The NSMC has reviewed behaviour change programmes to discover the secrets of success.
Interventions with real impact featured all or many of the following:
These benchmark criteria are not just a tick-box checklist, but concepts that work together to make social marketing programmes more effective. For more information, download our Big pocket guide to social marketing.
Change people’s actual behaviour.
Behaviour is a pattern of actions over time; the action or reaction of something under specific circumstances. It is dynamic – that is, subject to change and variation in different contexts and at different times.
Much routine daily behaviour is about habit, so people may not be thinking consciously about what they do. Start by thinking about an audience’s attitudes, hopes, wishes, desires and other motivations. This is generally more productive than trying to identify and fill information gaps. Understanding people’s emotional engagement is critical.
Focus on the audience.
Use behavioural theories to understand behaviour and inform the intervention.
Human behaviour is complex. However a theory can offer you a greater understanding of your target audience and the factors that influence them and their actions.
Eg The ‘Time to Change’ programme on attitudes to mental health problems, run in partnership by MIND and Rethink, used Social Contact Theory: discriminatory attitudes and behaviours can be challenged by bringing people in direct contact with each other.
Details of how different theories have been used in social marketing projects can be found on ShowCase, our online resource of benchmarked social marketing case studies.
Customer orientation lets you identify ‘actionable insights’ – pieces of understanding that will lead the development of an effective intervention.
Insight is more than just pieces of data. It is what the data can tell us about people’s feelings, motivations and current behaviour
Insights include two types of barrier:
Tangible barriers These are barriers that can be addressed through changes to the physical environment. For example, a current service may be underused because it is not open after 5pm, preventing many working people from attending. It is important to try and reduce these barriers through your methods mix (for example, longer opening hours for those who work, or services provided in the workplace).
Emotional barriers Addressing just the tangible barriers may not bring about the behaviour change. Social marketers are often trying to change complex behaviours which are the ‘social norm’. Barriers to the behaviour change are often emotional. For example, women may not attend their mammogram appointment because they fear finding a lump. Changing service opening times but ignoring the emotional reasons is unlikely to lead to behaviour change. It is important that both types of barriers are addressed.
Consider benefits and costs of adopting and maintaining a new behaviour; maximise the benefits and minimise the costs.
Exchange is ‘the exchange of resources or values between two or more parties with the expectation of some benefits’. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, people go through a cost-benefit analysis at some level before they decide to act. The social marketer’s task is to ensure that the benefits associated with the desired behaviour are equal to or greater than the costs.
When offering an exchange, don’t just look to reduce the barriers. Are there incentives and benefits you can offer the target audience based on what they value?
Try to identify and replace the benefits people currently receive from a problem behaviour. For example, drinking alcohol gives young people a sense of confidence, making them feel sexy and ‘part of the gang’. If you want them to stop drinking, or reduce the amount they drink, your intervention must look to replace the benefits they currently receive from drinking alcohol.
Understand what competes for the audience’s time, attention, and inclination to behave in a particular way.
Avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach: identify audience ‘segments’, which have common characteristics, and tailor interventions appropriately
Use a combination of approaches to bring about behaviour change. Don’t just rely on raising awareness.
These benchmark criteria form part of a range of resources that The NSMC has developed to promote best practice in social marketing, including a Planning guide and toolkit, and a Value for Money tool. See our Resources section for details.