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As recently as 20 years ago, if you said your work involved behaviour change, most people wouldn’t have had a clue what you were talking about.

Today you don’t need to look too hard at your LinkedIn feed to see that people in all fields, from design to marketing, claiming to be behaviour change experts.

Whilst there has been a huge realisation about how the science can be used as a tool to influence behaviour as part of policy and strategy, the trouble is that many of these ‘experts’ are talking about behaviour change as a function of marketing, (which it isn’t), rather than a subset of behavioural economics (which it is).

A behaviour change campaign is one that uses psychological, cognitive and societal factors that inform habitual behaviour. So even once the advertising stops, the behaviour continues. 

So how do we make it work for us?

As communications professionals, we must be wary of focusing on what we want people to do instead of thinking about why they might not be doing it already.

Behaviours is another would for habits; and asking people to develop new habits can be done but it is incredibly difficult. Audiences can be like stress balls that we can squeeze into shape temporarily, but will ultimately recover their original form.

Some of the best strategies for long-term behaviour change give audiences a ‘new lens’ to view the problem and the habit we want them to create. The ‘new lens’ involves giving the audience different parameters and new yardsticks with which to evaluate their behaviour. Sometimes it could be revealing the unseen impact of their actions, or to see the problem from another person’s point of view. It could involve comparisons that make ethereal figures frightening real.

A creative strategy can be vital in creating this new way of looking at the issue, and there are a number of tools we can use to leverage this strategy such as social norming, loss aversion or reframing.

Multifaceted campaigns are required to move audiences along the behaviour change model from simple awareness, to instigating action, to ultimately creating a repeated behaviour. Messages need to be tailored to these different stages and must address the knowledge and opportunity required to create a habit, as well as the desire for change.

During the past 15 years there has been a vast array of books and papers have been written and numerous peer-reviewed studies have been published. It is a fascinating subject and there has never been a better time to learn about it. In fact, it is almost essential to understand how communications is being used world around us.


Jon Lilley is the creative director at Westco Communications with more than 30 years’ experience in advertising, commercial media and content marketing. Over the course of his career he has been responsible for numerous award-winning government and COI campaigns including Alcohol Harm Reduction, Teenage Road Safety, Teacher and Childcare Recruitment and many others. Jon now works in the public sector, bring the skills and strategies he has learnt over the course of his career to local government.

Coming up at Westco Academy...

Join us on 3 November 2021 from 9.30 - 12.30pm at Westco Academy for our 'Killer creative for behaviour change campaigns' masterclass. Here we will unpack creative strategies and teach you how to build successful campaigns that grab attention, engage your audience and ultimately make them reevaluate and change their behaviour.

More info


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