On a bright yellow background we see two clear containers containing cigarette butts, one labelled Ronaldo, the other Messi, with an overall title of ‘Who is the best player in the world’ and an instruction to ‘Vote with your butt’.

Centering citizens at the heart of social change

Social marketing avoids telling people what to do.

We can motivate people to change their behaviour by focusing on delivering programs that include benefits that people want.

In marketing theory this is called ‘value’. To create ‘value’ social marketers have to start by understanding how people think, feel, and behave, to understand what is needed to help people to change.

Think about this image of cigarette butts dropped on the ground. Do you think that is a good look?

Multiple cigarette butts discarded on the ground.

I doubt even smokers would think this looks good.

How do we go about bringing smokers on board to change their behaviour? Can we make it easier, and /or fun, for them to dispose of their cigarettes in an appropriate container instead of the ground?

The campaign

A case study from the United Kingdom funded via crowdsourcing called “Neat Streets” shows us how we can change how cigarette butts are disposed of by delivering fun alternatives. This campaign aimed to get smokers to use a container to dispose of their cigarette butts to prevent cigarette butt littering on ground. Market research was used to understand how smokers could be brought on board. This research asked “How do we bring smokers on board?”

Stomping out a cigarette butt on the ground is easy. To encourage disposal of a cigarette butt into a disposal container we have to come up with a fun alternative that is placed close to where the cigarette butts are piling up on the ground.

The Ronaldi versus Messi voting disposal containers were brightly coloured to capture attention and they were placed close to an area where butts pile up on the ground. Each container represented a different football player. Smokers were asked to use their butts to vote for their favourite player by placing it in the corresponding container.

Exchange and Mutual Benefit

By making it easy for people we can deliver behaviour change. The disposal bins (a voting activity requiring a cigarette butt) delivers value (entertainment and a free opportunity to vote with your butt).

Social marketing is based on exchange and mutual benefit.

For an exchange to take place both parties have to benefit. In this case:

  1. You benefit by achieving your program aim or goal, which was to have less cigarette butts on the ground.
  2. Smokers participate in the program with their votes. The benefits they receive are fun, entertainment and convenience because the bin is placed next to a place previously littered with cigarette butts.

In social marketing we must carefully plan to provide both

  • the outcomes we seek and, most importantly,
  • reasons why people will join the program we are offering.

To deliver the outcome we want (less cigarette butts on the ground) we have to develop a program that engages the people whose behaviour needs to change (smokers).

Your task

Did ‘Neat Streets’ bring about lasting change for cigarette butts? Share your views using the comments link below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Social Change: How Can Marketing Help?

Griffith University