Is it too bold to suggest messaging doesn’t change behavior?

A colleague of mine shared an article titled, Should Public Health Campaigns Change Their Messages? based on a study by Statistics Canada. The study shares interesting insights on the relationship between messaging and behavior change based on its 12 years of longitudinal data from the Canadian National Population Health Survey among Canadians aged 50 or older with a chronic disease. Findings show that:

  • 3 in 4 smokers with respiratory disease… do not quit smoking
  • Most people with diabetes or heart disease… will not become more physically active, and
  • For people diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, diabetes or stroke… virtually, no one will increase their intake of fruit and vegetables.

Indeed, the reviewer of the study shares: “As many experts in health promotion are well aware, knowledge and warnings are the least effective measures to change health behaviours.” Craig Lefebvre even dubs this The 5% Solution citing Leslie Snyder’s research. Yet–our bromance with messaging continues.

Social Marketing vs. Social Messaging

Fast forward to 7:52 in the video above. Bill Smith, legendary social marketer, lays out the difference between social marketing and social messaging. He highlights how here in the United States, we’ve gotten ourselves enthralled with social messaging–missing out on key opportunities social marketing offers.

The key here is to remember that social marketing has four P’s – price, product, promotion and place, not just your promotional P. Read the latest social marketing manifesto from Social Marketing Quarterly for added thought on the full value of social marketing.

DTR the Bromance

The study and its review scratched an itch that’s been on my brain regarding messaging and (dare I say) our over reliance and investment in it. As, a messaging bromance can rapidly lead to awareness fever and trust in a one-and-done campaign. Hint: Our work is never done…

Sure–messaging has it role, and it’s important to pay attention to what types of messaging can be more effective than others. But perhaps you need to DTR it. Define the relationship. Put it in its due place and get back to work rolling up your sleeves and serving people.