Posts Tagged consumer marketing

What does behavior change have to do with True Blood?

In HBO’s True Blood you gotta bring the whole bag of tricks to protect yourself from vampires, werewolves, maenads, warlocks, faeries and who knows what else is comin’. According to social marketing expert Mike Newton-Ward, if you showed up in Bon Temps with only garlic or only a wooden stake, you’d be in a whole lotta trouble.

For many issues in life, you need more than one strategy to deal. Think about rationalizing with children – different personalities and ages may need different approaches. Strong negotiators have many tactics up their sleeves, ready to pull out as needed. Consumer products companies have endless marketing and sales strategies to get us to buy. Even justifying a new shoe purchase – many women know a variety of ways to do this. So why would we think it’s enough to apply one solution, one strategy, or one event to complex, vexing social issues and public health problems, and expect much change? Or, to apply the solution or strategy or communication only one time?

These problems haven’t gone away yet for a reason. For a good discussion about this, check out Mike’s social marketing blog and his post “Stop Looking for a Silver Bullet! We need Wooden Stakes and Garlic, too!” for a reminder of how the 4 P’s of marketing applied to social issues allows you to more effectively attack a problem from numerous angles. 

I also appreciate how he shares this quote: “Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by hitting back.” It’s not bad if your prevention and behavior change efforts get push-back. Especially if you get major push-back from industry. Instead look at it this way — it means you are on the right track. It’s a sign of your effectiveness, and that’s a good thing.

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The curious case of a federal agency battling saturated fat consumption while also selling cheese

This story made me say, I’m sure I’m not stupid. But I’m confused now because you, Uncle Sam, are telling me two very different things. WHAT do you want me to do? Besides blog about you and complain, as more people should do about this …

In “While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales,” the New York Times reported how the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells us that saturated fat contributes to obesity and heart disease.

But that agency also sells cheeseYes! A Domino’s Pizza campaign associated with this federal agency increased sales of pizzas with six cheeses on the top and two more cheeses in the crust. With this much saturated fat:

According to the NYTimes, a group called Dairy Management affiliated with the Department of Agriculture has a $140 million annual budget to get more cheese on restaurant menus. It has over 160 employees with skills in product development and marketing. Dairy Management helped Domino’s create new pizzas with 40% more cheese and created and paid for a $12 million marketing campaign to sell the Domino’s pizzas. Excuse me, but I thought marketing Domino’s pizza was Domino’s job not the government’s job? At any rate the government did a good job with this — “sales soared by double digits.”

So which — telling or selling — is more effective at influencing behavior? Well … the marketing initiatives of Dairy Management successfully increased cheese sales, and cheese is now the largest source of saturated fat in our diets. Dairy Management had a hand in Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites Pizza, Burger King’s Cheesy Angus Bacon cheeseburger and TenderCrisp chicken sandwich both of which featured two slices of American cheese, a slice of pepper jack and cheesy sauce. This all helped cheese sales grow by 30 million pounds. Dairy Management is also behind the “Got Milk?” campaign which is slowing the decline in milk consumption among children. Granted, the calcium and vitamins can have beneficial effects for children, but this marketing prowess is also used to sell more dairy products to Americans than our health needs.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture distributes brochures like this with nutrition tips. Have you ever seen this brochure? But we’ve all heard of “Got Milk?” and we’re all seeing pizzas with cheese tucked inside the crust in addition to the mounds of cheese on top. If there was anywhere else to squeeze cheese on a pizza, they’d put it there too.

And this in the New York Times story is worrisome:

In one instance, Dairy Management spent millions of dollars on research to support a national advertising campaign promoting the notion that people could lose weight by consuming more dairy products, records and interviews show. The campaign went on for four years, ending in 2007, even though other researchers — one paid by Dairy Management itself — found no such weight-loss benefits.

“Great news for dieters,” Dairy Management said in an advertisement in People magazine in 2005. “Clinical studies show that people on a reduced-calorie diet who consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day can lose significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories.”

