4 Reasons to Measure Your Campaign

There are many different organizations and individuals that are trying to change the world for the better. Unfortunately not all of these “change agents” are accomplishing this goal.  With the limited funds available to environmental charities and nonprofit organizations, it is tempting to forget about measuring your success and trying to focus all your resources in other areas, to reach more people.  As a graduate of the Environment & Business program, I see not only the importance of creating a more sustainable world, but also of measuring the effectiveness of such programs. Although all 10 Rules of Social Marketing are important, I think Rule #8 is what really sets apart social marketing from other change-oriented disciplines. Measuring and monitoring can greatly improve your program, and get you better results. If you (or your superiors) still need to be convinced, check out the list below.

4. Stop problems before they start!

Before implementing your social marketing program, Doug Mckenzie-Mohr insists that you test it on a smaller scale to find any problems before broader implementation.

“The point of a pilot is to identify and address problems before launching a campaign throughout the community. You should plan on there being problems and build into your plans the opportunity to refine your strategy until it works well. On one project, I revised a pilot six times before I was able to produce the desired behaviour changes” (Doug Mckenzie-Mohr, 2011)

Finding problems in a pilot are much easier (and cheaper!) to correct than a fully scaled campaign. By conducting a pilot you will ensure greater success, and a lower cost, for your campaign.
Do it right: Make sure to test against a control group, and measure actual behaviour change.

3. Make minor adjustments to maximize impact

After implementation, you need to monitor your campaign in order to make adjustments. One thing to watch out for is campaign spillover. You should monitor the actual behaviour change and make sure that this behaviour change is having a net positive effect. For instance, a campaign may give a rebate for energy efficient refrigerators, but if homeowners keep their old fridge as a beer fridge in the garage then the will be using more energy as a result of the program. By monitoring the program you can make changes to the campaign to reduce spillover, such as requiring that individuals bring in their old fridge before they can get the rebate.

Monitoring your program can help you detect other issues as well. For instance, the PedFlag program in the City of Kirkland was evaluated in 2007, and it was found that only 11% of individuals were using the flags to cross the street safely. After further research into barriers, it was found that some people had no idea what the flags were for, and some others thought the flags were difficult to use.  By measuring the progress of the campaign during its implementation, the City of Kirkland was able to improve delivery of the program and increase usage by 64%.

Do it right: If possible try to “build in” measures by using existing records or data collection, such as public health surveys or census data.

2. Guide improvements for the next campaign

By measuring the outcomes and impacts of a campaign, you will be able to determine the direction of the next campaign. There is a great example of this by ParticipACTION in the 5th Edition of Social Marketing by Nancy R. Lee and Philip Kotler. In 2008 ParticipACTION launched the Inactive Kids campaign, which emphasized the consequences of physical activity on children’s lives. After measuring the outcomes of that campaign, it was discovered that moms thought their kids were already getting enough physical activity, so the message changed to informing moms how much physical activity is required with the Think Again.  Again, evaluations were used and found that parents thought this approach was too authoritarian.  This led to the Bring Back Play campaign:

When you measure the success of your campaign, you are also getting a jump-start on your next campaign. You can focus your resources on improving the process to maximize your impact.

Do it right: To improve your campaign, make sure to measure campaign awareness and customer satisfaction along with your behaviour changes.

1. Measuring impact is required for (or can increase) funding

Certain grants require that you measure your impacts.  In other cases, by measuring your impact and your return on investment (ROI), you can increase your funding. If you pilot your program, and make adjustments while you monitor it, then you can make sure you will have the results you need to get funding.

If your funding doesn’t currently depend on measuring impacts, you should consider the fact that someday it might. The first social impact bond, a bond where financing is guaranteed by the government if impact goals can be reached, are slowly getting a bit of traction. The first one was used in 2010 and in 2012, Barack Obama freed up $100 million in his federal budget to pilot these sorts of mechanisms. Though they are not the norm at this point, organizations like Innoweave in Quebec have set up workshops to help people access this type of funding. By starting to measure your impacts now, your organization can develop the skills that you will need to secure these financing channels.

Do it right: Determine what level of precision and proof are needed by doing a cost benefit analysis.


Make sure you set-aside the time (and money) to measure your campaign before, during, and after implementation.


Alison Carlyle is a #forever student with an environmental focus. In the fall she will be headed to the University of Brighton to continue her education in social marketing in the MSc (Social Marketing) programme. Follow her on Twitter or LinkIn with her.

Photo Credit: Sonny Abesamis


Mohr, D. (2011). Fostering sustainable behavior : an introduction to community-based social marketing. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

Kotler, P. & Lee, N. (2016). Social marketing : changing behaviors for good. Los Angeles: SAGE.


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