What Drives Human Behavior…And How Can We Harness That?

Jun 30

The 100 plus attendees engaged in spirited discussion with Piyush Tantia, one of the foremost experts in behavioral economics, attests to the overwhelming success of Ogilvy Washington’s What Drives Human Behavior Exchange. Mr. Tantia translated academic, often cerebral theories on behavioral economics into a set of application-driven insights easily grasped by the PR, government, and media professionals gathered on Wednesday morning. His hour long presentation was interactive and thought provoking, challenging the audience to question long held ‘givens’ and form new reality based insights.

Traditional View: All humans are rational.


The assembled crowd laughed and nodded in agreement because all could recall a time when they had made the less rationale choice. Tantia pointed to 4 reasons why we sometimes behave ‘irrationally’. Read the rest of this entry »

Ogilvy Washington Takes on CSR Initiative Offering Training to Local Nonprofits

Jun 30

Today, Ogilvy Washington will launch OgilvyConnect, a program to provide communications training to community-based nonprofits serving the National Capital region. Led by rising leaders at Ogilvy Washington, the program’s curriculum will offer communications knowledge, tools, and resources to help these organizations better fulfill their missions.  

Inspired to give back to the DC community, Ogilvy Washington believes that the program will help unite Washington, divided by disparate proportions of wealth and resources.

La Clínica del Pueblo, which provides health services to the DC Latino population regardless of ability to pay, is one of the 21 groups selected to participate in the program. Looking for counsel on how to engage individuals and businesses who can impact their success, Viviana Knowles, Chief Development Officer for the organization, says, “We are thrilled to be part of this innovative program and look forward to implementing what we learn into our communications planning.”

Ogilvy invited select groups to apply earlier this year, and received an overwhelming response. After careful consideration, 21 nonprofit groups were been selected to attend OgilvyConnect’s 2011 inaugural program, including groups that focus on youth engagement, women’s services, hunger, environmental protection, and minority empowerment.

Based upon research conducted with membership and grantee organizations that serve these nonprofit groups as well as others—Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Venture Philanthropy Partners, and Nonprofit Roundtable—the founders of OgilvyConnect have developed a curriculum that will be delivered in four sessions annually.  It will guide groups through key steps in building successful communications programs. The program will feature presentations from experts in and outside the office and will provide an opportunity for nonprofits to learn from the day-to-day work of Ogilvy.

“Since opening our doors 30 years ago, Ogilvy Washington has done pro bono work for local nonprofits. However, we’ve never had a program that trains nonprofit leaders in communications for sustained success,” said Robert Mathias, president of Ogilvy Washington.    “OgilvyConnect allows the local community-based nonprofit groups participating to take what they learn here and apply it for years to come.”

Ogilvy to Host Harvard Behavioral Economics Expert on June 29 to Discuss What Drives Human Behavior

Jun 23

When you’re facing a decision, does the way in which a product is positioned or a question is phrased influence your answer? Proponents of behavioral economics would say yes, resoundingly.

Take this example from a study that examined the rate at which people opted to donate their organs in different countries. In some countries the rate was more than 90 percent, while in other countries it was around 20 percent or less, and there was no in between. Why? Turns out it wasn’t a cultural difference (countries thought to be culturally similar showed widely different behavior), but instead the way the question was worded on the registration form. In countries with high organ donation rates, people are opted in by default and must check a box to opt out. In countries with low rates, people must check a box to donate their organs. Some would say the decision was practically made for the respondents based on how it was positioned.

This is just one example from the field of behavioral economics, which has earned praise and criticism alike. Supporters tout an insightful new way to analyze and predict consumer decisions based on how people really behave; critics say it’s simply a repackaging of consumer behavior theory. Nonetheless, behavioral economics blends psychology and economics to ask questions important for marketing, policy development, and other efforts: why do people so often make decisions that run counter to their own best interests? How do emotions and social forces influence those choices? How do individual decisions ultimately affect the marketplace and society? Most important, behavioral economics offers creative ways to apply these behavioral insights in the hopes of developing more beneficial programs and outcomes.

Join us next Wednesday, June 29 to hear from guest speaker Piyush Tantia, the Executive Director of Ideas42, a non-profit behavioral economics R&D lab housed at Harvard University. As a leader of domestic and international financial design projects, Piyush works closely with leading academics from Harvard, MIT, and Princeton to apply cutting-edge behavioral economics research to improve the design and delivery of financial products with the goal of maximizing social impact. Since early 2009, Piyush has been leading a series of projects applying behavioral insights to foreclosure mitigation.

