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Promoting Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing - page 6 / 12





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consideration in contemplating the answer to this question is whether the behavior is one-time (e.g., purchasing an energy efficient vehicle) or repetitive (e.g., closing blinds each day before leaving for work). In general, it is more difficult to alter and maintain repetitive behavior changes than it is to bring about one-time changes in behavior (see for example, Kempton, Darley, & Stern, 1992; Kempton, Harris, Keith, & Weihl, 1984).

Designing Strategies

An effective social marketing strategy removes barriers to the behavior to be promoted. For example, in fostering the purchase of products with recycled content, the King County Commission in Washington State first identified barriers to their purchase and then systematically removed them (Herrick, 1995). Survey and focus group research indicated the existence of five barriers to the purchase of these products. The commission felt that little could be done with respect to two of these barriers: the perception that these products cost more and were of inferior quality. The three other barriers, low awareness of which products had recycled content, suspicion regarding environmental claims of manufacturers, and the diffi- culty of quickly identifying these products while shopping, could, however, be overcome. Although this program utilized traditional media and in-store advertis- ing, it relied primarily upon a shelf prompt that advertised that a product had recy- cled content. The results from this social marketing strategy demonstrate the importance of first identifying barriers and then systematically removing them. Analysis of electronic inventories of participating retail stores indicated that purchases of recycled-content products rose 27% as a consequence of this social marketing strategy. This successful program has now been adopted by a number of cities throughout the United States.

Psychological expertise can be readily applied to removing barriers to behav- ior change (see McKenzie-Mohr & Smith, 1999, for an overview of how this knowledge can be applied to program design). For example, when low motivation exists to engage in a sustainable behavior, it can be enhanced through the use of commitment strategies (see Katzev & Wang, 1994) or incentives (see Gardner & Stern, 1996). When individuals do not perceive an activity as being the “right thing to do,” knowledge regarding the use of injunctive and descriptive norms can be applied (see, for example, Cialdini, Reno, & Kallgren, 1990). Numerous other applications of psychological knowledge to strategy design can be made (see Bator & Cialdini, this issue, for further examples).


Following the development of a strategy, it should be piloted prior to being broadly implemented. Once again, psychological expertise in research methods

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