Posts Tagged measurable results

True Influence for Behavior Change

­­To understand influence for behavior change, understand the difference between popularity and influence, and the difference between reach and action.

I wish I could claim that insight as my own, but I cannot. Instead I can claim recognizing its importance and sharing it. Someone wrote this in the comments of a blog post about marketing and behavior change. I suspect the writer was thinking about social media. Numbers of Facebook fans and Twitter followers does not necessarily translate into truly influencing people to change. Marketers are discovering this to be true, as those of us in public health could have told them. Health education and health promotion professionals know that the circle of people closest to an individual can have strong influence on that individual.

I’ll search for that blog post again and share it here. It was about “marketing economics.” But to me, it read very much like public health concepts. This is exactly why I believe these two professions can share and learn and benefit from each other when we are open  to seeking info beyond our professional boundaries. And that’s one premise of this blog. (I’ve been very busy and unfortunately sick lately and not much time to actually carry through on my intentions for this blog! Will do better through 2011.)


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Wanna have FUN?


Who doesn’t wanna have FUN? That’s why Volkwagen started …

… to see if fun changes behavior. Can fun even change a risky driving behavior that’s been really hard to change? See for yourself:

This is the winning idea of the fun theory award. Kevin Richardson, USA, wondered if we could get more people to obey the speed limit by making it fun to do. Volkswagen and The Swedish National Society for Road Safety made his innovative idea a reality in Stockholm, Sweden.

I remember seeing this one before — uh, along with 13 million other people. With good reason. When do you see everyone take the stairs and no one take the escalator?

When it’s FUN!

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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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Not just talk, action too

Several days ago I shared a recipe that whipped up sweeping national conversation about a public health issue:  distracted driving.

So does the recipe result in behavior change? Well, yes.

This week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its results of driver cell phone use in traffic. In 2008, NHTSA saw 1% of drivers “visibly manipulating” handheld phones — which means drivers were texting, emailing, Twittering, typing phone numbers, etc. Drivers were doing something with their fingers and the phone. In 2009, NHTSA saw .06% of drivers doing this. Significant change in one year!

Now if you don’t work with data, you may think “so what,” those numbers are small. But at any point during the day, how many millions of drivers are on the roads? There are 300 million people in this country. For each million drivers, 1% = 10,000 drivers texting or emailing at any moment while driving. So in one year, the numbers of drivers texting, emailing, dialing or whatever at any moment during the day decreased by 4,000 for each million people driving at that moment.

Talking on phones (hands-free or handheld) also fell over the past year, from an estimated 11% of drivers at any moment during the day in 2008 to 9% in 2009.

That change is called “moving the needle” — getting measurable and significant results.

Thus far, the recipe is working.

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