Changing people’s energy behavior can be hard. Traditional marketing techniques that focus on information-intensive campaigns often fall short in encouraging a new behavior.
Community-based social marketing (CBSM), developed by Doug McKenzie-Mohr, Ph.D., is an alternative to information-intensive campaigns and has shown to be effective at encouraging sustainable behavior changes. It’s based on research on what leads people to engage or prevents them from adapting energy-saving action.
According to CBSM, your success at changing behavior will increase if you incorporate the following CBSM concepts in your program design:
- To the extent possible, remove barriers and emphasize benefits.
- We are influenced by the popularity of a behavior. If we observe others saving energy, we are more likely to do the same.
- Our behavior is more influenced by the people with whom we interact than the media or other sources of information.
Specific goals are motivating.
- People believe they can achieve something if someone similar has already done it.
- Messages need to be easy to remember and heard several times (common wisdom is 7 times) before they stick. Remind people.
- Tailor your messages to appeal to what motivates your audience.
- Use existing social networks and peer groups to spread the word that saving energy is cool.
- Incentives help increase motivation to engage in an action. Incentives can be non-monetary, such as recognition.
- Enlist “opinion leaders” to endorse the fair.
- Provide people with instant feedback about the effectiveness of their actions.
- People are more likely to follow through on a stated action if they make a public commitment to do so.
Think through the different groups of people in your community and identify the groups that you would like to attend the fair. Reach out to them and ask about their views on climate change, actions already taken to save energy, best ways to motivate them to come to the fair, and best ways to get their attention (e.g., local paper, email list, Facebook page).
“In Concord, we met with the leaders of the Parent Teacher Group at several schools to find out how to best motivate parents to attend.”
“In the Berkshires, to attract low-income residents, we connected with target neighborhood associations and grassroots groups representing marginalized populations. We included vendors and the local community access organization to assist residents to apply for fuel assistance, sign up for Massachusetts’ free energy audits, and learn about rebate programs. We also made sure the Berkshire Earth Expo was accessible by foot to low-income neighborhoods, and on the bus line for other people experiencing transportation barriers.”
Determine marketing messages based on what’s important to your target audience. This is likely to include one or more of the following: protecting air quality and health, saving money, reducing emissions, energy-saving or renewable energy efforts their neighbors are engaged in, reducing the effect of climate change, supporting the students and/or attending a fun, family event with good snacks.
Here are a few examples of comments by opinion leaders:
“By doing the community challenge and involving the schools … our kids are becoming more aware of energy conservation and smart energy use,” said Energy Commission Chair Mark Morris. “We [did] something interesting in Agawam, and for our community. It has a payout that could last well into the future.”
Although the best way to spread the word about the fair is through social networks, we also recommend more traditional marketing mechanisms such as newspaper articles, email newsletters, posters, lawn signs, and postcards.
Note: See School Communications for examples of school promotion
Keep in mind that most people need to hear things multiple times to remember it. Don’t hesitate to remind them.
- Press Release: Plug Into Big Savings
- Press Release: Fair Announcement
- Press Release: Preparations Continue
Enlist the help of community-based organizations, faith groups, and town officials in promoting the fair. If you can get endorsements from opinion leaders, all the better.