Motivation the key to reducing anti-social behaviour: ACU Professor

Australian Catholic University Professor Susan Dann

Australian Catholic University Professor Susan Dann

Understanding what triggers violence, drink driving and anti-social behaviour is the key to affecting meaningful change, according to one of Australia’s thought leaders in social marketing.

National Head of the Peter Faber School of Business at Australian Catholic University (ACU) Professor Susan Dann’s expertise in applying commercial marketing techniques to the fight against domestic violence, drink driving and smoking has made her an agent of change in the community.

Professor Dann said harnessing motivation, rather than relying on the big stick approach, was more effective in driving lasting behavioural change.

“It’s not enough to just tell people what they should do. We all know we should drink less and increase exercise. We must find out what they value and how to link change in behaviour to the things they value.

“If you change the law it doesn’t mean people will be compliant. We look at human motivation and the environment that makes it possible for people to change their behaviour. What are the triggers? Does it make a difference if your mates condemn you? Their censure may be more important to you than the law.

 “Getting into the mind of the consumer is what makes that difference.”

A radical change in the way we approach social change campaigns is responsible for many of the major improvements in Australian society including reduced smoking rates, improved workplace health and safety and road toll.

The improvements can be attributed – at least in part – to the rise of social marketing which uses the insights and techniques of commercial marketing to target social problems effectively.

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Social marketing techniques to assist campaigns

Combined with education and legislation, social marketing has made possible integrated campaigns that are reshaping behaviour from domestic violence to sun exposure.

Behind much of this change is Professor Dann who was earlier this year made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her leadership in applying commercial marketing techniques to delivering positive social outcomes.

Social marketing uses techniques such as consumer research, emotional appeals and social norms to promote health, raise awareness and induce changes in behaviour. Professor Dann said social marketing was initially controversial because it involved being more sympathetic to those engaged in undesirable behaviour.

A campaign against domestic violence, for example, focused on how a perpetrator might feel about their children seeing the violence, rather than on the suffering of the victim.

“That campaign was successful because it looked at it from the perpetrators’ point of view. If you are going to change people’s behaviour you must think about what matters to them,” she said.

“The perpetrator might not care what happens to the victim but they might care about what happens to their children.”

It’s now standard practice for social marketing to be part of social change campaigns. Workplace safety campaigns portray the family waiting for the worker who never comes, rather than showing the classic hard hats and hi-vis vests.

Domestic violence campaigns trade on the disapproval of mates.  An anti-drink-driving campaign focuses on the social shame of a father unable to drive his daughter to netball practice.

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