When we think of "social" nowadays our minds drift to social media. However, before social media there was social marketing...

Getting to the core of social marketing

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I recently viewed a PBS program that focused on ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Whether you live in a high-rise or in the desert the changes underway will affect everyone. No this is not a post about doom and gloom, but it is one about how marketing can be a part of the solution. I am speaking about the concept of social marketing and specifically how market research can help to drive effective strategies to change behavior.

At its core, marketing is about impacting behavior. In both B2B and consumer marketing we focus on creating brand awareness, purchase, and ultimately re-purchase. Research and analytics help us to better understand the buying process, flush out unmet needs, and create messaging that cuts through the clutter. In conjunction with other departments, product market research assists in the process of creating offerings that effectively meet the needs of the market.

The structured process of marketing, along with its creative touch can be effectively applied to addressing critical social issues as well. It is this ability that led to marketing’s adoption by electric and other utilities when they realized that reducing demand was in their best interest. Government and non-profit organizations have used social marketing, based upon qualitative and quantitative market research, to successfully alter behaviors relating to AIDS and other health issues. This same approach, in my humble opinion, can be applied toward modifying behaviors which in the end can help to reduce carbon emissions.

If your organization is involved in social issues, or if your company wants to take a leadership position in the social arena, then effective use of market research can provide the foundational knowledge necessary to help achieve those goals. Survey research, coupled with the tried and true practice of market experimentation, can yield ‘consumer insight’ into the attitudes which drive behaviors. It is this combination (attitudes and behaviors) that marketing seeks to modify. Some examples include:

Understanding the perception of cleanliness as it relates to length of time in the shower
Attitudes toward commuting and use of alternative means of transportation
Use of appliance by time of day
Barriers to the adoption of recycling practices

Market research can go well beyond simply measuring customer satisfaction. It can be used to drive a change in behaviors that impact society both locally and globally. For more information about social marketing see:


About the Author

Greg TimpanySince 1988 Greg has delved into the world of marketing, analytics and strategy. His expertise bridges the space between the structured world of IT and the creative, customer-centric needs of marketing. His thought leadership is sought out by executives in B2B, B2C and the public sector. Currently he directs the research efforts for Cary, NC based Global Knowledge. In addition he is a contributing author to the Cvent Survey blog; an instructor for Meredith College and Research Rockstar. As an entrepreneur he is co-founder of Anova Market Research. Past engagements have included working with The Los Angeles Times, Guitar Center and Wilkin Guge Marketing. He can be followed at: and all posts by Greg Timpany →