This is based on a presentation and article originally titled “Enrich Your Next Social Marketing Initiative With Qualitative Methods” written by By Vivianne Hiriart & Katrina Noelle for SMANA the Social Marketing Association of North America.
Behaviors are complex. They have a function and a meaning in people’s lives, and they are influenced by multiple factors. As such, it’s important to delve into their origins and the context around them that sustain them and promote them. The qualitative perspective opens the door to these elements allowing you to build a fuller picture of the situation.
When developing a social marketing initiative, getting a full view of the context surrounding the behavior you want to change is key in order to develop a successful plan. Testing that plan to refine it according to your target audience’s needs, furthers your chance at success.
For instance, let’s say you’re looking to develop a campaign to prevent pregnancy amongst teenagers. First you need to deeply understand who they are, what they are going through physically, emotionally, intellectually and psychologically as part of their developmental stage. You also need to understand their social context, the social and behavioral aspects that influence certain behaviors, cultural beliefs, and the demographic challenges they are facing as a generation. For that, you can turn to qualitative and quantitative research done over a course of multiple years around those themes analyzing the situation through different disciplines and behavioral theories. This will help you set a solid ground to determine the pathway of change, consider the factors that will enable change to happen, and develop a solid campaign.
Or, let’s say you’ve moved to the next step and are focusing on specific groups. At that point, you can turn to qualitative methods to get feedback from a marketing perspective. You can use them to better understand your segments and what is relevant to them, to determine ideal positioning and language for your campaign, and to uncover potential barriers and ways to overcome them within the groups of interest.