There were some great social-marketing lessons at the TED conference in 2013. Specifically, this was related to an energy conservation experiment but is widely applicable to anyone trying to create social change or tap into social behavior.
Alex Laskey is the president and founder of Opower, a company that partners with utility companies and the government, now even reaching into international markets, in pursuit of cutting energy, saving money and reducing carbon emissions. On February 27, at the TED conference, he spoke of the need to change people’s mindset in order to create change in behavior. He wants people to check their energy use just like they check their finances or emails.
In an experiment that Opower conducted, they tried to determine what would be the strongest motivational factor for getting people to reduce their energy use. They placed three different messages on the doors of various customers about why they should save energy:
– You can save $54 this month,
– You can save the planet, or
– You can be a good citizen
Which had the best results? None. No one message showed any significant difference in behavior. So Opower tried a fourth message:
– Your neighbors are doing better than you
This is the one that made a difference. People who read the message that 77 percent of their neighbors turned down their air conditioning, then also proceeded to turn down their AC. The power of peer-pressure should not be understated. “We can be doing so much better,” says Laskey, “starting by tapping into the power of social behavior.”
– Mary Purcell