Contributing to a better world through social marketing

Islander Lee has co-authored 13 books with Philip Kotler.

About 45 years ago, Mercer Island resident Nancy Lee informed her parents that she would aim to contribute to a better world through her future work in the marketing realm.

While engaged in her graduate school studies at the University of Puget Sound, Lee read a book by author Philip Kotler that piqued her interest on how marketing can make an impact on individuals and society as a whole.

More than a decade after earning her master of business administration degree — and working a pair of marketing jobs — Lee was figuratively struck by the lightning bolt of social marketing, and it changed her life.

The scenario came about after Lee — now employed as marketing director at Seattle Children’s Hospital — was involved in a successful campaign to increase life vest usage amongst kids. After research showed that usage had risen by 25% through their campaign, Lee said, “I took a deep breath and asked myself, ‘What kind of marketing is this?’” She delved into Kotler’s latest book at that time and was introduced to his writing about social marketing.

At that point, Lee knew what path to traverse: “I want to do marketing that sells behaviors. Behaviors that are good for the individual as well as society. That’s why we call it behavior change for social good.”

For the last three decades, Lee has led her own company, Social Marketing Services, Inc., taught social marketing at the University of Washington, worked as a strategic advisor for C+C and co-authored 13 social marketing books with Kotler. Their latest book, which was released in July, is titled “Social Marketing Success: 100 Case Studies from Around the Globe.”

“Nancy Lee has been a joy to work with on all our co-authored books. Nancy is a superb scholar, researcher and writer. I feel blessed with having met Nancy Lee,” Kotler said.


Of the 100 summarized worldwide stories and their respective successful social marketing campaigns that focus on improving public health, preventing injuries, protecting the environment, engaging communities, supporting education and enhancing financial well-being, a pair of the cases involve the city of Mercer Island.

In the environmental realm, the city launched a program in October of 2014 to increase residential solar power installations with a major focus on peer to peer promotion, according to the book. It was a successful program, which resulted in 331 kilowatts of new power-generation capacity, that exceeded the city’s goals and continues today. The Solarize Mercer Island program was funded by state grants, utility sponsorships and more.

Regarding decreasing home burglaries, Lee worked with the Mercer Island Police Department in developing the Lock It or Lose It campaign. The city launched this program in 2013 after learning from more than five years of data that 41% of the Island’s home burglaries occurred through unlocked doors or windows. As a reminder for residents to lock up, the city mailed door hangers — emblazoned with the message, “Lock your doors whenever you leave home!” along with additional information — to 5,000 households. In a follow-up survey, 42% of the residents noted that they placed the item on their doors.

Lee, who also worked with the state on its Click It or Ticket seat belt safety awareness campaign, said that the cases in the book are meant to be instructional and inspirational.

“My purpose is to get it in orbit. This is to help institutionalize social marketing, like bookkeeping, like any other kind of profession,” she said.

Lee and Kotler’s book is available at