Identifying appropriate motivations to encourage people to adopt healthy nutrition and physical activity behaviours
Many social marketing campaigns use threat (or fear) appeals to promote healthy behaviours, for example, ‘Quit smoking. You’ll soon stop dying for a cigarette’, ‘Slip! Slop! Slap! Don’t die in the sun this summer’, and ‘Speed kills’. These messages appeal to the negative motivation of problem avoidance and use fear arousal to persuade. This study explored people’s motivations for adopting healthy nutrition and physical activity behaviours. Overall, it appeared that four motivations (two negative and two positive) were particularly salient: a) Problem removal: managing illness and injury; b) Problem avoidance: avoiding illness, injury, premature death, harm to unborn baby; c) Self approval: feeling better about self; and d) Sensory gratification: mood elevation. The results suggest that, while problem avoidance is an appropriate motivation it is not the only one. Social marketing practitioners could use a range of other motivations that may be equally effective. In the same way that consumers assess marketing messages relating to goods and services, consumers of social marketing messages can choose to pay attention to the sorts of messages that work for them, and decide to disregard others that may be less helpful.