Behaviour change and how ‘awareness’ isn’t good enough

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/07/awareness-is-overrated.html

An incredibly interesting article shared by my subject teacher, is all about the abundance and ease of awareness raising campaigns in modern day today and their general ineffectiveness at creating a behavioural change in their target audience. In short summary, the primary use of statistics to argue a point of change for a particular issue, although does create awareness and sympathy rarely creates incidences where a user will actively go out of there way to support, or actively contribute towards the cause; in some cases it’s had the opposite effect of presenting the issue as a ‘social norm’ creating the attitude, “If other people are doing it, why can’t I?”.

One of the biggest learning points I’ve taken from this is most awareness raising campaigns fail to fully engage with their audiences and fail to recognize the general reality of their situations, creating unrealistic expectations that simply knowing this something that needs to change, they will do something about it. One of the best examples the article discusses is anti-smoking campaigns; if you live in the UK you should be most prevalently aware of the “Surgeon’s Warning” labels found on cigarettes packets. It very effectively raises awareness of the dangers of smoking, hell it’s found on every packet of cigarettes so it’s hard to ignore but it fails to address why someone would want to smoke in the first place; the dangers are just one factor of many to be weighed and considered.

In the case of this ad is specifically targets father’s and imagines the pressures smoking places on his children. Every individual has their own set of core values/beliefs, a code they live by or want to pursue. In this case the value “I want to be a good father” has been targeted; using a real relatable issue, in the most ideal situation this already reinforces an idea/guilt the audience may already have to encourage a behavioural change in the user. For example, a father may conform to social pressures to smoke with co-workers to satisfy his social needs in the workplace; in conflict he feels guilt for smoking around his child and the potential influence/pressure it is having on him/her. In an ideal situation this advertisement reinforces current thoughts the user is experiencing and encourages him, as a first step not to smoke around his child and only in the work place; the first step towards making an individual stop smoking, the overall underlying goal of the awareness campaign.

In the case of my project, I started out with the simple goal of wanting to raise awareness for mental health issues. Working with student services and Cardiff Met, I want to target specifically depression and anxiety issues in students between the age of 18-25. My over arching goal is to encourage suffers to seek help; to break this down I want my audience to ideally take the first steps in discussing their problems with others even on the most basic level so appropriate support can eventually be provided. This could be anonymous e-counselling, forum posting, etc. to encourage full counselling and if relevant, doctor’s diagnose and perception drugs to assist in this process of recovery. I think my next step is to identify generally common reason why students suffer (e.g. work stress, social stress, loneliness especially relevant to freshers,  etc.) and identify cores values these students have (e.g. maybe.. “I want to have regular friends I can hang out with” or “I want to do well in my studies”) so I’m aware of how I can have a more meaningful engagement with my audience. I’ll also note social, financial and work issues which could affect my audience, as well as examples of other effective awareness campaigns addressing my issue; maybe creating scenarios and reflecting on my own experiences could be useful for this.


Pechakucha Present-ucha!

After presenting my pechakucha, what it highlighted most was my uncertainty for what organisation I’d like to work with; however, on the flip side what Ian Wier, my tutor said today, “It’s admirable to give a organization a voice which doesn’t have one” really made me re-think working with Mind, a large already established organisation with many great achievements. Because of this I have decided I want to team up with the local student services at my university, Cardiff Metropolitan University and help increase, and encourage use of their services. The other advantage to choosing them is having direct form of communication at my campus, exactly where their main offices are.

I have first hand experience of the sigma behind mental health and the difficulty of coming out and getting help, so this would be a wonderful opportunely to help other students which are in that position. I’m already aware that the communication, or more-or-less failed communication of student services to engage with their audience, the students. I believe everyone is more or less aware of them around campus but rather oblivious of how they can actually help them personally, the most common misinterpretation being they’re there to assist those with dyslexia or other learning difficulties; I think this is the unfortunate reality of any organization which provides such services and the sigma of not wanting to be associated with those with learning difficulties, or more bluntly “retarded” people (don’t mean to offend, just using it to make a point).

I contacted student services so I’ll be awaiting a response from them shortly and hopefully a meeting can be arranged in the incoming week or so. From this I hope to make a detailed project proposal so I can tailor-fit my project around their needs and create a appropriate design solution.

In a little more reflection of today’s pechakucha, it’s clear I need to become more comfortable around group situations and learn to better control my anxiety. I need to learn to feel confident in my work and let my voice justify the effort I put in. Of course this will take a long time to overcome but forcing myself into more scenarios might not be such a bad idea.

Here’s a pdf of my presentaion for reference:

Pechakucha Presentation.pdf


Back on subject, let’s do some ‘persuasion’!

Like always, a terrible pun to start my new project. As the title hints, I’m back in the office with my fellow graphic designers to start our new project ‘Persuasion’. For this project we need to pick a cause, something we truly believe in; “a piece in the puzzle of the world we’d like to change” and find a client, an organisation which works towards this cause and work with them by creating relevant promotional material to raise awareness, influence, provoke, convince, inform or perhaps, inspire users to actively contribute towards our goals!

For this task I have chosen to help raise awareness for anxiety, depression and generally mental health issues. Anxiety has had a great deal of impact on my life and has lead to extended periods of depression over the last couple of years and although something I’m still learning to control, I feel it’d be a great injustice if I didn’t use my talents to create a positive contribution towards it. I hope through this process I can prompt others to get the help they need as I once sort out, and help work towards removing the sigma of mental help; and hey, I might learn a little about myself and come out stronger because of it!

Pyramid of Marlow's Hierarchy of Needs

Pyramid of “Marlow’s Hierarchy of Needs”

Today we were also introduced to “Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs”, a theory that states before higher needs can be fulfilled a list of more basic needs must be satisfied first. This fascinates me greatly and although I don’t fully agree with it, from a designers stand point can be used to greatly increase our audiences level of engagement with our work (and when done right, they won’t even be aware of it).

To practise this theory, my class analysed an advertisement by Volkswagen called “The Force” which pictures a typical middle class white family in a secure neighbour with a child, dressed up as Darth Vador playfully navigating the house trying to use the ‘force’ to move things around the house; when his father returns in his Volkswagen car, the child attempts to use the force on the car with the father jokingly ‘locking up’ the car. To bullet point some notable points from the ad:

  • The ad subtly presents the mother sighing when passing her child his sandwich giving the impression of a flawed family which could exist in the real world, therefore more relatable to the audience.
  • It specifically targets middle aged family men by presenting an ideal nuclear family; on Marlow’s Scale targeting sections “Love/Belonging” and “Esteem”.
  • Using the nostalgia of Star Wars immediately hooks the audience in with something we’re all very familiar within pop-culture, from the presentation of the music, some scenes are shot very reminiscent to the films (e.g. intro) and of course, the cutesy nature of the child cos-playing as Darth Vador trying to use the “force” on the household objects.
  • Humour is also used to create a memorable experience from the innocence of the child playing as Darth Vador around the house to the last ending gag where the father “locks” the car to make his son believe he used the force to lock it.

This exercise got me thinking “What type of need will my campaign satisfy?” and the question of “Who is my audience?”.