Click here to RSVP for this event. If you can’t join us on June 29, post your questions as comments here, and we’ll share them with Piyush on Wednesday.

Cartoon from “Behavioral Economics, Strategy and Our Hidden Side” blog

The National Prevention Strategy: A Piece of the Recovery Pie?

Jun 17

We, as Americans, find ourselves living in a time of astounding debt– $14.3 trillion to be exact. Many Americans are worried about their own financial future and freedom as well as the fiscal outlook of our country. As the Administration scrambles to find a solution, parties are further divided over the ‘best’ way to help our country absolve its debt and restore the American dream.

I was struck yesterday by the words of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) during remarks he gave at the unveiling of the first ever National Prevention Strategy by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As he talked candidly about transforming our current “sick care system” (where we invest in health only after diagnosed with serious or chronic illness) to a health care system (focused on prevention) he quoted figures illuminating just how backwards our investments in health care have been. Each year, the U.S. spends more than $2 trillion dollars on health care, but we only invest 4 cents (per every dollar spent on health care) on prevention. He continued that every dollar invested in prevention could save $6 dollars in health care costs. Now that’s a substantial ROI.

Against the backdrop of the current financial crisis, could an investment in prevention be part of our debt solution? A piece of the recovery pie. In light of these figures and the alarming rate of preventable chronic disease, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin outlined HHS’s four pronged approach for investing in prevention and creating a healthier nation. My colleague Maria James details the national plan in her post, but in my opinion, it’s a sound investment of public resources – creating healthier communities, preventing chronic and life-limiting disease, and reducing the fiscal burden of our current health care system on the economy.

As our policymakers look for new, innovative strategies to help our country crawl out of this seemingly black hole of debt, Senator Harkin, his left-wing colleagues, and health economists, who have been preaching prevention for years, may be on to something. I’m anxious to see how HHS and its peer agencies rollout this plan at the community level, and if its local programs do, over time, solicit healthy behavior changes and generate cost-savings at the national level. This unprecedented, holistic approach to improving the nation’s health is a step in the right direction for not only our waistlines, but potentially our wallets as well.

Surgeon General Unveils National Prevention Strategy

Jun 17

I can only recall a few moments in my life (so far) where I stood in awe at the realization that I’d just witnessed history in the making. Thursday was one of those moments. Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin led a press conference to announce the first National Prevention Strategy.

The National Prevention Council, comprised of 17 Federal agencies and chaired by the Surgeon General, developed the National Prevention Strategy with input from stakeholders, the public, and the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

This new national strategy aims to reduce leading causes of death and illness, such as smoking, bad eating habits and drug abuse. By focusing on prevention, the National Prevention Strategy plans to help Americans stay healthy and fit.

The goal is to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. The Strategy’s four Strategic Directions and seven Priorities include evidence-based recommendations fundamental to improving the nation’s health. Implementation of the Strategy will include public and private partners working together at the national, state, tribal, local, and territorial levels.

During the press conference, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), a major supporter of the strategy, said as a nation, we spend more than $2 trillion on health care each year, but we only invest 4 cents on every dollar on prevention. For every dollar invested in prevention, we would save $6.

Harkin said its time we move from a “sick care” system to a health care system. The idea of shifting our health consciousness away from sickness and disease and towards prevention and wellness was the theme for the moment.

The goal of creating a healthier America isn’t a new concept. For years, federal, national and local partners have independently and jointly come together to educate about the benefits of healthy living. Turn on the television and you will see the increasing number of reality shows focusing on weight-loss and overall mental and physical well-being. While this strategy was created by the government, ultimately the success of this strategy must come from the adoption of its four Strategic Directions and seven Priority areas by everyone – both government and private sector alike.

What was do you think the National Prevention Strategy will mean to the future of health and wellness in America? And, what does it mean to you?

Personal Communication Still Drives Word of Mouth on Causes

Jun 15

Quiz of the day: What is the most typical way in which people tell others about social issues and causes they want them to get involved with?

a)      In person

b)      Over the phone

c)       Via text messages

d)      Via social networking messages and invites

e)      Via personal emails or email forwards

The answer: a) in person!

New findings from the Dynamics of Cause Engagement study show that nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) report that being told in person is the way they are typically informed about causes others want them to be involved with.

These offline conversations about causes are the most prominent across generations. Even younger Americans, generations Y (ages 18 to 29) and X (ages 30 to 45) report this face-to-face engagement –56% and 59%, respectively.

