Efforts by policy makers to influence citizen behaviors traditionally relied on two approaches:
1. Regulation/Legal Intervention: Most often this is in the form of new laws, increased enforcement and fines. This is the “make me” approach, targeting audiences not likely to adopt the behavior unless forced to.
2. Information/Education: This is the “show me” approach, targeting an audience that will readily adopt the behavior based on increased awareness. Words alone are motivating enough. This is usually a small segment of the population.
There is a third option for policy makers to consider. Social marketing is a process that uses traditional marketing principles and techniques to influence citizen behaviors that benefit society, as well as the individual. Many refer to this as the “help me” approach, targeting citizens who think the behavior is a good idea, but have barriers to overcome.
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In January, at the beginning of the 2016 Washington legislative session, the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington installed a display in the Capitol Rotunda. The intention is to inspire policymakers to consider this social marketing option, often a better return on investment.
Four Washington state social marketing success stories are featured: reducing tobacco use, increasing pedestrian safety, light duty jobs for injured workers, and fixing vehicle oil leaks.
We are hoping to see this citizen behavior change discipline applied to other state issues including gun safety, homelessness and heroin addiction, resulting in similar success stories.