Redbean - I have for many years watched organisations and governments squander their cash and time on education programs desired (not designed) to get people to change their behaviour. Most of these programs are based upon the false premise that knowledge will lead to insight and so influence and change behaviour.
In the main these campaigns fail. The most famous being such public health initiatives as the “drugs are bad” campaigns so beautifully sent up by Southpark. Ok?
Two notable exceptions have been the reduction in tobacco smoking, supported by bans on smoking in certain places, and the HIV Aids reduction through safe sex behaviour, supported by the free distribution of condoms and needles.
Both of those campaigns also provided what is missing from the value chain of the standard education program of Knowledge>Insight>Behaviour Change, the critical message that salespeople have known for years - The WIIFM or What’s In It For Me?
The one word equivalent of WIIFM is meaning. Knowledge is great yet without meaning (to each individual) it is just more information or noise. Blanket education programs are inefficient since they hope they will snag a few individuals who get the message while they miss the majority.
However the flip side of this problem is my main interest. If we could make meaning for our customers or clients, would they then change their behaviour to support our cause, business or product? The answer, as every religion and quasi-religous environmental or political group in the world knows, is YES, of course they would.
What is this meaning stuff? A new book “Making Meaning: How successful businesses deliver meaningful customer experiences” sets out to describe just how meaning can be put into the every day interactions with our customers and clients.(Rhea, Diller and Shedroff, Peach Pit Press, 2007). There is nothing new here except it’s proactive application and as you read the elements of meaning you will concur.
You can read the Making Meaning - Free Article at the publisher’s site.
So why do governments still spend millions on meaningless ‘education’ or ’social norms marketing’ campaigns or the new breed of ‘preventative’ health campaigns without any evidence they will be any more successful than in the past?
Climate change is the latest need for change that will suffer from the meaningless campaign. Governments around the world (with a few notable exceptions) are betting on the old educate>behavioural change horse yet again. By the time any significant shift in our lifestyles occurs it will be way too late for that old horse, and us.
How can meaning be created? In the case of sustainability and climate change it might have to be through direct legislation and fiscal or punitive measures to get people to sit up and take notice. These measures would work because they have direct meaning to the individual. When fuel is unaffordable then we will discover the bicycle! Find that meaning for your campaign and you’re on a winner. And the best way to do that is through the discovery processes of experience design.
The solution remains the same for any government or organisation that wants to drive fundamental behavioural change for either the public good or commercial reasons - find the meaning - to the individual or target group.
The only formula that works for humans that I know of is Knowledge>Meaning>Insight>Change and if your marketing or education campaign doesn’t contain that formula, it’s meaningless.