In some of the previous posts on persuasion I’ve made the underlying assumption that individuals are goal driven, i.e. they try to attain some form of endstate as a result of their actions. Higgins (1998) has looked in greater detail at what strategies people use to attain their goals. His Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT) posits that people can either maximise gains (i.e. promotion focus) – or they can avoid risk and loss (i.e. prevention focus).
Although RFT derives from psychology, it has started to gain some momentum within the marketing arena as a way to explain motivational factors. The most obvious application of RFT is within the health and social marketing area – and more precisely in relation to messages promoting positive health outcomes – or avoiding negative health outcomes. For example, Kim 2006 and Zhao & Pechman (2007) looked at how RFT influences anti-smoking messages, and Wang & Lee (2006) applied RFT to motivations for purchasing toothpaste. Further, Aaker & Lee (2001) studied RFT with stimuli related to juice, while Wirtz & Lwin (2009) showed how it can be applied to privacy concerns in the context of relationship marketing.
One of the problems with using RFT in large scale marketing campaigns is of course how to know who is prevention and who is promotion focused. However, luckily there may be a shortcut – as RFT has been proven to be relatively culture bound (Kurman & Hui, 2011), in particular, promotion focus is linked to people holding individualistic values, while prevention focus is associated with collectivistic values – thus, existing cross-cultural models (such as Hofstede‘s cultural dimensions) may be a useful guide for marketers in different cultural settings.
Social Marketing is more and more moving out of the health area and being used for other social issues. One of them is crime prevention. Yet, while there are plenty of case studies around where Social Marketing was successful in reducing crime, the academic literature seems to be largely quiet on that front. A successful example of such a campaign would be the “Let’s keep Crime Down” Campaign run by WPP and the HomeOffice in the UK. The campaign reduced crime by £189 million, which resulted in a saving of £14 for every £1 spent on the campaign according to WPP. By all means a worthwhile investment.
After looking at the few (at least in comparison to health etc.) academic material I could find related to crime, the problem seems two fold: On the one side there is too much emphasis on Social Advertising and Public Service Announcements. On the other hand, there seem to be what could be identified as Social Marketing interventions – they are just not seen as being Social Marketing. Of course, both of these are very similar problems Social Marketing has in many other areas.
Similarly to many health issues, many so called Social Marketing interventions in crime appear to be little more than “Social Advertising”, or Public Service Announcements. In other words, many campaigns simply rely on advertising alone rather than focusing on the complex behavioural issues that are necessary to prevent crime (both in terms of the perpetrator as well as the victim). Thus, their main focus is often knowledge rather than behaviour change, and while knowledge often precedes behaviour, it also often does not. Consider the many other issues like smoking: Every smoker knows smoking is bad (it’s written on the pack…) – but still smokes.
Conversely, some community policing strategies are often very close to a social marketing intervention, yet often it is not identified as such. In fact, clustering neighbourhoods and engaging in extensive community work, feedback and projects is very similar to segmentation. . And while segmenting and analysing target groups is a fundamental first step towards behaviour change, what it isn’t is a programme to actually change behaviour. The result is that some community driven programmes have more support from those they are not intended for, than from those who are the main target for behaviour change.
Conversely though, at the same time there is increasing awareness among marketing and social marketing practitioners about how powerful social marketing tools can be in crime preventions, accompanied with an increasing number of case studies and product development targeting the community policing marketing. For example, CACI, the company behind the Acorn classification system, has developed InSight Public, which can be used for neighbourhood policing.
I have recently become involved in a very interesting project: it is looking at the relationship between condom-less pornography and risk-taking behaviour. In 1980s many adult film producers started to routinely use condoms in their films. While this was somewhat less prominent in straight films, almost all gay films were shot using condoms. However, the prevalence of condoms in films has decreased since the late 1990s. At first, this was due to a small number of specialised studios releasing condom-less movies, however in recent years some mainstream studios have also started to release condom-less productions. The rise in bareback productions has however not been without controversy, and as some would claim moral panic. Some major porn producers, such as Chi Chi LaRue have publicly condemned bareback films. Yet, while there is much polemic out there over the claimed effects of bareback productions, there seems to be a distinct lack of research into how and why people consume bareback porn and the attitudes and values as well as possible harm reduction strategies associated with the topic. Some of the topics that haven’t exhaustively been explored are why and to what extent do some consumers actively seek condom-less films, or not? Is condom-less sexual intercourse a type of fantasy or is watching condom-less movies a precursor to actual condom-less intercourse? To what extent are attitudes towards unsafe sex formed by watching bareback films? And to what extent are other factors important? … And that is probably just the start of the list of questions to look at!