Our study also found that, while generations Y and X are more likely than older Americans to use social media to learn about causes, family, friends and TV news programs still remain their top sources of information.

Social media promotional activities such as joining a cause group or contributing to a blog are also not on the top of the list of ways younger Americans engage with causes.  Rather, the more historically prominent types of engagement including donating, learning more about the cause and volunteering remain the most often ways the ways generations Y and X get involved with causes.


Does it mean that younger Americans don’t believe in the power of social media to support causes?  No!

Nearly seven in 10 Americans age 18-29 believe that online networking sites help increase the visibility of social issues and allow people to support causes more easily. More than half (55%) also affirm that social media help them get the word out about causes.


These findings suggest that, despite the growing popularity of social media tools and their great potential to engage supporters – particularly the younger ones—the “traditional” forms of learning and talking about social issues and engaging with causes remain extremely relevant.

Want to learn more about how the different generations learn about and engage with causes? Click here and download the full release.

How Social Media Can Be Used As An Epidemiology Tool

Jun 14

Social media, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and location-based services like Foursquare, are forever changing the way epidemiologists discover, track, and study the spread of disease. Instead of waiting for health authorities to investigate an outbreak and not report on results for weeks or even months, victims from all over the world are coming together and using social media to compare symptoms, attempt to determine the origin, and arrive at a diagnosis.

An article in today’s New York Times explores this new trend, discussing how new technology is “democratizing the disease-hunting process, upsetting the old equilibrium by connecting people through channels effectively outside government control.” While there is a downside to online discussion of the spread of disease, including spreading fear and misinformation about causes and cures, many epidemiologists are seeing the new trend of using social media as a positive tool.

Dr. Taha Kass-Hout, Deputy Director for Information Science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees, stating that because “SARS probably can travel at the speed of an airliner from continent to continent in a matter of hours, it just makes perfect sense to adapt the speed and flexibility of social networking to disease surveillance.”

The Pew Internet and Life Project’s The Social Life of Health Information survey released last month (see my previous post) showed that online resources, including advice from peers, serve as a significant source of health information in the U.S. This survey is the first time anyone has reported, in a national consumer survey, how consumers are using the Internet for self-tracking of their health. Health issues such as questions about a specific disease, food recall, and environmental hazard were searched online by 80% of internet users, or about 59% of the U.S. population the survey showed.

People’s communications about health events, whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, or blogs, can provide valuable information to researchers that can be processed using modern tools and extract key elements to help predict disease outbreaks.

However, there are skeptics who argue that the new social media methods only provide the illusion of better disease tracking. Not everyone uses social media, so in reality, how representative can it be? While using social media to predict disease and virus outbreaks, such as the flu, may only have modest results at best, social media can compliment traditional surveillance of disease and serve as an important tool in the case of new and emerging diseases, or in instances where little or no historical data exists.

Interested in tracking or reporting outbreaks? A mobile app called Outbreaks Near Me, which has been downloaded by over 100,000 people, allows users to rely on global positioning to help them avoid infectious hazards, and report new ones from smartphones.

New USDA Food Plate Replaces Pyramid

Jun 07

Last week, the USDA unveiled its new visual nutrition guide – a food plate, which replaced its obtuse and often hard to understand food guide pyramid. According to the food guide pyramid, servings of grains should make up the most of the food that we eat. This is no longer the case in USDA’s new nutrition guidelines.

Grains make up only a quarter of the food plate. Fruits and vegetables make up half of the food plate, protein is a smaller quarter of the plate, and dairy is placed off to the side. This suggests that most of the food we eat should be fruits and vegetables. This wasn’t so clear in the original food guide pyramid, which placed fruits and vegetables in the middle of the pyramid. Moreover, the pyramids assumed that we would know what a “serving” actually means. Who would have thought that a serving of meat equals the size of a deck of cards and a serving of fruit is the size of a tennis ball? The newer version of the food guide pyramid, which showed a person running up the side, didn’t make things any clearer.

Other messages, which accompany the food plate, refer to portion sizes, low sodium, sugar, and fat:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

The new food plate has been well-received so far, compared to its precursor pyramid. Some mention that it is so simple that even children can understand its message. Also, the plate is a symbol which makes more sense as a visual guide referring to food.  It is now easier to “see,” just by looking at our plates, if we are following the nutritional guidelines. In fact, USDA invited Americans to post pictures of their individual food plates on Twitter, by using the hash-tag #MyPlate.

