social marketing programs target specific actions among
a few clearly defined, high priority audience
step, you’ll use your research findings in a systematic
selection process that moves you closer to setting audience segment
break your overall audience into subgroups whose members share certain
narrow the list of all possible segments down to the largest segment(s)
with addressable behavioral determinants that can be reached with
the resources available to your program.
step is where you make the decision to focus solely on your primary
target audience or to reach out to secondary audiences of “influentials” as
There are a few more considerations to apply before you select your
final target audience. These will come up in a later step.
How To Do It
Primary target audience segments
Make a list of all of the primary audience segments you could target.
Define each segment in terms of
demographics (e.g., age and race/ethnicity)
determinants that distinguished “doers” from “non-doers” of
your health behavior
example, if you were trying to promote infant car seat use, one
segment might be Hispanic parents who believe that automobile deaths
are unpreventable because they are divinely ordained (see the example
Social Marketing for You?”).
For each of the potential segments listed, pull the following information
from your research findings:
benefits of the target behavior valued
competitive behaviors practiced
information channels used
level of readiness to change
Then go back down the list and highlight the segments that have:
perceived benefits that are easy to build into an exchange
behaviors against which you can “win”
the largest number of people reachable at the smallest cost
the greatest readiness to change
target audience segments will soon (in step 3.2) be weighed against
health burden, political realities, and your program’s
resources in a final round of selection.
Influencing (secondary) audience segments
Problem Analysis Worksheet you developed in Phase 1 may have identified
a group with a lot of influence on your primary target audience. “Influentials” could
stand between you and the achievement of your program goal.
You should have explored the characteristics and concerns of these
influentials in your Phase 2 research.
now time to decide whether the amount of influence they have merits
devoting program resources to reaching them as a distinct audience
example, if your program goal was to increase use of family planning
methods among women age 18-24 served by a local clinic, you may
have assumed that the male partners/husbands of these women have
great influence on the women’s contraceptive choices. If,
in your audience research with the women, you confirmed this assumption,
you probably interviewed some men to explore their thinking and
motivation. Now you must decide whether to allocate some or all
of your limited program resources to targeting the secondary male
WIC-Breastfeeding campaign included
a primary audience, several secondary audience segments, and
the general public as a tertiary but still influential audience.
To see audience segmentations from other campaigns, click on
the Examples button at the right.
the data are clear, the dynamics of your planning team smooth,
and the decision about target audiences fairly straightforward.
At other times, the planning team has to struggle through some very
difficult decisions. You may be concerned about leaving groups out,
or you may feel uncomfortable saying that one audience segment is more
important than others. The data seldom point to a single right answer,
and values must enter into your decisions.
This process can be a little tedious, and the temptation to jump
ahead to messages and activities can be strong.
to the wise: Make these hard decisions. Prioritize audience segments
according to the criteria specified above. It’s the
only way to avoid spreading program resources too thin to change
you complete this step, you should have a good idea which audience
segment(s) you will target.