Um, those of you familiar with Weight Watchers — the only weight loss program proven by strong research studies to effectively change long-term behavior affecting weight — know that recommendation doesn’t work with the WW point system unless you’re willing to be very very hungry.

And consider this:

Dr. Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health and a former member of the federal government’s nutrition advisory committee, said: “… A small amount of good-flavored cheese can be compatible with a healthy diet, but consumption in the U.S. is enormous and way beyond what is optimally healthy.”

Does our country’s obesity problem really need help to keep it growing? See it grow here:

Now I don’t have a personal problem with eating cheese. We once went to Madison, Wisconsin just to stock up at Fromagination. If you got between me and the last piece of chevre on earth, I would beat you up to get it. I wouldn’t care how big you are. It’s chevre! (OK maybe I do have a personal problem with cheese but it’s certainly not against cheese)

I have a problem with government institutions influencing behavior that adversely affects public health. We already have plenty in the private sector who have enough motivation and means to do that on their own.

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One word wonders of our lives

Someone thought our attention spans are so short that 140 characters are plenty to get the point. Judging by Twitter’s success, many people do.

Those still writing books must have decided one-word titles are the max we can handle:












Many of these titles are recognizable to top-ten nonfiction list readers. And it’s kinda neat that these single words make enough sense for the books they name that you can remember a whole book’s purpose with just one word.

Single words own their issue. A blogger who writes about book covers (is there anything people don’t blog about?) says one-word covers are definitive, they are the authorities, they inspire confidence. The words work because they don’t mislead us by overstating or oversimplifying.

Many of these books are about things that influence us, about human behavior. That got me thinking, what would my word be? What is the true word right now? And what would I want the word to be?

So, what if you wrote a book about your work? What’s the one-word “book title” you would give your job? What’s the one word you want your life’s work to be?



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How to become a true believer

A key question many of us face, in any career field, is:  When people don’t initially believe in what you’re saying, how can you get people to believe? Really believe? Believe enough that they’ll change behavior?

Find a way for them to experience your issue for themselves. Truly experience it.

Push beyond exposing people to someone else’s story or testimonial. That’s not really experiencing it for themselves. Instead engineer a situation or event where people go through an experience, and feel the results with as many of their senses as possible — yes — touch, sight, smell, taste, sound. And engage both emotion and logic.

Certainly for some issues this is easier to do than for others. It might be easier for simpler behaviors. But with creativity, we should try to find ways.

This week I had an experience that changed my belief in this way. And from a very unusual source for public health inspiration — wine glasses! Here’s what happened …

I’ve always been skeptical of catalogs selling varietal-specific wine glasses. Like many people, we’ve used “white glasses” and “red glasses” from Crate & Barrel, plus a few special glasses that obviously must be different shapes for champagne and after dinner drinks like port and vin santo. I thought the huge number of Riedel varietal-specific glasses were just a way to give people a reason to buy more glasses. After all, most people with higher disposable income already have enough glasses for their needs. So to get them to buy more, you must create a reason to make them think they need to buy more. Wa-la — why not tell them they need different glasses for all the variety of wines they drink?

I believed this was only a marketing ploy until my husband and I were in Austin this week and attended a demo of varietal-specific wine glasses, run by the patriarch of the Riedel glass family, at Max’s Wine Dive. We got tickets mostly because we would get sets of Riedel glasses worth more than the cost of the tickets (the brand was a factor, varietal specific was not), learn a bit more about wine, drink some good wines, and have a fun night out. A classic reason based on economics (that logic would be my husband’s reason, honestly!) + emotion (my reason – Riesling, Pinot Noir, yum, fun!). 

Well. Did our world of wine ever change this week!

We were given a set of four glasses specifically designed for Rieslings, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Georg Riedel had us sample the Riesling and Chardonnay in their proper glasses and both were fantastic wines. Although both are white wines, each has very different flavors to deliver and he explained how the chemistry of the wines is paired with the physics of different shaped glasses. I admit I was still skeptical at this point. Then we poured the Riesling in the Chardonnay glass, and the Chardonnay in the Riesling glass. Wonderful wines now became … yuck! One turned bitter, the other lifeless, flavorless. People looked around at each other in amazement.

