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  • Justin Wright

There ain't no proof like social proof

There’s an old joke in aviation: ‘How do you know if there’s a pilot in the room? He’ll tell you’. Well, the same gag seems to ring true for those switching to renewable energy: ‘How do you know if there’s somebody with solar panels in the room? They’ll show you their poxy app.’ 3 times this week I’ve had a phone thrust in my face showing me the power output of someone’s photovoltaic array, accompanied by smug comments about how much money they’re saving and how hot the swim spa is because they’re just trying to find a use for all this free energy.... blah blah blah.

But do you know what? I am secretly impressed and more than a little envious. You see, even though we might like to pretend we’re not susceptible to social proof, we all are, and this is a great example of how it converts attitudes and behaviours. These apps give the homeowner proof of the energy they’re generating & the money they’re saving, and their desire to share this helps to convince others that this is a positive and low risk switch to make.

This concept has been especially relevant for us this week as we help a client keen to make rapid behaviour change by encouraging their consumers to switch to a more sustainable alternative. Rarely does voluntary behaviour change happen quickly though – quick shifts in the realm of sustainability are typically driven by legislation. However, the challenge for marketeers in particular, is how to use all the tools in their armoury to address the impatience for widescale shifts. There is no single answer, but it’s important in the drive to educate and explain rationally why change is good, that they don’t forget to employ the tools that tap into the irrational side of decision making. Consider the nudges that drive contemplation and then trial of better alternatives. And then provide evidence or short-term benefits that reinforce and embed the desired new behaviours. It’s nothing new – just using tried and tested techniques but applied to a nascent challenge.

And how can I be sure they work? My solar panels are being installed next week and I’ve already downloaded the app!

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