A couple of things caught my attention last week. And both got me thinking about social norms and biases.
First of, several people around caught a light bout of flu. Nothing serious or Mexican, just a bit of a temperture and some chills and coughing. However after asking them how seriously they were treating this (given the context), I was surprised to find out that they in fact did not see it as something serious.
Reason being, they said that they most likely got it from a colleague or family member and that "it was doing the rounds". So they were not worried about it. It would pass.
The second thing is the ad you see at the top there. It is an ad for a Dutch electricity company. On it you see Maurice de Hond, a well known opinion poller in Holland.
The tag line reads:"94% of Dutch Households pay to much". Which struck me as something odd to communicate.
From research conducted by dr Robert Cialdini and by the work of Mark Earls we know that people copy behaviour of other people and that when told of a social norm, people tend to adher to it.
So saying that 94% pays to much, seems to me to generate the same effect as those I asked about their flu: "everybody is doing/having it, so I am not really worried or going to change my behaviour".
Now of course making people aware of the dangers of having a serious, and hugely viral strain of flu is important, as is letting people know that they are paying to much for utilities.
I have no data to doubt the success of the ad campaign, but I am left wondering if, pointing out the possible fact that your neighbour is most likely the only one on the block not losing money by paying to much, could have a bigger impact on converting sales.
As would getting one or two people to wear flu-masks could do more for awereness of the possible pandemic and get people to take it more serious.
The way we allow people to absorb and proces our information, is at least as important as the information itself, if we hope to inlfuence any change and action in human beings out in the real world.
Perhaps common sense, but well worth remembering.