Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee • Written November 2014

Nancy Lee is the president of Social Marketing Services, Inc., a small consulting firm in Seattle and has an MBA from the University of Puget Sound. She is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington where she teaches Social Marketing, the discipline of changing behaviors for good, first distinguished in 1972 by her mentor and coauthor Philip Kotler.

Nancy has more than 30 years of professional marketing experience, with McClure Ziz Research, Peoples Bank, Rainier Bank and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

She discovered Social Marketing in 1992 while developing and implementing a drowning-prevention campaign for Seattle Children’s. She said at the time: “When I learned that we had increased life-vest usage by more than 25%,  I knew that was the kind of marketing I wanted to do forever…” She went back to her marketing textbooks from graduate school and learned that this was, in fact, a formal marketing discipline called Social Marketing.

As principal of her consulting firm since 1993, she has been a strategic advisor and research consultant for public health, injury prevention and environmental protection campaigns in Washington State, including ones for increasing physical activity, seatbelt usage, pedestrian safety, childhood immunizations, recycling, energy and water conservation, and decreasing diabetes, senior falls, tobacco use, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, drunk driving and texting while driving.

Lee has been a guest lecturer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the Health Promotion Board in Singapore, Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, National University of Ireland in Galway, and Yale, Stanford and Oxford Universities. And she is a frequent speaker at international conferences, including ones most recently in India, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Haiti and Japan.

As an adjunct faculty member at UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs, she has taught a certificate in Social Marketing course to more than 300 public-sector managers in Washington State. And she has conducted Social Marketing workshops for more than 2,000 public-sector employees around the world involving campaign for EPA, CDC, USAID in Jordan, the World Bank in Ghana, public health agencies in Oklahoma, Canada and Alaska and the Chesapeake Bay Trust in Maryland.

Nancy has written numerous academic Journal articles and coauthored ten books with Philip Kotler, with their 11th one coming out in January 2015:

  • GOOD WORKS:  Marketing & Corporate Initiatives That Build a Better World and the Bottom Line (Kotler/Hessekiel/Lee)  Wiley and Sons (2012)
  • Social Marketing: Influencing Public Behaviors for Good 4th Edition (Lee/Kotler) Sage Publications 2011
  • Social Marketing in India: (Deshpande/Lee) Sage Publications 2013
  • Social Marketing to Protect the Environment:  What Works.  (McKenzie-Mohr, Lee, Schultz, Kotler) Sage 2011
  • Social Marketing in Public Health:  Global Trends and Success Stories (Cheng/Kotler/Lee) Jones &Bartlett 2009
  • UP and OUT of Poverty:  The Social Marketing Solution (Kotler/Lee) Wharton Publishing 2009
  • Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good (Kotler/Lee) Sage 2008
  • Marketing in the Public Sector (Kotler/Lee) Wharton School Publishing 2006
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (Kotler/Lee) Wiley 2005
  • Social Marketing: Improving the Quality of Life (Kotler/Roberto/Lee) Sage 2002

In her spare time, Nancy has been a past president of Puget Sound Chapter of the American Marketing Association and the Rotary Club of Mercer Island. She is the current president of the Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association and a member of the International Association Board.

She has been married 48 years to Terry Lee. They have lived on Mercer Island since 1976, have two grown children, Todd Lee, an EVP at Sellen Construction, and Hilary Lee, chief of staff at Creature. Andthey also have four grandchildren. including two currently attending the UW.

Marketing for a Better World

When I first entered graduate school at the University of Puget Sound in 1977, I hadn’t decided between pursing an MBA or an MPA (Masters in Public Administration). I was leaning toward the MBA but when I called my mom and dad and shared this with them, there was this long silence on the phone. And then my dad asked “Where did we go wrong?” You see, my dad was a fundraiser for the United Way and my mother, a high school art teacher. They were both “do gooders” and saw the corporate world I would be entering as evil. I told them I’d continue to think about it.

Midway through my first marketing course the first semester, I read in Phil Kotler’s Marketing Management text about societally conscious marketing and immediately called them back. “Mom and Dad, I am going to do the MBA and major in marketing, but I promise you that, someday, I will be a marketer that contributes to, not detracts from, the quality of life.” But I didn’t have a clue how I would do that.

I knew my first job should be to learn more about marketing research, as I felt most brilliant marketing efforts were based on inspiring insights into the customer, marketplace and the competition. I took a job as a project manager at McClure-Ziz research, a small firm near Pike Place Market. I had two major accounts I worked on.  One was for Metro Transit (which is how I met Larry Coffman who was Director at the time), and one for Peoples Bank. I loved the Metro account, so excited to see the data that would compare the profile of riders versus non-riders so we would know where to find more of them. Quite frankly, the bank research was really boring. “How much can we raise our overdraft fee without having customers switch to a different bank?” At the end of 3 years with the firm, however, I took a job at the bank, as I knew I would learn more about marketing there where, at the time, banking was being deregulated and they were hiring people from Procter & Gamble as product managers and the research budget was five times that of the one at Metro. 

After 3 years at People’s Bank, I moved to Rainier Bank where I was Director of Marketing in 1989 when the bank was bought by Security Pacific Bank. It wasn’t any fun anymore. All the marketing decisions were being made by the headquarters in California. So I went from there to Seattle Children’s Hospital as Marketing Director in 1990. Friends asked me why. “What can marketing do for Children’s Hospital? They’re the only show in town, and you can’t create more sick kids to go there!” My response was always “I don’t know. But I’ll know it when I see it.”

It was in 1992 when we developed a drowning prevention campaign, and we increased lifevest usage among kids around the region, that I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life.  I wanted to do marketing that changed behaviors that benefited the individual, as well as society. So in 1993, I formed Social Marketing Services, Inc., and as noted in my bio, have been consulting, teaching and speaking on the subject for over 20 years. And I have coauthored 11 books on the topic with Philip Kotler, my mentor and friend for 12 years.

Phil organizes an annual world conference with the theme “Marketing for a Better World” and invited me to be a speaker in Tokyo this past September. I shared 12 stories from around the world about social marketing influencing behaviors that improved the quality of life. In a concluding panel discussion, the moderator asked if we had a dream that would help create a better world. I eagerly shared mine. “I want every corporation in the world to MARRY a social issue and then focus all philanthropic support on a single behavior change campaign, like Allstate supporting teens not to text and drive, and Pampers influencing caregivers to put new born infants on their back to sleep to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Think of the number of corporations around the world.  We could find their best match and something unique for each one of them to concentrate on. For example, I would recommend Amazon take on childhood literacy and support a behavior to read 20 minutes to your preschooler every night.” 

That next day we visited a Japanese Shrine where I was encouraged to write my wish on a plaque and hang it on a rack. In the meantime, I will be working with fellow marketers to make the dream come true.