubs and creating events for active pastimes. Another potentially successful solution is the ban on the sale of tobacco products near educational establishments. Such a measure can help reduce cigarette sales among young people, thereby contributing to their healthy future.
Current Demand for Demarketing
The high demand for health risk demarketing on consumer smoking is confirmed by a significant threat to human health. Chauhan and Setia (2016) provide relevant statistics and note that in the United States, 20% of deaths are due to human addiction to this habit (p. 31). The situation is complicated by the fact that, as the authors note, about 80% of all smokers live in countries with developing economies, and the poverty level of the population is one of the drivers of the problem (Chauhan & Setia, 2016, p. 31). Therefore, to conduct effective demarketing campaigns, involving various stakeholders is crucial to create the necessary conditions for helping people and reduce the mortality rate from the health issue under consideration.
The implementation of demarketing strategies may be accompanied by challenges, which is the reason for developing relevant tactical solutions and engaging available resources to introduce the necessary impact policies. The variability of the forms of demarketing allows realizing diverse projects, and in the field of healthcare, appropriate interventions are possible. On the example of the problem of smoking as a significant health risk factor, opportunities for demarketers are proposed, and the relevance of these procedures is explained.
Cappel, S. D., Waikar, A., & Root, T. (2016). Strategic demarketing of healthcare services. Business Journal for Entrepreneurs, 2016(3), 8-19.
Bogueva, D., Marinova, D., & Raphaely, T. (2017). Reducing meat consumption: The case for social marketing. Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 29(3), 477-500.
Chauhan, H., & Setia, P. (2016). Discouraging cigarette smoking through de-marketing strategies. Future Business Journal, 2(1), 31-39.
Farquhar, J. D., & Robson, J. (2017). Selective demarketing: When customers destroy value. Marketing Theory, 17(2), 165-182.
Roulin, N., & Bhatnagar, N. (2018). Smoking as a job killer: Reactions to smokers in personnel selection. Journal of Business Ethics, 149(4), 959-972.
Seeletse, S. M. (2016). Demarketing strategy to develop perceived product reputation: Applications in three distinct environments. Problems and Perspectives in Management, 14(4), 230-235.
Ştefan, M., Bratucu, G., & Chitu, I. B. (2016). Perception of breast cancer prevention campaigns among women in Braşov. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov. Series V: Economic Sciences, 9(2), 79-86.