Environmental Marketing Strategy for Behavior Change

Nicholas School of the Environment

How long?

  • 7 weeks
  • online

Nicholas School of the Environment


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About the course

This course provides environmental professionals with a process for developing a marketing strategy for developing a campaign to change environmental or conservation behaviors. The field-based skills gained through this course will benefit all practicing environmental professionals faced with the challenge of changing behaviors using social marketing.

This course provides environmental professionals with a process for developing a marketing strategy for developing a campaign to change environmental or conservation behaviors. This course, over just a few weeks, will help students clearly articulate the strategy for one environmental or conservation behavior for a large group which the student has selected. This is a companion course to Environmental Communication for Behavior Change, which gives the overall approach to developing a behavior change campaign. The courses can be taken stand alone or in either order. These courses originated and have been taught online for many years, by the same faculty person.

Virtually every environmental and conservation problem we face is caused by human behavior, yet the tools most often used – which assume that knowledge changes attitudes, which in turn changes behaviors – are not effective for the majority of target audiences or issues. The content of the course centers around techniques from the commercial marketing world that have been adapted to accomplishing social good, which are called Social Marketing. While social marketing has been around for decades, it is just becoming widely used for changing environmental behaviors.

The course is seven weeks in length (with a one week break for US Thanksgiving) and is taught in an entirely online, distance learning format, with five weekly synchronous portions taught on Zoom and one week of asynchronous content. No campus visits are required.

Note: Zoom dates and times are determined by student and instructor availability. Student availability will be assessed by a poll 3-6 weeks prior to the course. For more information on Zoom dates, please email us at execed@nicholas.duke.edu.

A sequential topic in developing a marketing strategy will be the topic of each week’s interactive webinar,accompanied with the opportunity to practice the skills and end with a draft marketing strategy for your selected behavior.

This course may be taken as part of the Environmental Communications Certificate program. Please note this a non-degree course and cannot be counted towards student credits.


Week 1: Technology Orientation and Materials Overview

This week Duke staff will hold a practice session using the web conferencing Zoom app and walk–through the online course material platform. It will also be a good time to test out all the technology and ask any logistical questions for the course. Students will introduce themselves so that the course begins to come together. There will be a short introduction to the course. For those that have not taken the Environmental Communication for Behavior Change – there will be one article to read to help you understand where the strategy fits in the large communication model.

Week 2: Strategy Implementation requires a Brand

This week is meant to help everyone understand the critical role of a Brand, why it is important, and should you use one you already have or one specific for the campaign. How does brand impact behavior change? We will develop the brand using a brand key, so that all aspects of the Brand are understood. To take this first step the student would be best positioned, to maximize the learning from this course, by having selected an audience of over 300 people, and the specific behavior they would like to change.

Week 3: Developing your Positioning Statement.

From the work you will have done prior to this point, you need to develop the very nature of your strategy and form it into a single sentence. What is it? How can we use it? Can you really change behavior? How does social marketing work at the community or larger level? How can environmental professional use it to address specific problems?

Week 4: Developing a Marketing Mix

Having developed your Positioning Statement, we now need to use the practical/tactical approach to develop your campaign. This is the marketing mix or what is often called the 4Ps. It comes from commercial marketing but is tweaked for different behaviors.

Week 5: Writing the Creative Brief

Marketing is half science (or process) and half art. The course focuses on the “science half”. In order for the art to deliver the strategy –there is a method used to communicate your strategy to the creative team (usually a marketing or advertising firm) called a creative brief. It is called brief as it needs to be – to get the best results from the creative team. This session is about how you write that brief.

Week 6: The Baseline Survey

After delivering your creative brief to the creative team, you are then, having completed your strategy, ready to put in place the “before” survey so you can measure your campaign’s effectiveness. What is most often used is a standard format survey called a KAP study. It is tailored specifically to your campaign and is repeated after the first full iteration of your campaign – usually a year later. How you structure and word the survey, as well as determine the sample size, will be covered in this session.

Week 7: Students take this week to work on their Final Paper

In lieu of a formal class, instructor Brian Day will host an online “office hours” session.Students may log in to ask questions or receive feedback on their final projects.



