Mechanical Observation Research in Social Marketing and Beyond

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Observation is a unique method of collecting factual information about consumer behaviours and behaviour change in the real world. The objective and unobtrusive nature of observation makes it perfect for a social marketing enquiry because it overcomes problems common to other techniques, such as memory lapse and social desirability bias in self-reports. Observations can play a part at a formative stage or be the core outcome measure in an evaluation with pre- and post-data collections. Observation data can be collected, coded, and analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Both traditions have been successfully used in social marketing studies and other disciplines. This chapter focuses on mechanical observations, which tend to produce quantitative data, offering researchers the ability to develop numerical benchmarks and observe trends in consumer behaviour and changes over time. In mechanical observations, data collection takes advantage of technological innovations in audio, video, biometric, item, and digital signature recording, allowing for even more objective, precise, and potentially less labour intensive and costly observations. These advancements should help to increase popularity of mechanical observation techniques among social marketers. This chapter summarises the main types of mechanical observation techniques and offers illustrations from prior studies in social marketing, commercial marketing, and allied disciplines, including nutrition, human movement, urban design, and transportation. Innovations in mechanical observations across these contexts are a useful source of research techniques for social marketing and cross-disciplinary studies aimed at improving the wellbeing of individual consumers and society as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFormative research in social marketing
Subtitle of host publicationInnovative methods to gain consumer insights
EditorsKrzysztof Kubacki, Sharyn Rundle-Thiele
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Link
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-1829-9
ISBN (Print)978-981-10-1827-5, 978-981-10-9455-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • mechanical observations
  • quantitative data
  • social marketing
  • commercial marketing


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