Tuesday, March 05, 2013

how do you change people's behaviours?

I'm compelled to share this article from the Sustainable Business section in the Guardian yesterday by behaviour change chap Les Robinson.

Les is talking around the topic of sustainability initiatives but the take-aways for any form of communication are clear.

Behaviour change, of course, is one of those terms that currently suffers from being bandied about by every Tom, Dick and douche-bag (in the same manner as the skunk-ification of innovation, big data, and social et al) however these are kind of succinct and simple pieces that will hopefully keep us on the right side of what matters vs the waffle.

Below is a nugget-isation of the key points, paraphrased for an advertising context.

I'd urge a thorough examination of the full article.

And also a note for Sydney and Melbourne based readers - Les is conduction a couple of 2 day workshops in both cities during April.

I shall be doing my best to attend the Melb one.

How do you change people's behaviours?
WHAM! 'It's a delusion we can change peoples' behaviours. Instead, people change their own behaviours. Our role is to create an enabling environment and provide opportunities for people to become inspired by what their peers have achieved'

How to you move beyond "the converted"?
'..instead of asking "How can I make the public share my [brand message/app/content]' we need to ask "how can I be of service to [what matters to them]"

Which behaviour change theory is best?
'The best theory is the one you make yourself by intimately knowing your audience and understanding their needs.'

What if people just aren't interested?
'Don't blame them...immerse yourself in their lives until you figure out how to create solutions that answer their real needs. Good behavioural products sell themselves, but no amount of persuasion or wiz-bang marketing can sell a behaviour that provides no advantages for the adopter.'

(an inconvenient truth)
'The failure of [most advertising] results in a common marketing syndrome, the Just Shout Louder Effect. If people aren't responding to the threat, then Just Shout Louder!'

Do incentives work?
"...incentives tell receivers a story about themselves. Sometimes it's a story that dignifies the receiver, sometimes it humiliates them. So, the question we could ask is: what story does our particular incentive tell the receiver? Does it say, "We recognize your extraordinary motivation." Or, does it say, "We doubt you really care, that's why we're paying you."

How do you create great messages?
"Marketers typically overestimate the power of messages, a syndrome that could be called "message fetish." People are rarely convinced by messages. Usually they are convinced by the inspiring real life examples of their peers".

Can marketers persuade people to do absolutely anything?
We humans resent unwanted advice, especially when it threatens our comfort zones. Denial and resistance are driven by fear and the worst fears are social fears. What will our friends and family think? What if we fail? How will we look to others? It may seem silly but one of the big barriers to women cycling to work is their fear about how their hair will look. We trivialise these fears to our peril. Behaviour change is therefore rarely achieved by persuasion or marketing [alone] but almost always requires modelling how to carry out unfamiliar behaviours with ease, aplomb and dignity."

In conclusion
"We are learning that the business of change requires us to work with humans in their social context, respond to their hopes and fears, recognise the role of power, and understand that behaviour sits in a matrix of technologies, infrastructures, institutions, norms and social structures, all of which need to be the open to strategising and potential modification".

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