Archives for posts with tag: behavior change

There are many things to say against focusing on big ideas: It’s better to develop many small ideas and scale the successful ones up, it’s more important to create as many connection points as possible and not just one humongous connection hub. Still, sometimes agencies develop concepts that are bigger than big ideas.

As part of an effort to help Vestas sell more wind turbines, Droga5 developed WindMade, a product label that will help us make informed purchasing choices baed on whether the goods were made with clean, sustainable energy. It’s bigger than a big idea or any huge campaign: It’s an NGO developed by an advertising agency.

Projects like this convince me more and more that the right kind of creative thinking can underwrite amazing technology and help people to change their behavior in admirable and sustainable ways. That’s why this is the amazing and inspiring time in advertising. And that’s why we should continue to care about advertising.


When I went to school, I was called the cheating king. I was known for finding the most innovative ways to cheat: Hiding little cheat papers in the toilet bowl, underneath rocks, in a little bag next to the ashtray, walkie-talkie earphones, mirrors – you name it. Funny thing is, I never used the cheat papers. I had to write the cheats 5 times on 5 different papers. By the time I was done, I memorized everything already. I still needed to write out the cheat papers for my inner peace. And my classmates liked them as well.

But the most important part of that story is that the teachers knew about it. They knew my handwriting, they knew I was behind all these little papers. My main goal was to outwit them. Find new hiding spots, new ways to be better than them. I always loved to outthink the competition. Trying to be as creative and original as possible. To surprise people.

That’s why I always loved marketing.

It’s about being creative and original. It’s about surprising people. It’s about creating something that works, the 5% that changes behavior. And be better than the 95% of marketing that doesn’t work. You can be the first brand using a new platform and score a huge PR win. But if you don’t outwit your competition, you don’t change behavior. You need to be smarter, more innovative, more daring, being ready to take unfair advantages. When I encounter that attitude and way of thinking, I immediately fall in love with it.

We shouldn’t defend advertising. We need to defend good advertising.

Dave Grohl doesn’t defend music. He defends great music.

Jack Nicklaus doesn’t speak out for golf. He speaks out for amazing golf.

We can talk all day long about conversations and the tribes we need to build. Or we can have lengthy discussions how more people watch more TV than ever before.

That’s not the issue.

It’s about good vs. bad

I don’t care about about advertising. I don’t care about the war between paid, earned and owned. Or traditional vs. digital vs. social vs. social. That’s ideological nonsense. What I care about is creating something that people care about. Something that’s awesome, outstanding, worth talking about.

We’re not in the game of defending territories. Or declaring certain tactics dead. We’re in the game of being creative and awesome.

Or we’re producing the 95% of stuff that makes no impact.


I’ve been thinking a lot about behavior change and applying different mental models to achieve that. While I researching, I read this NYT piece again about an experiment to reduce energy use among people who adamantly don’t believe in global warming.

“Town managers attribute the new resolve mostly to a yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project, which set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics.
Attempts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gases are highly unpopular here because of opposition to large-scale government intervention. Some are skeptical that humans might fundamentally alter a world that was created by God.
If the heartland is to seriously reduce its dependence on coal and oil, Ms. Jackson and others decided, the issues must be separated. So the project ran an experiment to see if by focusing on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, it could rally residents of six Kansas towns to take meaningful steps to conserve energy and consider renewable fuels.
Think of it as a green variation on “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Ms. Jackson suggested, referring to the 2004 book by Thomas Frank that contended that Republicans had come to dominate the state’s elections by exploiting social values.
The project’s strategy seems to have worked. In the course of the program, which ended last spring, energy use in the towns declined as much as 5 percent relative to other areas — a giant step in the world of energy conservation, where a program that yields a 1.5 percent decline is considered successful.”

All of us have certain beliefs how the world works. For us, this is the way the world works. Mental models are important to survive in a complex world and society, they help us simplify our lives and save us mental energy. We carry multiple mental models with us. We have mental models how to network, how to pick a good movie, how to find a good book, how to fix Washington DC, how to improve the world.

We think we know how the world works. The NYT has a different mental model than the WSJ. Problem is, we don’t recognize we have mental models. We just believe other people are not getting it. Truth is, the world works different for 6 billion people – we don’t know how the world works, we just have a perception of how the world works.

Once we define a mental model, the universe cooperates and gives us enough evidence that this is in fact the way the world is working. Every positive evidence is accepted, any evidence not fitting the model excused by any means:

– Smokers point out the 95-year old uncle that ran a marathon 2 days before his death while smoking 3 packs for 89 years.

– Organic food fans push away all evidence that the majority of organic food has no health benefits.

There are 6 billion mini-ideologies running around this earth, trying to make sense of the world through their mental models. When we want to change behavior, we need to offer as many mental models to people, allow them to make choices and pick the ones that make the most sense to them. That’s the reason why there’s not one way to lose weight, stop smoking, reduce our carbon footprint or reduce the debt. There are 6 billion ways. Some like gamification, some like a serious approach, some want to be driven by ideology, some want to be driven by altruism.

Your job as a marketer is to find the right balance between giving enough options and not too many choices.


Most of us understand that our electric appliances waste a lot of energy even when we’re not using them: TV, computers, microwaves. This is a problem for your wallet and the environment. As with smoking, drugs, greasy food, dental products and thousand other things that are considered bad, we seem to travel down the guilt path again and again and again. Some work, most don’t. When you travel through Europe, you see above cigarette boxes everywhere (Translation: Smoking can be deadly) and people continue to smoke while the warning is right in their face.

Guilt ads make us feel guilty. But they don’t change behavior effectively. And they also make us mad. With cigarettes, they make us mad at ourselves , our flaws, our weaknesses. Feeling guilty means becoming aware that we have violated a personal standard or behavior we really want to sustain. We have failed our ideals. And this anger interferes with the proposed behavior change. That’s why we light up a cigarette to relieve that anger tension. That’s why we open that chips bag. And don’t unplug our energy-sucking devices each time we leave the house for a prolonged time.

It seems, guilt is not the right emotion to change behavior in people. People are aware that smoking will harm their death. That it’s better to have a salad than a burger. But human beings are also rationalization machines: “This cigarette won’t kill me.” “What does it help the environment when I unplug my TV? I have other things to do.” Maybe the best solution is to have a way to make them constantly aware of specific facts without being annoying and treating people like babies.

And that’s why I was happy to find this designed innovation.


The idea behind the Power Aware Cord is to constantly make you aware of how much energy you’re using right then. This is done through a visual system of blinking or streaming lights that speed up or slow down depending on the amount of energy being used. When your TV is turned off, you will constantly be reminded that the device continues to waste energy. When leaving for a long trip, you won’t forgot to unplug each and every cord. The microwave clock might be convenient but the Power Aware Cord will remind you daily that you waste energy by having another useless clock in your kitchen. A very polite and beautiful reminder.


Design to change behavior by building constant awareness. We see the advent of other ambient devices to help us cope with information overload. How can this be applied to all the other negative behaviors we constantly indulge in? Overeating? Lack of exercise? Not flossing? Maybe the floss container can turn into a different color when not used daily? Body monitors that communicate the effect of that burger? Guilt hasn’t worked that well. We should give design a bigger stage to change behavior.