This course will require 40 hours over the 7-week class period. Time will include:

  • Five Synchronous web-conference sessions where students and instructor will address the week’s theme and materials. Please note: Meeting times will not be determined until registration is closed. Times depend on registrant availability, which will be elicited via email to registrants.
  • One asynchronous web-based session
  • Discussion via online conferencing tools, including discussion. Participation will be encouraged through the posing of various questions based on readings, previous discussion, and future directions of the class. In addition to exploring general course topics, web discussion tools will also allow students to work through issues related to their paper topic – exploring opportunities and selecting the correct strategies with help from others in the class and instructor’s guidance.
  • Reading of assigned materials.
  • Creation of, and response to, final paper assignment actually designing a social marketing program for an issue and target audience of the student’s choosing.

Please note: While specific components of outlined class structure may change, it will be expected that students commit to 40 hours over the 7-week class period.


Class Participation

One of the most critical elements of this class will be your personal contribution to the course through consistent postings to discussion board, as well as participation during web-conference meetings. You will receive specific instructions for this requirement before the course commences.

Papers: A Social Marketing Strategy Addressing a Real Issue

This papers will include two short papers (about 2 pages each) and issue specific strategy for a very specific audience as a practical application of lessons from this course, translating what you learn into a usable strategy for yourself and/or other professionals in the field. The paper must address a real problem and real barriers and be able to be implemented within the reasonable set of resources of the players for whom you propose the strategy. Assignment details will be given at the beginning of the class.


We understand that participants have different comfort levels with online learning coming into this course. We are happy to answer any questions you have about online learning in general and our online learning software.

Internet Access

Course participants need to arrange to have reliable internet access through their local internet service provider (ISP). We encourage participants to arrange for broadband access to the internet via a cable modem, DSL, or a satellite connection. Dial-up or slower connections will not work as effectively for this course. We cannot provide support for your network connection, nor can we help you with any home networking equipment such as firewalls, routers, or switches. For any of those issues, you will want to contact your ISP directly.

Distance Learning Software

The course will be facilitated using distance learning software and Zoom. Duke staff will be available during the course to assist you with any Canvas-related course issues. Contact information will be provided with your pre-course packet. The distance learning software will be available to you free of charge (except for USB head-set for webinar participation).


Prior to the course start date, you will need to purchase the course textbook and USB head-set for webinar participation (note: this is not included in the course tuition). The course text book is Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good by Lee and Kotler 5th Edition. The textbook is available in a Kindle version or hardcopy, either is acceptable. If you have any questions regarding the textbook email exced@nicholas.duke.edu . Also, because this course will be held via online virtual classroom, we recommend that you use a USB headset with microphone so that you can participate in real time with voice over internet. We recommend purchasing the Logitech H330 USB Headset for the webinar participation.



Payment is due upon receipt of invoice or no less than 15 days before the start of the course. If special arrangements must be made for payment due to agency requirements, you must contact our office no less than 15 days prior to the start of the course at execed@nicholas.duke.edu to complete and submit a payment due notice form.

Failure to make payment arrangements 15 days prior to the start of the course may result in the forfeit of your seat and you will be held responsible for the full tuition of the course. Future registrations will not be accepted from individuals with unpaid invoices.

Course certificates will not be provided until payment is received.

Cancellation & Transfer Policy

All speakers and companies listed have confirmed their participation. If for unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances a speaker cannot attend, instructional time will be filled with comparable instructors. If a course is canceled due to insufficient registrations, tuition will be refunded. Duke cannot be held responsible for travel costs or arrangements made by participants.

Cancellation of registration requires 15 days written notice prior to course start date in order to receive a refund (please submit notification to execed@nicholas.duke.edu). Individuals who do not attend and fail to send written notice prior to the deadline will be charged the full tuition. You may send a substitute to attend the course in your place, however, a $100.00 administrative fee will be assessed for this change, regardless of when written notice is submitted. Any cancellation or substitute request must be received in writing.

  • 15 or more days prior to the course start date – Full tuition refund, minus a $100 administrative fee.
  • Less than 15 days prior to the course start date – Full tuition is assessed and a refund is forfeited.
  • Substitute within your organization can attend in your place for an additional $100.00 administrative fee.

In order to receive a refund, you must cancel your registration (in writing to execed@nicholas.duke.edu ) by 5:00 pm on the refund deadline date for the course.


Brian Day

Brian A. Day is a well-recognized environmental educator and communicator with over 35 years experience in more than 30 countries. He is a leading authority and practitioner in environmental social marketing and communications training. He served most recently as Director of Social Marketing for ...

Environmental Marketing Strategy for Behavior Change at Nicholas School of the Environment

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