What are the implications of these new dietary guidelines and new visual for social marketers?

Well first off, this changes the nutrition messages that we promote, especially on behalf of our government clients.
But perhaps more importantly, this example shows that representing messages with simple graphics are more effective. Simple visuals are more memorable and salient, and crafting a graphic that directly relates to the topic at hand, instead of a graphic that misses the mark, is more likely to resonate.

What are your thoughts on the new food plate? Do you get excited when you can see that half of your plate really is filled with fruits and vegetables, or do you think that the new food plate will hardly make a difference in your diet?

The Donate Movement: Successful Fusing of Nonprofit, Corporate, and Consumer Interests

Jun 03

Let’s break nonprofit, corporate, and consumer interests down into simple terms.  A nonprofit wants to further its mission to help people and/or the planet. A corporation wants to do good for its shareholders, its employees, and its customers. A consumer wants to live well at a fair price and feel good about purchasing decisions.  Do these sound like conflicting interests?  The recent collaboration between Goodwill Industries® and Gap Inc. shows us that the merging of these interests is very possible indeed, and has the potential to benefit all parties involved.

In 2010, Goodwill launched the Donate Movement, a public awareness initiative that underlines the importance of donating—an act that has the power to make differences in people’s lives, strengthen communities, and create healthier environments. Over the past year, a number of brands—like Family Circle, Hanes, Levi’s, and Planet Green—have joined the movement, engaging their customers in various ways to support Goodwill and its mission. Most recently, Gap, Inc. teamed up with Goodwill, resulting in an extremely visible and influential engagement of corporate, nonprofit, and consumer sectors.

From May 19-29, 2011, all Gap stores in the United States and Canada accepted clothing donations in support of the Donate Movement. Gap customers who brought in clothes to support the Donate Movement received 30 percent off of their Gap purchases, including items from babyGap, GapKids and GapBody (Consumer Interest √ ). Loyalty to the Gap brand increased with current customers, and Gap introduced their brand to new customers in a positive light, generating sales, name recognition, and increasing customer allegiance (Corporate Interest ).  The donated clothing brought in to Goodwill through Gap’s involvement will now be sold in Goodwill’s 2,500+ stores, and 84% of revenue generated from the donated clothing will be used to fund job training programs and employment placement services for underserved populations (Nonprofit Interest ).

Simple, yet tremendously effective. Collaboration doesn’t need to be complicated to work, and increasing parties involved increases impact.  On top of this, as budgets are being cut across all sectors, it’s more cost effective to work together. Corporate social responsibility is not only vital to the communities we live in. It’s also becoming a necessary part of corporate culture, brand loyalty, and even the bottom line.

Want more?  See Sarah Temple’s recent post on corporate social responsibility value here, and be sure to follow Jennifer Wayman’s posts here on the Social Marketing exCHANGE revealing results of a recent study conducted by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in partnership with the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University: Dynamics of Cause Engagement.

How alike and different are Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanics when it comes to supporting causes?

May 31

How alike and different are Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanics when it comes to supporting causes?

Our latest release on the study Dynamics of Cause Engagement revealed interesting similarities and differences in how people of different ethnicities engage with causes.

Among the most interesting findings is the fact that social media play a greater role in cause engagement for African Americans and Hispanics than for Caucasians.

Specifically, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than Caucasians to believe that social networking sites help get the word out about a social issue or cause and help increase visibility for causes.  (We reported a similar finding among women in our last release.)  Nearly one in three African American adults and four in ten Hispanics say they are more likely to support a cause or social issue online than offline today—both significantly higher percentages than reported by Caucasians.  


However, it is important to notice that, across ethnicities, the historically prominent types of engagement (e.g., donating, signing petitions, volunteering) remain among the top ways Americans get involved with causes. Likewise, traditional channels of communication (e.g., television & print media, personal relationship, and websites) remain the top ways that Americans learn about causes.

Another interesting finding: the belief that supporting causes makes people feel good about themselves and creates a sense of purpose and meaning in life is shared across different ethnicities. Nevertheless, African Americans and Hispanics are significantly more likely than Caucasians to value familial cause engagement. They believe that it’s important that their families are involved with causes and said that they were actively involved in causes when growing up.  Additionally, nearly 7 in 10 African Americans and Hispanics affirm that supporting causes gives them the feeling of belonging to a community—this figure was significantly lower among Caucasians.


Interested in learning more about how the different ethnicities engage with causes? Click here and download the full release.

Stay tuned for our next release on cause involvement by generation on June 13.