How to Reach Really Big Audiences

The two magic words in getting people to change their behavior are barriers and motivators. Whenever SGA starts a community-based social marketing campaign, we find out two things about our audience: what stands in their way of stopping a bad behavior and what would inspire them to adopt a good one.

It seems simple, but different people have different barriers and motivators within the same geographical area. So often we set out to segment that audience by characteristics, demographics and geography so we can create specific messaging and outreach that resonates to a particular group of people.

One of SGA’s most robust examples of audience segmentation is the pesticide pollution prevention campaign we created for the Contra Costa Clean Water Program.  Contra Costa County covers 802 square miles and its 1,094,205 residents make it the 9th most populated county in California, so we had our work cut out for us. After comprehensive phone surveys and focus groups, SGA created three different pesticide campaigns to address three desired behavior changes—and catered them to a specific audience (and set of barriers and motivators) in the County.

My Green Garden

Goal: Encourage people to try less toxic alternatives
Audience: Women who garden and/or have kids or pets
Location: West and Central Counties
Barriers: Lack of knowledge of non-toxic alternatives and concerns about effectiveness
Motivators: The desire to protect their children and pets from toxic exposure

Pesticides Linger

Goal: Encourage people to hire an eco-certified pest controller
Audience: Men and women who hire pest control operators for preventive and maintenance spraying
Location: East, Central and South Counties
Barriers: Lack of knowledge or eco-certified pest control and assumption that their pest control company only uses safe chemicals
Motivators: The desire to protect their kids and pets from toxic exposure


Goal: Encourage people to buy a less toxic alternative
Audience: Men who purchase herbicides and women who purchase pesticides
Location: South and West Counties
Barriers: Need an easy and immediate solution to a pest problem and perceive eco-friendly as more expensive and less effective
Motivators: The desire to protect their kids and pets from toxic exposure

It’s a complex campaign with many moving parts. But it’s worth it. Audience segmentation has allowed us to create campaigns that speak to the specific barriers people face when choosing pest control—they all had the same motivation—and generate lasting change.