The Mumbrella 360 Experiment: stop talking, start (them) acting

In this guest posting, Adam Ferrier of Naked Communications reveals the results from a marketing experiment he conducted at Mumbrella360 last week.

For those of you who missed it, we teamed up with Save the Children and Deakin University to run an experiment at Mumbrella360 to identify the most effective way  to change behaviour using behavioural change and decision making principles (boring for some interesting for others). It was a fun way to put into practice, and demonstrate the power of some of the principles that change behaviour.

We found that the most effective way for a charity to raise money was not to hit people with rational or emotive messages, but rather by asking them to participate in the communications even in a very small way.

We also believe these learnings can be generalised to other forms of behaviour change desired. For example, convincing consumers to purchase one product over another may be more effective through ‘action’, rather than rational or emotive messaging.

Here’s how it worked:

Look at most charity organisations’ advertising and you’ll see that it focuses on one of two ways to unlock peoples’ wallets to raise money.  It’s either:

1. A rational message: Providing statistics that provide evidence as to how important the charity is, and how large the task at hand is.  For example, how many lives are at risk, how many people have died, how many degrees the earth has warmed up and so on. Followed by a ‘donate now’ message.

2. An emotive message: Showing evocative and emotive images of the cause (scenes of devastation) or the effect (scenes of happy, smiling people) of the charity. Followed by a ‘donate now’ message. Emotions of joy and fear are often used.

We wanted to compare these traditional methods with this more ‘action orientated’, actually getting people involved in the charity, participating in some capacity and only once they have done something, asking for money.

We teamed up with Mumbrella 360, Deakin University and Save The Children and conducted an experiment – on the participants of the conference (sorry about that – but you were warned). We divided some people at Mumbrella360 into one of four groups; one group receiving a rational message (stats and figures about children dying and being saved), the second an emotitive message (lots of smiling children over-coming adversity to a wonderful sound track); the third group was asked to create an advertising campaign for the charity, and finally a ‘control’ group (who were asked to solve meaningless puzzles).  All four groups were then asked for money.

It was the third of the these three groups, the ones who were asked to write an ad for ‘Save The Children’ that ended up donating the most money, they donated $4.03 each, around 35% of the total amount for cash they had on them. The rational group donated a measly $2.39 each, and the emotive group donated $3.69 each.

These results support our thinking (and there is plenty of other evidence in science and marketing that does as well). At least three psychological principles were at play, that ensure an ‘action orientated’ approach is the most effective way to increase donations:

a. Ownership: people feel more responsible for the charity, and therefore are more engaged with the message (need to pay attention)

b. Cognitive dissonance: once people act in a certain way, they strive to align their thoughts and feelings accordingly. Thereby making it more likely to give to the charity

c. Autonomy: people are invited to interact with a message on their own terms versus it being forced on them.  This circumnavigates resistance to the message, and makes it more likely they will give.

The results have a significant impact for charities, causes and brands in general everywhere (anyone who wants people to give them something!). If they involve people in their cause (whatever their cause may be), rather than just ask for money, or a purchase (with either rational or emotive messages), then they have a much greater likelihood of success.

We like to believe that this is pretty radical thinking and is flipping conventional advertising theory on its head.  No longer do we try and build awareness, then interest, then desire, then action.  We flip the old AIDA model on its head, start with action and the rest falls into place.

Thanks to everyone who got involved.

Adam Ferrier is a managing partner at Naked Communications



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