Monday, June 19, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth, part 2

One of the challenges of behavior change is that it's fundamentally very difficult! Here is one key myth about behavior change:

If I just give them enough information, they will change.

Anyone who has tried to diet, or quit smoking, or quit drinking, knows that it doesn't make any difference how much you know... change is difficult.

One problem with this movie is that I believe the filmmakers are operating under this same misconception, "If we just give people enough information about global warming, things will change." I'm not saying the movie is flawed, but this reasoning is incomplete.

A helpful tool in behavior change is a great book called Changing For Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by James O. Prochaska, John C. Norcross, and Carlo C. DiClemente.

After studying hundreds of people who had successfully changed their own negative behaviors (quitting smoking, alcohol, or overeating), the authors discovered that successful changers went through six distinct stages when trying to change a negative behavior. They also identified tools that can be used to move through the stages.

An Inconvenient Truth is aimed at people in Stage 1, who don't know they have a problem (global warming) and maybe don't care. But they are also trying to move people from Stage 1 all the way to Stage 4 (Action) during the course of a 90-minute film.

It's a worthy cause, but I think they might have been trying to do too much. What do you think?

Friday, June 16, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth, part 1

I just saw this movie last night, which I hope millions of people will see and respond to. While it was scary and depressing, it also shows how one passionate person (combining their efforts with other passionate people) can make a difference in the world.

I spent ten years in environmental education, first working at a botanic garden and then at a zoo. In 2002 I attended a conference at Brookfield Zoo on conservation psychology, which is an off-shoot of consumer psychology. This is the science behind people who want to change other people's behavior, like getting people to drive more fuel-efficient cars or to recycle. What conservation psychology has found is that in order to change behavior, you have to move people through stages.

Just having the information, acknowledging there is a problem, is the first stage. This movie, An Inconvenient Truth, does a powerful job of presenting the information to us. If you had any doubts about the science of global warming, the photographs and satellite images are compelling.

But I fear that moviegoers will walk out of the theater like my friend and I, full of what's called "compassion fatigue," overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation and the mass of information. (Compassion fatigue is when people get tired of caring.)

I would have liked a larger slice of the movie to feature ideas on what you can do, as well as showing communities or areas that have made changes, and how that is helping. For example, the city of Chicago has made great strides over the last decade, planting hundreds of thousands of trees, building green buildings, recycling, and composting.

It was encouraging, but too briefly onscreen, to see the core sample from Antarctica--you can see the change the U.S. Clean Air Act made in the ice. The credits at the end are great, as they give you a list of things you can do, but didn't feel like they balanced the weight of the rest of the film.

You have to make it easy for people to change, and to take action. Here are some ideas the filmmakers (and like-minded people) could do:
Sell pre-stamped postcards in the theater addressed to the White House that simply say, "Sign Kyoto." I'll bet every person who walks out would buy, sign, and mail one after seeing this movie.

Put letters on their Web site that people can download and print, and then mail. It would be great if you could type in your zip code and the Web site would print the proper letter for your Congressperson.

Tomorrow I'll post more ideas on behavior change, for those of you who are trying to influence visitors towards conservation.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Car advertising goes a step beyond comfort

In a recent issue of Newsweek, an ad for the new Toyota Camry caught my eye. Cars have always been advertised with safety or comfort features, but this one is an example of how the experience-based business trend is appearing in unexpected places. The car features an "immune system" that supposedly helps reduce germs in the cabin, and a new seat fabric that's supposed to be more comfortable for long drives or in cold or hot weather.

Not only does this play off the fear trend about germs (consider the explosion of air-scenting features that have hit the market in the last two years) but also takes personal comfort to new levels. The ad copy is aimed at women (80% of all buying decisions are made by women), as the car is billed as a "5-passenger sanctuary."

If customers are now being seduced by car companies for comfort features, how does that affect their expectations when they visit your business?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cool lotions and foot scrubs in hot Austin, Texas

Central Market, Austin, TX: Is an upscale grocery store on steroids. The store is arranged in enclosed sections; as you walk through you feel like you are discovering new stores within a store. A fabulous take-out cafe. Incredible flowers. Amazing produce. Bulk foods that go on for aisles. While I was intrigued, I told myself, “I’ve seen this stuff before. They just have more of it.” And then I found the Fresh Spa Bar.

It’s set up like a salad bar, with chilled pots of moisturizers, masques, foot polishes, and sugar scrubs. It smelled heavenly and luxurious, and the chilled cart reinforced that everything was freshly concocted.

I could choose a cute one-ounce pot of anything for $2.99, stick on the label, and fill it up. Now, I don’t usually buy anything that costs $48 per pound! But at that moment I wasn’t interested in doing the math; this was fun and special. Even though I didn’t need anything, it was sweltering outside, and I was getting on a plane, I mixed up three containers, and then continued shopping.

Some Central Market staff members, called Foodies, are encouraged to open any product for a taste, and it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Austin. They got me excited about spending $25, because the experience was so enchanting, so different.

Tip of the day: You can rethink any tried and true business with enough passion and dedication to your goals. Central Market's focus is on choice, variety, and great food.

This is an excerpt from The Experienceology Handbook. Check back here for publication information. Thanks to Kevin Blessing, General Manager of the North Lamar store, for the interview and permission to use photos.