Jennifer Wayman

Disney is Becoming Quite a Nudge… And Why I Love It

Nov 11

I recently had the pleasure of spending nearly a week at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida with my family.  With the major decisions of each day being which theme park to visit, which attraction to head for first, and how to strategically select THE ride to use our precious “Fast Pass” chits on, it was a wonderfully stress-free vacation.

True, I am a “Disney Person.” I love the creativity and magic that the company stands for.  As a marketer, I’m fascinated by how brilliantly Disney integrates marketing into everything it does, yet I don’t find it the least bit annoying.  How do they do that?  And true to Disney form, each time I visit their parks, I leave impressed by something else.   This time it was the Dining Plan.  Seriously.

I was aware of Disney’s announcement several years ago that it would no longer license is characters to food products with limited nutritional value. I also had seen on a previous trip that carrots and grapes had replaced fries in many of the kids’ meals at the park, and that fresh fruit was readily available at all of the snack stands.

I expected to see that continue on this trip, and it did.

I also got a pleasant surprise: waiters and waitresses at every restaurant we visited actively encouraged my kids to choose from the healthier options on the menus.  What an amazing experience that was!  At dinner after dinner, our servers suggested grilled chicken, grilled fish, veggies and fruit as part of the “complete kids meals.”  They joked with the kids about how much better they’d feel riding the next roller coaster if their bellies were filled with healthy food.  And they whispered questions to me about whether they should even mention that chocolate milk and chicken nuggets were options.  And I wasn’t even wearing my public health hat!

My kids didn’t choose the healthier option every single time, but most times they did.  And they ate more fruits and vegetables than I ever could have hoped for on a trip like that.

It was obvious that we didn’t just stumble upon seven different servers in seven different restaurants across four parks who were personally passionate about healthier eating.  I’m not good with statistics, but I know the odds of that happening randomly are pretty unlikely.  It was clear that their actions and encouragement were part of a broad corporate commitment.  They had been trained to promote the healthy stuff.  In essence, Disney was “nudging” us… making it easier – and even more fun – to choose the healthy option.  Wow.

I still would like to see Disney make some more changes. I wish they’d switch to skim milk from 1%.  And I wish they’d make the lunch options for kids even healthier.  Adults have plenty of opportunities to choose a salad, but most of the kids’ lunch meals still revolve around chicken nuggets, pizza, and hot dogs.  But at least those meals automatically come with carrots and grapes – you have to make a big point of asking for the fries instead – so that’s a step in the right direction.  I hope that I’ll see even more changes the next time I visit Walt Disney World.

Bravo Disney, for continuing to adjust your business model and put your influence to good use.  Imagine what could happen if more and more companies got into the nudge business?

Where Do We Go From Here?

Oct 14

The editors of Social Marketing Quarterly are asking you to post your own ideas, suggestions, or examples of how to:

- attract new marketers and social change practitioners into social marketing;

- create and expand opportunities to actually learn and practice social marketing;

- evaluate our work and generate compelling stories; and 

- transmit the culture of social marketing.

    To read a thought-provoking article and share your thoughts, visit Social Marketing Quarterly’s website by following this link:



Online Social Marketing Resources

Oct 12

A very useful listing of online social marketing resources is now available at  Additions are invited.

The Pink NFL

Oct 08


The NFL’s promotion of breast cancer awareness has stirred up quite a bit of discussion within the social marketing and cause marketing communities (  I’ve heard applause for the impact that the pink cleats and footballs have made in raising awareness.  And I’ve heard complaints – many complaints – that the NFL’s effort was too shallow and focused only on awareness. 

“Everyone already knows that breast cancer is a significant health risk.”  Really?  Before Sunday, I’m not so sure that statement was true for my nieces and their friends who are in their teens and twenties.  They are typically more focused on shorter-term concerns. 

“Our objective needs to go beyond awareness.”  I agree completely.  But why does that mean that maintaining awareness isn’t still important?   And, couldn’t it be possible that the NFL’s media blitz, even if it was light on on-air behavior change-related messaging, caused some women (and the men who love them) to remember to schedule their mammogram or get back on track with their diet or exercise routine?

In fact, for those who were motivated by all the pink on the field to check out the NFL web site, there’s a link to a pretty complete section ( that encourages plenty of behavior changes:  schedule your mammogram and sign up for a yearly reminder; eat right; stay active; donate to the cause, etc.

