Capturing experiences as they happen: diary data collection for social marketing

Suzan Burton*, Paul Nesbit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – This study aims to show how diary-style voice recordings can be used to provide social marketers with greater insights into the influences on behaviour than those obtained from interviews. Diary data have the potential to provide deeper insight into the causes of behaviour than can be obtained from retrospective interviews or surveys. Design/methodology/approach – Data were collected from 31 smokers and attempting quitters exploring their attributions for smoking and cigarette purchase, using both face-to face interviews and event-contingent voice recordings over a four-day period, with participants asked to make a recording whenever they were tempted to smoke or buy cigarettes. Findings – Voice recordings provided additional insights into the influences on smoking and cigarette purchase compared to face-to-face interviews. In particular, voice recordings appeared to provide insight into prompts for purchase and smoking that were not recalled during interviews, and, for some respondents, gave them greater control over unwanted behaviour. Research limitations/implications – The study relies on participants’ self-reports, and individuals may be unaware of some of the influences on their behaviour. Practical implications – The study shows that voice-recordings offer a novel method of obtaining insight into subtle influences on consumer behaviour that are insufficiently salient to be recalled in retrospective interviews. Originality/value – The study shows the value of voice recordings for providing near-real-time insights into triggers for different behaviours, and offers potential for extending the method into other areas of social marketing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-323
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social Marketing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2015


  • Diary study
  • Event-contingent recording
  • Qualitative diary research (QDR)
  • Qualitative market research


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