The power of a behavioural change campaign

Behavioural change is the process of altering or modifying the way our target audience behaves. It can involve making small adjustments to daily habits or involve more significant social change. 

The role of communication in implementing a behavioural change campaign is pivotal and can contribute to positive life-changing outcomes for generations to come.  

One example of a successful behavioural change communication campaign in Australia is the iconic ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ campaign, which was launched in 1981 by the Cancer Council of Victoria.  

The campaign used a variety of communication strategies, including a catchy slogan that was displayed across television, billboard and radio advertisements and, later, social media campaigns.  

The ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ campaign was highly successful in increasing awareness of the importance of sun safety and reducing the incidence of skin cancer in Australia – with studies showing that between the mid-1990s and 2010, melanoma cases among teenagers and young adults declined by 5 percent each year. 

Another behavioural change campaign to note is the Queensland Government’s, ‘if it’s flooded, forget it’ campaign – a public safety campaign aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of driving through floodwaters during severe weather events. 

According to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website, 92% of Queenslanders recall the message, ‘If it’s flooded, forget it’, and 63% would stop driving through floodwater as a result of the campaign.  

What these two campaigns have in common is clear and memorable messaging, eye-catching visuals, comprehensive educational materials, a multi-channel approach, and research that proves that people are changing their behaviours.  

There are many different reasons why people may want to change their behaviour, including improving their health, reducing their environmental impact, or achieving personal or professional goals.  

Whatever the motivation, behavioural change can be a challenging process, particularly from the standpoint of a communication professional encouraging the change.  

The Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW) is a theoretical framework that can be used to design effective communication campaigns aimed at changing people’s behaviour. The wheel is a combination of 19 frameworks of behavioural change identified in a literature review by Michie, van Stralen and West (2011). 

To choose the best strategies for a behavioural change initiative, it is important to consider which methods are most likely to change behaviours easily and effectively, and if the goals of change are long or short-term and individualistic or system-wide – or in many cases, all of the above. 

To that end, when designing a communication campaign using the BCW framework, the following steps should be followed:  

Define the behaviour you want to change: The first step is to clearly define the behaviour that you want to change. For example, if you are designing a campaign to promote recycling, the behaviour you want to change might be to reduce the volume of recyclable items thrown in general garbage bins. This is important as it will allows us to frame our project goals and begin our understanding of how to communicate these goals effectively. 

Identify the barriers to the behaviour: Next, identify the barriers that prevent people from engaging in the desired behaviour. These barriers could be related to capability (“I don’t have time to recycle” or “I don’t understand which products can be recycled”), opportunity (I didn’t pass a recycling bin on the way to work”), or motivation (“What difference does my recycling actually make” or “What’s in it for me to recycle?”).  

Identify the intervention functions: Once you have identified the barriers, select the appropriate intervention functions to address them. The BCW framework provides a range of intervention functions focused on personal behaviour, such as education, persuasion, incentivisation, or coercion. For example, to address the barrier of lack of knowledge, you might use an education intervention by providing information about what can be recycled and incentivising the behaviour through initiatives such as ‘containers for change’.  

Select the behaviour change techniques: Once you have selected the intervention functions, identify the broader structural areas that will enable or support the intervention. The BCW framework outlines seven categories including communication and marketing, guidelines, fiscal measures, regulation, legislation, environment and social planning and service provision. 

To address the barrier of lack of access to recycling bins, you might use the behaviour change technique of environmental and social planning by placing recycling bins in convenient locations. 

Develop the communication campaign: Finally, develop your communication campaign using the chosen intervention functions and behavioural change techniques. This could include designing catchy slogans and messaging or selecting appropriate channels and materials for communication – based on the needs and preferences of the target market.  

Undertaking simultaneous research to monitor the success of the behavioural change campaign will also assist with ongoing communication efforts. Communicating the results to reinforce the benefits of the change and the adoption rate – to encourage others to get involved. 

Connect with us 

At Phillips Group, we partner with clients from the earliest planning stages to collaboratively design highly effective behavioural change projects and communication strategies. We harness intelligent research and insights using real-time data to provide decision makers with the confidence to make critical decisions and implement behaviour change campaigns.  

 We are change communication specialists and look forward to working with you to drive successful transformative change. Connect with us today