The NFL is in the entertainment business; they are not a public health agency.  They chose to use their tremendous marketing influence to help make some noise about breast cancer.  Could they have included more behavior change messaging in the broadcasts?  I’m sure they could have.  Breast cancer is a complex issue, and there’s always more that can be and should be done.  But I think it’s more productive to be grateful for this very successful promotional program that has gotten the country talking about breast cancer prevention and early detection once again. The NFL provided a big spark for continued action, and the smart public health and advocacy organizations will look at how they can build off of and complement this effort with additional behavior change-focused initiatives. 

Gov 2.0 at Ogilvy DC

Sep 29

On Monday, we had the great honor of hosting an amazing panel of speakers at our Ogilvy DC office to discuss Gov 2.0.  Panelists included:

– Alexander Howard, O’Reilly Media
– Gwynne Kostin, U.S. General Services Administration
– Micah Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum
– Ari Melber, The Nation
– Mark Murray, NBC News

The event surfaced some very interesting perspectives about what Gov 2.0 is and what it isn’t, and where we are in its evolution.

For more on the discussion, visit  What do you think are the most promising applications of Gov 2.0 in fostering social change?

What is Social Marketing?

Sep 27

"Pavement Patty"

I have been following a “discussion” on a social marketing listserv ( for the past week.  What started out as a provocative question – “What do we, as social marketers, think of “Pavement Patty,” one tactic in a Vancouver driving safety campaign ( – turned into yet another debate about the definition of social marketing. 

 This debate has prompted me to ponder a few things:

 1.  Can an initiative or program that is largely focused on raising awareness or building knowledge be considered social marketing?  Why not?  After all, don’t social marketers draw upon behavioral science theories and models to inform their interventions?  And don’t several of those theories and models posit that factors such as beliefs towards personal susceptibility to and the perceived severity of risk and attitudes towards the desired behavior(s) are important determinants of behavior change?  To be clear, I believe that true social marketing needs to have behavior change as an end goal, but we all know that that takes considerable time, and sometimes the best place to start is with awareness and education.  Take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s America Responds to AIDS campaign.  When CDC embraced social marketing to address the early HIV/AIDS epidemic, the virus was very poorly understood and fear was rampant.  Education and awareness objectives were paramount. As the disease became better understood, CDC evolved its initiatives to emphasize safer sex behaviors, such as condom use.  Why wouldn’t we consider both phases to be social marketing?

 2.  Why do so many in the field support rigid, narrow definitions of social marketing?  There are some who say that social marketing is the same as commercial marketing, except that it is funded by non-profit or public sector organizations.  Does that mean that a water utility that is truly interested in encouraging their customers to consume less water can’t utilize social marketing to do so, just because it’s a business?  And there are others who say that social marketing is only social marketing if best practices are followed.  Who is the “decider” on what constitutes “best practices,” and how will that ever lead to innovation? 

 3.  Why do we think it’s ok to pass judgment on fellow social marketers’ initiatives when the evaluation is still underway?  Do I like Pavement Patty? I don’t know yet, because I don’t know enough about it.  I do think it’s a very innovative, creative tactic that I understand is part of a much broader initiative.  At the same time, I also think it’s risky in that there may be some unintended consequences.  But, above all, I applaud those behind the initiative for taking a bold approach to solving an important social challenge.  Maybe the evaluation will show that particular tactic to have been very effective, or maybe not.  But unless we continue to try new approaches, take some risks, and evaluate them objectively when the data are in, how will we know?

Can we move the field forward if we spend all of our time looking backwards?  I don’t think so.  Plus, it’s no fun.  Marketing is a dynamic discipline, in which innovation and creativity are essential.  Social marketing is no different.  If we stop trying to define it, and embrace different viewpoints and approaches, we all might just learn a little something, and the field will certainly benefit.

Evidence-Based Social Marketing: Desirable or Not?

Jun 09

In public health, the term “evidence-based” is often used to qualify an intervention as valuable and worthwhile, and with good reason.  When it comes to health, looking for evidence that an approach has been proven to work in the past is understandably desired—especially with regards to a treatment plan or research design.

