Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shame foster change in consumer behaviour. Is this an idea to base effective internet marketing on?

We all have heard of benchmarking which is so popular in the world of business. One organization compares them with the best organisation in an industry. Out of such comparison they try to improve themselves to become at least as good as the organisation compared with.

Transparent is a key word when we talk about comparison. It is about making everybody’s actions visible to everybody else. By this one can foster competition and change. When everybody can see what everybody else does, you can easily and naturally validate your own efforts and hopefully get better motivated to perform even better.

The “network effect” on Internet seems to be building on these ideas. In a blog post Katie Fehrenbacher writes about how to reduce carbon footprints with help of the network effect. On Facebook you can chose to use the tool “carbon minder” which display how much carbon you have created. You do this in front of your friends. The point is that if your consumption has created more carbon then compared with your friends – you should feel ashamed. We know from history that some of the most powerful motivation factors for human behaviour are greed, vanity, and shame. So it is reasonable to assume that shame will create motivation for you to reduce your carbon production - if the eyes are on you, as in the Facebook case.

What can marketing on internet learn for this? I think that the idea of network effect have much going for it! Here are some tentative thoughts about it.

In marketing we have learnt that you should be cautious with blame and fright tactics. Marketing messages which make the consumer guilty or shameful due to their current behaviour run the risk of only creating hostile customers.

However, to learn from the above we should have an approach which focus on the human social aspect where the consumers wants to compare and compete with each other. It is something more than the well known Viral marketing where a message is spread through word of mouth on Internet. This marketing should aim at encourage consumers to transparency and benchmarking - an opportunity for the consumer to show of in a playful and fun way. Competition can e.g. be about collecting, usage, and/or challenging. Such marketing should have a self development as well a shame component. The outcome should be a positive change in behaviour. With positive, I mean a feeling of fulfilment and meaning for the consumer.

Well, I stop my tentative thinking here. More thoughts have to go into this in later blogs. Right now I’m looking into John Cow blog and those exiting experiments with games and challenges which go on there. From what I can understand, these activities seem to be very successful.

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