7 simple insights that will help you change behaviour

What unites marketing goals (like increasing frequency, penetration and weight of purchase), people goals (like improving attraction and retention of talented staff), and capability goals (like strengthening performance in digital channels)? The answer is behaviour change. In fact, I’m struggling to think of any growth strategy that doesn’t involve behaviour change. In this blog, the latest in our series on behaviour change, we share 7 powerful insights you can leverage to deliver change, whether for a marketing campaign, or an internal initiative.

These insights caught my attention through a winner of the latest Marketing Society awards for excellence. The winning campaign was a partnership between Transport for London and London police forces to tackle unwanted sexual behaviour.

In 2013, years before #metoo, Transport for London(TfL) faced two stark data points. Nearly 1 in 5 women said they’d suffered unwanted sexual behaviour on London’s public transport, and only 10% of these women ever reported it. [1]

There were 1000 reports made that year. So somewhere in the region of 9000 women suffered in silence. This level of under-reporting gives sexual predators confidence that they can continue unchecked.

In partnership with 3 London police forces TfL set up a dedicated reporting service for people to text or call, and they created a campaign to change behaviour. The first stage, in 2013, focused on education. They created striking communications to help people understand what was unwanted sexual behaviour (USB) and to feel confident in reporting anything that made them feel uncomfortable. It resulted in improved understanding but a mere 2% increase in consideration of reporting USB. The behaviour change sadly did not follow. How many times do behaviour change initiatives stop here? Or else perhaps they speak louder: get more hard-hitting and multichannel in their attempts to capture people’s attention and improve their awareness and understanding. Luckily, in this case, the TfL team paused and sought more insights into changing behaviour – and the second phase of the campaign from 2015-2017, had a greater impact which led to a 65% increase in reports and 1200 arrests.

TfL turned to Robert Cialdini’s Principle of Persuasion. This framework now has 7 powerful insights for behaviour change, all of which feel self-evident when seen, and yet, not all are actively considered by companies for capability, sales and marketing activities: 

1. Liking If people like you, they are more likely to say yes
2. Reciprocity People tend to return favours
3. Consensus People will do things they see others doing
4. Consistency People want to be consistent: if they make a voluntary public commitment they’re more likely to see it through
5. Authority People defer to experts and those in position of authority
6. Scarcity People value things they perceive to be scarce
7. Unity The more people identify with others, the more they are influenced by these others

TfL focused on the 3rd principle as a way of viewing social proof - they made it apparent that other people report unwanted sexual behaviour (and so could you). It combined this approach with the 7th principle, unity, by tapping into people’s motivation to report USB if it would help others avoid being victims, rather than just achieving justice for their own individual experiences. The resulting campaign was ‘every report builds a picture’.


Source: WARC/The Marketing Society

So the next time you’re seeking to change behaviour, take a look at these insights and consider how you could creatively apply some or all of them to help you achieve your goals. I suspect we all use them as individuals, but could we do more to deploy and combine them in innovative ways for larger scale programmes?

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[1]2013 YouGov poll: 19% of women had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport in London, such as groping, flashing, masturbation or sexual comments. 90% of those women did not report incidents to the police (Source: 2CV/TfL 2013 Safety and Security Survey)