But does “evidence-based” have a place as a required element in public health social marketing?  Yes and no.  Social marketing has tremendous value in promoting and advancing evidence-based medicine.  But requiring a social marketing approach itself to be evidence-based, in my opinion, threatens to remove all creativity and innovation from the process.  It also presupposes that there is a robust body of methodogically-sound evaluation data that supports an evidence-based designation.  However, we know that social marketing interventions often lack systematic evaluation to pinpoint exactly what elements worked and why.  (The reasons for this, including resource constraints, time pressures, and research clearance requirements, shall be reserved for another discussion.)

To be sure, in social marketing as in many other disciplines, there is a tremendous amount that can be learned by looking at what has worked well in the past on similar issues or for similar audiences.  But should we stop there?  Just because there aren’t evaluated results or a peer-reviewed journal article proving that a particular approach works, does that mean it shouldn’t be tried?

I believe the answer is no.  Risk taking is an essential component of successful social marketing initiatives.  In many cases, that means trying something that hasn’t been tried before.

I’m not talking about abandoning all reason for a cool idea.  I am suggesting that starting with a comprehensive understanding of the intended audience and adding insight, experience, creativity—as well as not being afraid to take a calculated risk or two—can result in a far more successful effort than simply recycling something that has already been done and evaluated.

That’s how we get the breakthrough efforts that truly make a difference in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors – like the truth campaign to combat teen smoking, the That Guy campaign to reduce drinking among young servicemen, The Heart Truth® campaign to promote women’s heart health, and the Nothing But Nets campaign to prevent malaria.

So, instead of “evidence-based,” why not soften the stringent requirements that that term engenders, and look to create social marketing initiatives, interventions, and campaigns that are “evidence-informed” or “knowledge and insight-based?”  Those are terms I can live with.  What do YOU think?


Smokefree Women

May 12

The National Cancer Institute’s Smokefree Women initiative launched an interesting project this week.  It’s called “Celebrating Smokefree Voices,” and it’s a YouTube video contest, to capture women’s quitting experiences and reasons for quitting smoking, as well as to motivate friends and family members to encourage a woman they love to quit.

There are three things, in particular, that I like about this approach:

First, it a fun way to engage an audience and invite them to participate in the initiative.  Behavioral science theories and models, particularly the Stages of Change Model and the Precaution Adoption Process Model, point to such engagement as a successful approach to enhancing attitudinal and behavior change by helping to personalize the risks and benefits and promoting active decision-making, respectively.  Likewise, by engaging friends and family members in encouraging women to quit smoking, the initiative helps to shape the subjective norm that “people who are important to me disapprove of my smoking and want me to quit” – an important construct in both the Theory of Planned Behavior and the Theory of Reasoned Action.

Second, it features the voices of real people dealing with real struggles in their quest to quit smoking, but by focusing on celebrating being smokefree, it emphasizes the benefits of quitting.  Time and again, consumer research that I have been involved with – particularly in the women’s health field – reveals that showcasing such “real stories” is a powerful way to connect with audiences, build relevance, and enhance empowerment.

Third, it leverages the power of social media to support women in their quit attempt.  The video contest itself utilizes a powerful social media platform, YouTube, to capture attention and begin to engage women and their loved ones.  Then, to enter the contest, one must visit the Smokefree Women Website where there are a number of interactive and sharable tools, such as the Facebook Page and Smokefree Quit Tracker Application, the Twitter handle, monthly quizzes and polls, e-cards, and other quit support tools.

I’m eager to watch the winning video entries on July 2, 2010 and to follow the progress of this initiative.

Cases in Public Health Communication & Marketing

May 05

The George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services publishes peer-reviewed case studies from the fields of public health communication and social marketing at  One of the newest entries, “Using Social Media to Reach Women with The Heart Truth® – 2009 Update,” provides an overview of how social media has been employed for the last several years to raise women’s awareness about their risk for heart disease and advance the campaign’s brand (The Red Dress®). Below is an abstract.

