Success in social marketing is rarely clear cut and even more rarely believed to have been achieved. Social marketing practitioners are under increasing scrutiny to benchmark efficiencies of social change programs to achieve 'success' outcomes. Using road safety as a case study, this paper addresses the complex nature of success within a social marketing context. First, we discuss the conundrum facing road safety in articulating 'success' when at policy level success is quantified objectively, yet at a community level perceptions of system failure are equated with individual death. Methodologically we apply comparative empirical approaches to examine perceptual versus objective road safety outcomes. The paper concludes with a discussion and proposal of alternate strategies for measuring programmatic success, and raise issues concerning the longevity of developing competitive and sustainable benchmarks.