Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Slogans and behavior - it's time for change

Okay, teachers, trust me on this one -- file it away for next year and bring it out when you want your students to apply their knowledge to a real-world setting.

The Wall Street Journal today posed a question: what's the best preventive health slogan for kids? The story focuses on Blue Cross Blue Shield's new "5-2-1-0" campaign (PDFs in English and in Spanish) to teach healthy habits and reduce the amount of obesity and prevalence of diabetes by encouraging children to do the following everyday:
  • 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • 2 hours or fewer of screen time
  • 1 hour of physical activity
  • 0 unsweetened drinks
As Katherine Hobson implies in the WSJ, though, "5-2-1-0" is not terribly catchy, and public service campaigns in general aren't as popular as slogans produced by the private sector in large part due to the vast differences in advertising budgets. She states that with rare exception, slogans like "Just Say No to Drugs" aren't as memorable as "Coke is it."

So here's your assignment, in three parts:
1) Have your students redesign the 5-2-1-0 campaign using what they have learned in psychology. This would be a perfect time to include subjects like operant and classical conditioning, memory, motivation, persuasion, etc. Can they create something that would be more memorable and most importantly that would lead to behavior change? (And how could you measure whether it was successful?)

2) See if your students can counter Hobson's article. For every "Coke is it" there are surely many other private sector ad campaigns that fall flat, and maybe there are more catchy public service slogans out there than she points out. "Fried Egg," also known as "This is Your Brain on Drugs," for example, was a PSA created by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" is another memorable PSA. How many others can they think of?

3) How effective are PSAs in general at changing behavior? Have your students identify an issue, find the slogans used to encourage behavior change and then look for evidence that the behavior actually changed during the time that the slogan was used. Did "Just Say No" or "Fried Egg" really change behavior? Help them find the evidence that would support or reject these claims.

--posted by Steve


CP said...

In fact the slogan is so far from catchy that I think you got it wrong. How about 0 sweetened drinks?

Steve said...

D'oh! That's what I get for typing too fast. Thanks for the catch, CP! I'll edit it above.