“The power of social media to effect change is becoming recognized by social marketers and health educators as an important strategy, and campaigns are increasingly using social media strategies to expand the reach to their target audiences.  In 2002, when the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute launched The Heart Truth® – the first federally-sponsored national campaign aimed at increasing awareness among women about their risk of heart disease – many of today’s social media hardly existed.  At the outset, the campaign team developed and tested a women’s heart disease brand – The Red Dress® – and sought to promote it through a wide variety of means, including the internet marketing approaches that were current at that time.  The online approaches supported the three main campaign implementation strategies: partnership development, media relations, and community action.  As the campaign matured and new media approaches evolved, the campaign increasingly promoted its products, messages, and events through social media channels and Internet marketing techniques, including e-mail promotions, blogs targeted to women, Facebook, Twitter, public service banner advertisements, and outreach to online mainstream news sites.  The social media effort began as a small pilot project in 2007, and was expanded in subsequent years based on lessons learned.  This article describes the approaches used and the results achieved, and discusses the advantages and limitations of social media in the context of the larger campaign.  With a combined impact of many millions of additional audience impressions through social media, the campaign team concluded that these channels provide an effective, low-cost means of further extending the reach of launched The Heart Truth® to its core audience and beyond.”

You can read the full case here.

An Identity Crisis for Social Marketing

Apr 30

The explosion of social media as a critical communications channel has spawned a terminology problem which, if unchecked, could foster a long-term identity crisis for social marketers.  Over the past few years, a number of terms have been created to describe the practice of marketing a message or product through social media.  These terms include: social media optimization, social media marketing, social network marketing and—most concerning—social marketing.

In reality, social marketing is much broader than simply marketing through social media.  It is an established and proven discipline that relies on many different inputs and outputs to change awareness, attitudes, and behaviors.  Social marketing’s focus on advancing social causes is what makes the discipline unique.  Since its introduction in 1971, social marketing has been used to address many of the world’s most pressing issues, from public health to public safety to environmentalism.

By contrast, “marketing through social media involves having conversations and creating engagement online through a variety of social media tools, such as blogs, wikis, online communities, community websites, video, photos, and social networking platforms.

Despite these differences there are an increasing number of pundits who incorrectly use the term “social marketing” to describe a very narrow set of social media outreach tactics.  This terminology war began in earnest a few years ago when one company named its social media offering “social marketing,” and the social marketing community voiced strong objections at the time.  However, the marketplace confusion not only still lingers, it appears to be picking up steam.  These efforts are eroding the brand equity of the 30+ year-old discipline of social marketing.

Effective social marketing initiatives start with a solid understanding of the intended audience and employ many strategies to surround that audience with motivational messages that support and foster changes in attitudes and behaviors.  Methods include policy and environmental change initiatives, community outreach, direct mail, advertising, media relations, partnership development, events, interpersonal outreach, and materials dissemination, among others.

Today, all good social marketing campaigns also contain social media tactics that are based—as the rest of the campaign elements are—on research-derived insights into the campaign’s intended audience.  Indeed, social media has an important and critical role to play in social marketing initiatives.  Among the chief benefits:

Interaction:  Social marketing and behavior change theories posit that if you can find ways to engage the intended audience in an interactive way with your message(s), you have a much greater chance of fostering recall and consideration of the attitude or behavior you are “selling.”  Social media outreach offers this interaction in spades.  From inviting the audience to contribute to content on a Web site to prompting blogging to fostering the sharing of ideas, images and videos through social networks, the possibilities for interaction via social media are endless.

Word of Mouth:  The most successful social marketing initiatives generate tremendous word of mouth publicity, or buzz, to spread messages and engage audiences.  Because of the interpersonal nature of word of mouth communication, it is believed that information communicated in this way has an added layer of credibility because the receiver of word-of-mouth communication tends to believe that the communicator is speaking honestly and is unlikely to have an ulterior motive.  Social media activities, including viral marketing, can be a very cost-effective and quick way to generate this buzz and propel a social marketing initiative more swiftly to the “tipping point.”

Audience Reach:  While access to the Internet is still not ubiquitous, it is steadily growing among all segments of the population, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or income level.  This is especially true among tweens, teens and young adults, many of whom are “online” so constantly that they don’t even distinguish a difference between being “offline” or “online.”  Mid-life and older adults are also venturing into social networking at an increasing rate, often to connect with old friends or with their children and grandchildren.  At a time when consumption of many other communications channels is declining (e.g., newspapers), social media has a unique role to play in reaching audiences directly and in the places in which they already are spending large chunks of time.

For sure, social media has an important place in social marketing.  But marketing through social media is not social marketing.  It’s time for social marketers to take an even more active stance to claim back the term that for nearly four decades has stood for a research-based and audience-driven approach to advancing social issues.

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