Emotional appeals drive change, says author
'Pride campaign' moves St. Lucia residents to embrace parrot as national bird.
Tue, Jun 08, 2010 at 01:01 PM
TAKE FLIGHT: A college student launched a "pride campaign" for the parrot to urge St. Lucia residents to fight for the parrot. (Photo by DFZB/ChinaFotoPress)
The St. Lucia Parrot became so endangered in the late 1970s that only about 100 were left, though not many people on the Caribbean island knew it. In fact, conservationists argue that not many would have noticed if the bird went extinct.
So a college student named Paul Butler launched a "pride campaign" in St. Lucia, plastering images of the bird with the turquoise blue face and lime green wings on buses, beer bottles, posters, T-shirts, calling cards and bumper stickers.
Suddenly, residents of St. Lucia embraced their national bird and were willing to do whatever it took to save what they suddenly saw as a part of their identity. The parrot's population has since increased nearly sevenfold due to the dramatic rise in public support.
Showing people statistics isn't enough to motivate them to care about an issue or change their habits, says Dan Heath, who co-authored the recently published book "Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard" with his brother, Chip. Making an emotional case rather than a rational one will drive change, whether it's for the environment, a community, a business or an individual, Heath said.
"A manager's Powerpoint presentation with graphs and data won't really work for the same reasons that when we tell ourselves we need to lose some weight, we often do nothing to lose the weight," Heath said. "The emotional side, which will tell you to eat those Oreos, will always win. That's why movements like pride campaigns work."
The conservation organization in which Butler works as head of programs, called Rare, has launched more than 150 similar campaigns around the world.
In his book, Heath points out another case in which a man working for a large manufacturer realizes that the company's factories are purchasing 424 different kinds of gloves for drastically different prices. Rather than compile the data in a spreadsheet for executives, the man collects each glove, tags them with the paid price and piles them on a conference table. The glove shrine proves so compelling that the company immediately overhauls its purchasing system.
Had the man made an analytic appeal, he may have gotten some supportive nods or promises to deal with the issue down the road, Heath said.
"We often make the mistake of blaming people when change doesn't happen," Heath said. "We think people are stuck in their ways or lazy and dragging their feet. But it's usually because there's direction without motivation."
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