An interesting example of a tactic to influence consumer
behavior can be found along the interstates in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of
Transportation is using digital signs on the interstates in a new, and for some
people unsettling, way. The numbers of vehicle and motorcycle fatalities in the
state are being displayed on the signs when not in use to communicate usual
information like lane closures and blockages. The messaging maintains the same
end that TDOT has always had – be safe while driving. However, the means to
that end are a departure from usual tactics, and it bothers some motorists.
What are the objections to the signs? Some people believe
reporting of traffic deaths has been reduced to a game, with the signs becoming
a scoreboard for fatalities. Others see the signs as one more distraction on
the roadways, having an unintended effect of possibly contributing to an
accident than preventing one. For opponents of the signs, more police presence
and enforcement of laws are preferred to the digital signs.
If TDOT’s goal is to reduce the number of traffic
fatalities, then the challenge is to change behaviors that contribute to
accidents. Creating a shift in behavior requires challenging people’s beliefs and
changing attitudes. In this situation, general messages like “stay safe” are
likely to have little impact. They are merely words that become one of hundreds
of messages we are exposed to daily.
To cut through the message clutter, ideas have to be
presented in ways that force us to process information. Only then is there a chance
that our beliefs and attitudes can be influenced, setting the stage for
behavior modification. TDOT’s use of a concrete message such as the number of
fatalities has the “stay safe” theme as an undertone, but it can be a jolt to
the beliefs held by people about the importance of driving safely. Perhaps some
people do not like the messages on highway fatalities because they work. Rather
than being able to ignore the message like most of the others that they pass
along the road, this message has the desired effect of getting their attention
and causing them to think about driving safety.
If you want to change behavior among your customers,
employees, children, whoever your target audience may be, consider the
presentation of your messaging. There may be important points that you wish to
communicate, but a straightforward presentation of facts and information may
fall on deaf ears. It is not because your value proposition is weak; your
messaging is not resonating with the intended audience. Words are powerful because
they can shake our beliefs and influence how we feel. But, words alone are not
enough to change behavior. The strategy behind the message is to persuade
people to care.
Labels: Consumer Behavior, Persuasion