In the ‘90s, it was “Don’t Trash the ‘Nati.”

A socially-driven environmental campaign for the same cause is back, this time with the headline “Don’t Trash My ‘Nati.”

The campaign for beautification, recycling, litter prevention, and community pride is meant to educate and change behaviors of those in the Cincinnati, Ohio area.

Last week at GrowCo14, we listened to a variety of leaders sharing how we can better influence prospects, current customers, or employees, in order to find growth in our companies.

Inspired by those ideas around influencing others, how do we succeed in changing behaviors that people “should” be doing?

As social creatures, we rely on social norms and rules

Part of what defines a society is the social norms we accept. Dr. Robert Cialdini examined these social norms, specifically the effect of social norms on the efficacy of pro-environment marketing messages.

Cialdini—who has gone “undercover” to explore a variety of sales-oriented roles during his time—examined which of the following was most effective in getting people to recycle their towels at a hotel. People received notes that read one of the following:

  • Help the hotel save energy
  • Help save the environment
  • Partner with us to help save the environment
  • Help save resources for future generations
  • Join your fellow citizens in helping to save the environment

The last message, alluding to the social norm as well as the fact that others had been saving the environment, was the most successful. (The first message found the least success in getting people to recycle towels.)

Communicating how a desired behavior is aligned with society’s rules can help us activate a social norm.

What else the social scientists found: the power of environmental cues

In Cialdini’s study aimed at seeing the impact of observing other people with “bad behavior,” participants were given the opportunity to litter (a handbill in their car windshields) into either a previously clean, or into a fully littered environment.

The research suggested that people are more likely to litter when there already is a lot of litter. The mindset in this scenario is “littering won’t do much more damage here, it is already messy.”

Additionally, the most littering occurred when people saw others litter in the littered environment.

The research indicates that observing someone else litter greatly increases littering behavior, meaning the descriptive norm (“other people here are littering”) has the ability to trump the injunctive norm (“littering is not right”).

Changing behaviors in others can be difficult—and especially difficult when it comes to getting people to do things they “should” be doing

The Keep Cincinnati Beautiful Campaign, and other such campaigns, can be more effective when they downplay the “bad behavior” as little as possible in any campaigns. 

What other factors do you take advantage of to motivate others, or to encourage a change in habits in those around you? Let us know.

Kim Sykes Edoc
READ MORE: If you liked this post, you might like “The 2 Most Important Lessons from GrowCo14

Kim Sykes is a marketer and content creator at Edoc Service, Inc., a total virtual company.