A ZMET-based analysis of perceptions of climate change among young south koreans: Implications for social marketing communication

George Anghelcev, Mun Young Chung, Sela Sar, Brittany R.L. Duff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – This paper aims to report a qualitative investigation of perceptions of climate change among young South Koreans to illustrate the benefits of complementary qualitative approaches. Successful marketing communication campaigns require a thorough assessment of the public’s current perceptions and attitudes toward the topic of the campaign. Such insights are most likely attained if a range of research methods are used. However, in the area of pro-environmental campaigns, there has been an over-reliance on quantitative surveys.

Design/methodology/approach - The study employed a variant of the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET), a hybrid protocol which combines photo elicitation with metaphor analysis of subsequent in-depth individual interviews. Unlike survey research, ZMET uncovers the emotional, interpretive and sensory mental structures which, along with factual knowledge, make up the public mindset about climate change.

Findings – The analysis revealed a multifaceted mental model of climate change, whereby factual, interpretive and emotional knowledge is organized around themes of loss, human greed, affective distress and iconic representations of tragic endings. The causal dynamics of climate change are construed along a continuum of psychological distance, with antecedents placed in proximity and effects assigned to distant temporal, geographical and psychological spaces.

Practical implications – Four message strategies for climate change mitigation campaigns are identified based on the findings.

Originality/value – The study makes a methodological argument for supplementing survey research with image-based qualitative investigations in the formative stages of pro-environmental campaigns. More specifically, the article demonstrates the applicability of ZMET to social marketing communication. Apart from the methodological implications, this appears to be the first in-depth qualitative investigation of public perceptions of climate change in East Asia, a populous and fast developing region which has become a major contributor to the world’s carbon emissions, and an important player in the global effort toward mitigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-82
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Social Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2015


  • Climate change
  • Communication
  • Public mindset
  • Qualitative
  • Social marketing
  • South Korea
  • ZMET

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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