This went on for over an hour, sampling wines in glasses tailored to deliver a particular varietal’s strong points, then pouring the wine in other glasses. By the end we must have tried every wine in every glass. For the first time ever, I completely enjoyed a Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins were de-emphasized and the flavor fully blossomed. It was an eye-opener, that I might actually like cabs. It seemed everyone around me savored and lingered on that wine. Then, we poured the Cabernet Sauvignon in another glass. People sputtered, spat, spit!! Ick!! A beautiful wine was destroyed in this other glass.

Through the two hours, the demo was focused on engaging all of our senses. We even used sound, when he demonstrated the exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen in a decanter. And the logical appeal came from the information about how we taste, what each wine naturally and uniquely delivers with taste, and how each glass is designed to enhance each varietal’s unique qualities. I could hear my husband’s calculator-like brain that likes numbers literally clicking when Georg Riedel asked us to think about how much we might spend on wine over a year, and how many of those do we like and not like. It’s hit or miss sometimes. What if you could increase the hit rate? So there were points to appeal to the different things people in the audience might value.

If someone tried to “sell” me on believing this by just talking to me about it, or if I had only read about it, I would not have “bought into” it. We’re marketed to so much in our American consumer culture, we must set up defenses against some marketing and messaging. We defend ourselves against messages that are trying to do some good for us, such as public health and safety messages. It takes much more than just talking to us or showing us other people tasting wines to believe in this for ourselves — to truly internalize the experience so we adopt a new belief for ourselves.

Mr. Riedel may have to do a little bit more work on my beliefs though — I do wonder if the demo chose the four glasses that highlight the most dramatic flavor swings from “yum” to “yuck.” Maybe other glasses don’t deliver so much advantage? And maybe the wines we drank were a carefully-chosen factor. With Rieslings, for one, there’s a huge range from super sweet to very dry. Couldn’t this be affected by the glass? Surely we’ll do our own demos with the glasses in our kitchen cabinets. Blind taste tests would be fun, to see what happens. Public health education folks may recognize my questions and conflict as a Stages of Change issue. There’s some more convincing to do — some barriers to overcome — before I would choose to purchase even more glasses. I’m now thinking about it due to the demo, but not ready to take action yet.

But one behavior did clearly change already. We used our new Riesling glasses from the demo already — last night we made spicy Indian food in honor of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights (for India, it’s like Christmas, New Year’s and Fourth of July all rolled into one big exciting holiday). Riesling is perfect to tone down the kick of spicy foods. It’s especially good with spicy Asian foods.

But you probably won’t believe me until you try that for yourself.   ;)

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Melinda Gates wonders about learning from Coca-Cola for social change too

Maybe we’re on to something during recent discussion here about how health behavior change can learn from soft drink marketing. Melinda Gates has her eye on this too for the Gates Foundation.

About her TED talk, Melinda Gates says:

… we can also learn from the successes in other sectors. My TEDxChange talk focuses on the question of how Coca-Cola has become so ubiquitous around the world and what governments and the development community can learn from the company’s success. By analyzing what Coca-Cola has done to become so prevalent, we can apply those lessons to the millennium goals and save even more lives.

What can nonprofits with social missions learn from Coke? Melinda shares three key things. Marketing is one of them:

She says that Coke’s marketing is aspirational. It sells the life that people want to live. It sells happiness. And how it sells happiness varies for different cultures. Even she says, “it feels pretty good, right?”

In contrast, she notes that health professionals often sell based on avoidance, not aspiration. She thinks it’s a mistake to not make people want something that they need.

She talks about how in some areas of the world, you really do have to sell a toilet for its intended use. The goal is to reduce diarrhea and open defacation, but people don’t necessarily want to use toilets when toilets are given to them. The toilets have been used to store grain and as chicken coops. So instead of selling a toilet for its intended use, in India romance has been used as the selling point for toilets: “no loo, no I do!” Now that’s aspirational motivation.

Related posts:

Selling what people don’t want to buy (part 2)

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