Purpose: The purpose of this article is to demonstrate why the time is ripe for a reflexive turn in social marketing, in response to criticisms of social marketing as neo-liberal, positivist and lacking critical introspection.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper traces the development of three paradigms in the field, highlighting the entrenchment of a traditionalist paradigm that heretofore has stifled critical debate and reflexive practice. However, the emergence of social ecologist and critical social marketing paradigms has stimulated the imperative for a reflexive turn. Insights into reflexivity, its relevance and applicability for researchers, participants and other stakeholders in social marketing are considered.
Findings: The paper offers a conceptualisation of social marketing assemblages using the lens of actor-network theory and identifies how this can stimulate engagement and reflexive practice for researchers, participants and other stakeholders (such as non-governmental organisations and Government departments involved in delivering programmes).
Originality/value: The article presents relevant theoretical and practical benefits from a reflexive turn in social marketing, highlighting how this will furthermore contribute to discipline building.