- Wed, January 18 2012
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
If you want to persuade someone to take a certain action, a default can be a powerful tool.
For example, people are automatically signed up to receive your newsletter when they donate - unless they uncheck the opt-in box. Or your employer starts a 401K program for you unless you request they do not. Or your state automatically defaults your preferences to organ donation on your driver’s license unless you request not to participate in such a program.
When you choose the default for people, they typically stick with that choice.
Inside Influence adds, however, there are some important nuances to guiding people to certain decisions.
Consider this example:
Delia Cioffi and Randy Garner elegantly demonstrated this effect in a study they set up that attempted to persuade college students to volunteer for an AIDS education project to be carried out at local schools. Half the students were told that if they were willing to volunteer, they should indicate their intention by filling out a form. Others were told that if they wanted to volunteer, they should leave the form blank only filling it in if they were not willing to participate. While the percentage that agreed to volunteer was roughly equal there was marked differences in the percentage of people who actually showed up to participate several days later. Only 17% of those who agreed passively (by leaving their form blank) actually appeared as promised but 49% of those who agreed to participate through active means (by filling out their form) kept their promise.
So if you’re defaulting someone to a future commitment, you may want to have them be a little more actively involved. As the Inside Influence team notes, “Imagine that your city council adopted a plan that required residents to respond if they didn’t want to recycle. A failure to respond could be mistakenly taken as an indication that residents intended to recycle leading to collection teams making many wasted trips.”
To take into account this nuance, researchers from the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College together with Bari Harlam, George Loewenstein and Kevin Volpp tested an approach they refer to as an ‘Enhanced Active Choice’.
In this experiment, people were asked about flu shots in three ways:
1. One group (the opt-in group) was simply asked to: “Check the box if you would like to receive a flu shot this fall.”
2. The second group was asked to “Check one of the following options: I will get a flu shot this fall or, I will not get a flu shot this fall.”
The second option did better (42% v 62%).
3. The third group was asked to choose between the following two alternatives: “I will get a flu shot this fall to reduce my risk of getting the flu and I want to save $50 or, I will not get a flu shot this fall even if it means I may increase my risk of getting the flu and I will not save $50.”
That did best - with 75% of people indicating that they would get the flu shot.
Are you trying to effect behavior change? You might want to try getting people to actively commit to an option - and give a good reason for it!