Cognitive Constructs – The Five Pillars of Effective Behaviour Change Marketing


At some point or another, every single one of us has felt the urge to incite positive change, and have used this urge to fuel an attitude for change. Whether we’ve wanted to see this change positively impact our immediate world or even alter the fabric of our own personal nature, this attitude can be a powerful drive. The only real issue with relying on attitude alone is that usually emotions change and the ball stops rolling. Attitude is just the first of five pillars of effective behaviour change marketing. If you want to see effective behavioural change both personally and professionally, both within yourself and in your audience, consider utilising the five pillars outlined below.

1. Attitude

It’s commonly understood that if you want to persuade your audience to change their behaviour, you first need to urge them to reconsider their attitude surrounding that intended behaviour. For instance, anti-smoking campaigns aim to remove the cultural appeals of smoking, cultivating a negative image that heavily revolves around cancers and other severe illnesses that can arise from smoking cigarettes. The attitude towards the behaviour that is smoking, then transforms from a ‘cool, rogue aloofness’, to one of downright foolishness. As smoking becomes an increasingly foolish behaviour whose cons greatly outweigh its pros, the cultural attitude towards smokers and cigarettes will eventually dissuade more people from ever smoking in the first place. This is only one example of how attitude can greatly impact behaviour.

2. Competences 

We should preface this by saying that there’s a major difference between competencies and competences. Whilst competencies are one’s technical abilities to perform tasks, competences actually refer to one’s theoretical abilities or the potential for an action to be performed. If people believe that they have inadequate time or resources or even a poor understanding of what’s required for them to attain this change, then they do not possess the competence to perform this action and they’re likely to give up. You can remove this obstacle by providing adequate information regarding how this change can be achieved, such as where resources can be obtained, and how simple or easy achieving the change can really be. A great example of this can be found in energy and utility marketing, where companies emphasise that all consumers need to do to change their service is 1) make a phone call, and 2) get a quote. 

3. Environment 

The environmental pillar is two-fold, including both social and physical aspects. One’s social environment outlines community behaviours around potential change, whereas the physical environment relates more to competences, or availability of time and resources. It’s widely known that behaviour change can be innately inspired by making alterations to a community’s social and physical environment. A fantastic example of altering physical environments is in the incorporation of bike lanes and the widening of footpaths in urban spaces to promote walking and cycling over driving. The social alteration would be the promotion of ‘green’ travel.

4. Expectations from the messenger 

There are a variety of expectations that your audience expects from you as the ‘messenger’. These naturally all tie in with brand identity and brand recognition. You want your message to be consistent with your organisation, and for its motivations to be as transparent as possible. Your audience will be more likely to accept your message if they can see that it’s well-intentioned and that it’s coming from a reputable source. Similarly, if you’re organising a thread of varying campaigns, there will be an expectation for consistency or cohesion between your varying messages. You should always consider these wider expectations prior to launching any form of communication.

5. Triggers 

This final pillar can be considered a ‘call to action’. Like scary movie marathons are more popular in October and New Year’s resolutions inspire spikes in gym memberships, most change is inspired by current events. If you want to maximise your audience’s potential for change, it’s recommended that you create a trigger or ‘cue’ to inspire this change. Triggers are also vital for audience engagement or cultivating a sense of inclusivity. 

But there’s a reason why New Year’s resolutions never stick for too long. Relying on a trigger alone is just as ineffective as relying on attitude alone. If you’re able to utilise all five of these pillars in your next campaigns, then it’s highly likely that your campaigns will be incredibly effective when it comes to inspiring behaviour change.


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