The dangers of social norms

Posted by Kevin Bishop - October 31, 2011
Filed in Changing behaviour

I saw a TV advert recently that I believe is going to be a complete marketing failure. A campaign that is not going to make one ounce of difference in getting people to buy that product. Why? The power of social norms.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, people are highly sensitive to social norms – information about what other people are doing and what they approve of. We look for cues to how we should behave, what we should and shouldn’t do, and what we should buy through looking at what other people do.
Westpac Bank recently launched a campaign using statistics of how few people had the appropriate insurance and superannuation cover to get people to buy more of these products. Here is an example of one of the adverts.

When I first saw this, my initial thought was; “Well 95% of the population don’t have it, and they seem to be doing just fine. Why would I need more insurance?“. I hadn’t heard or read anywhere of a growing number of horror stories of families becoming destitute and homeless due to not having “adequate” insurance. It wasn’t in the paper, on the TV news or being discussed by politicians.
If not having enough insurance was OK for 95% of Australians, then it was certainly OK for me.

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