Monday, January 5, 2009

Say the same thing - but differently.

I've been catching up on my reading and came across this post by Mark Earls. I've written about him once before as he explores one of my greatest interests - consumer behavior.

Mark brings up another article that supports the notion that people migrate towards their perception of normal or ideal when faced with decision making. Although this sounds like a simple concept, it reaches far deeper into the reality of what influences our decisions versus what we believe influences our decisions.

This strikes me on a few levels - maybe because the holidays just finished and I was trying to buy another original gift, or maybe because I'm back to work trying to re-frame the decisions I will make in 2009. Anyone who is trying to convince somebody to support their opinion (product sales, PR, social marketing, politics, etc) is impacted by the findings of the UK governments study: a person makes a decision based on what they believe other people do.

We've seen this in smoking research (something like youth who smoke think the majority of people smoke, versus youth who don't smoke think few people smoke), obesity, internet trends (who doesn't love Google), and every other trend that has ever surfaced in the history of humankind.

So why don't we take notice?

Why do we continue to market a different story?

Why do we scare and bait people into listening to our story/opinion/brand?

The research is showing us that people can be persuaded in an easier way. I'm not saying its the only way, but it's worth exploring further in 2009.

Excerpt from Mark's blog and the Guardian article...

"Mockery is an oblique way of enforcing social norms, but it can be done more directly. American social psychologists have done experiments in hotel rooms where they have alternated signs asking guests to reuse towels for the good of the environment, with others simply pointing out that most visitors reuse their towels. The second, observational, notices were 26% more effective."

And again, it underlines the relative importance of the gestural/behavioural rather than informational in shaping change:

"Rather than make injunctions, public service announcements can be more effective if they play on our herd instincts. This is a kind of normative judo, using the human desire to fit in for good. Cigarette packets could swap the signs about how smoking kills for ones that point out that three out of four people do not smoke at all. It is time public officials added peer pressure to their portfolio of persuasions. The private sector has found it helpful enough. What was that about eight out of 10 cats ... ?"