Case Studies

This section contains over 200 case studies of social marketing / behavior change programs from around the world, primarily from North America. It includes a broad sampling of programs to offer a wide variety of approaches and tools used, locations, types of organizations and participants, activities being promoted and problems being addressed. Most of these case studies illustrate approaches that have worked. However, examples of potential pitfalls are also included to provide you with a realistic map of the terrain ahead.

We are actively looking for new case studies with measured impact results. Do you know of any that might make good additions to this site? Please let us know.

All the Case Studies and examples are described in the past tense, including programs that are still operating. If the program is still operating, the Case Study summary is written in the present tense.

Are you looking for case studies in particular topic areas? View Topic Resources.

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Landmark Case Study Southern Nevada Water Authority's Water Smart Landscapes Program  Environment

As climate change leads to more drought situations, it will be important to understand how to best promote water conservation. Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Water Smart Landscapes (WSL) program pays homeowners to replace their non-native, ornamental lawns with plants and landscapes that use less water because they are better adapted to their dry climate. It is one of the longest running “cash for grass” policies. Designated a Landmark case study by our climate change peer review panel in 2022.

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Landmark Case Study Reduce Your Juice  Environment

This innovative social marketing approach changed the energy use behaviours of low-income renters in Brisbane, Australia, through meaningful gamification. The gamified experience promoted desired behaviours and reduced undesired ones, all carefully chosen using McKenzie-Mohr's cbsm guidelines for selecting behaviors. The Reduce Your Juice program was designed to be fun, easy and impactful. On the exterior, it appears as a simple, fun and easy experience of games and gamified activities, communications, community, and rewards. However, below the surface lies a sophisticated intervention developed through the application of formative research and theory and implemented by a team of multi-disciplinary experts from the energy, social marketing, behaviour change, digital insights & technology, research, and social sectors. Designated a Landmark case study by our Building Energy peer review panel in 2022.

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Landmark Case Study Chicago’s Building Energy Rating System  Environment

Chicago was the first U.S. city to require building owners to prominently post a building’s energy performance rating, and to share that that rating with potential buyers and/or renters. While the rating system was being introduced, ComEd and Peoples Gas ran extensive complementary incentive and rebate programs that enabled building owners and managers to make energy improvements at little to no cost. Designated a Landmark case study in 2022 by our climate change peer review panel.

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Landmark Case Study How Copenhagen Became a Cycling City  EnvironmentHealthSafety

What makes a great cycling city? How did the medium-sized City of Copenhagen get its citizens to cycle to work / school 49% of the time? While topography and climate are significant influencers, safety, supportive infrastructure, and promotion also played key roles. Copenhagen increased cycling by making it safer, easier, and more convenient. This case illustrates the power of piloting alternative enhancements on an ongoing basis to further reduce barriers and increase benefits, based on regular surveys, traffic data and safety data. It also features a transparent planning process - the Bicycle Account – a research, evaluation, promotion, and citizen engagement tool that was used thirteen times from 1996 to 2018. Designated a Landmark case study by our Transportation peer selection panel in 2022.

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Landmark Case Study Paris Reduces Car Use, Boosts Walking and Cycling  EnvironmentHealthSafety

Paris is an inspiration for large cities around the world, having reduced car traffic in its core (Ile de France) from a mode share of 12.8% in 2010 to 6% in 2020. How did Paris get to be one of the cities in the world with the lowest mode share for single occupant vehicles? The city is comparatively dense and has one of the top subways in the world. But what is most striking about its transformation is the increase in cycling and walking during this period – they increased from 55.4% in 2010 to 68% in 2020. Changing the transportation habits of so many people has involved the introduction of numerous programs offered by three levels of government. These changes have explicitly prioritized bicycles over cars on the island and reduced onstreet car parking to make room for bike lanes. They have also taxed and restricted more polluting vehicles, and gradually phased them out, while providing a conversion bonus for the purchase or lease of electric-assisted bicycles and cargo bikes. In addition, car ads had to include messages promoting greener methods of transportation, and incentives were provided for bike repairs and tune-ups. Paris’ mayor Hidalgo championed plans for a ‘15-minute city’, where everyone could meet most, if not all, of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from home. Designated a Landmark case study by our sustainable transportation peer review and selection panel in 2022.

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Landmark Case Study Opting Out in Germany for Non-Renewable Energy  Environment

While many people in Germany say they would use green energy if presented with a choice, very few consumers do so. In contrast, most people have been using green energy in a few German municipalities where citizens have had to opt out for non-renewable energy supplies rather than having to opt-in to get renewable ones. This case study presents their experiences and illustrates the value of randomized control trials (RCTs) for measuring program impacts.

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Too Good to Go  Environment

About 75% of food waste goes to landfill, where it becomes one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions at 10% of total emissions. Too Good to Go turns food waste into a win-win situation for everyone, by creating jobs, generating revenue, reducing food waste, and diminishing environmental impacts. At its most basic, the app is a marketplace for surplus food. It enables you to see what extra food is likely to be available that day from nearby bakeries, stores, and restaurants - fresh food that would otherwise be thrown out at the end of the day because it would no longer be considered fresh and salable. Using the app, you can buy a ‘magic bag’ meal for roughly one third of what you would normally pay, then pick it up at the vendor’s closing time. As of June 2022, a total of 141 million bags had been sold, eliminating 775 million lb. (about 387,500 US tons) of CO2 emissions. In the first six months of 2022 alone, 88.5 million bags were sold, eliminating the equivalent of 973.5 million pounds (about 486,800 US tons) of CO2 emissions per year. 

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Carpooling and Vanpooling in San Mateo County, California  Environment

This program used advertising (online, video, and display), challenges, and prize-based campaigns to attract and retain its target audience. It also made its standard Guaranteed Ride Home system easier to use. This case study illustrates the timing of incentives to promote habit formation. It also exemplifies how benefits can be increased by integrating some of the participant-facing aspects of multiple, independent programs in neighboring regions.Over about six months from the Fall of 2018 to Spring 2019, Commute.org's Carpool 2.0 program led to a quadrupling of carpools logged in San Mateo County through its Star commuter platform each month, from 6,400 in to nearly 30,000. Between October 2018 and December 2019, the program rewarded 1,961 carpoolers, making 218,453 one-way trips, travelling 4,708,310 miles, and saving $1,325,860. About 40% of program participants drove alone before the program, and 33% reported costs savings as their top motivation to carpool. There was an associated reduction of 955 tons of CO2 emissions (about 819 tons per year.)

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Smart Trips Austin  Environment

Smart Trips Austin encourages residents of Austin Texas, USA to take multi-modal transportation options (walk, bike, ride transit, and share rides) more often, rather than drive alone. The program focuses on personal interactions — educating individuals on their options and overcoming barriers to multi-modal travel. Smart Trips reinforces this new information using community-based programs such as learn-to-ride classes, transit instruction, and group walking activities. Initially, the program targeted residential neighbourhoods of Austin Texas; each year a different area was targeted. In 2020 the program expanded to city-wide and began to segment using a Stages of Change approach. In 2021, it started targeting residents who had recently moved to or around Austin. Smart Trips Austin averaged a participation rate of 5-10% of households contacted, a 5-10% reduction in drive-alone trips among participants (about 41,000 vehicle trips per year), and a corresponding 5-10% increase in active and shared trips.

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Energy Cat Game  Environment

The Energy Cat computer game was piloted with social housing residents in Plymouth, United Kingdom, to motivate and help them learn about affordable, energy-saving steps they could take in their homes. The game provided an average electricity saving of 3.46% and an average gas saving of 7.48%.

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