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  • Writer's pictureKevon Gareth Fodergnham

AMPLIFYING the Power of Action: Understanding Behavior Change Campaigns

Written by - Kevon Gareth Foderingham

Dr. Jacinta Mpalyenkana says,"Behavior is the end result of a prevailing story in one's mind: change the story and the behavior will change.” The key to behaviour change does indeed reside in the mind and on our individual journeys through life, questioning our behaviors is an essential exercise. It is quite natural to find ourselves pondering why we act the way we do, especially when confronted with our less desirable actions that ripple negative impacts across ourselves, others, and the world. But can understanding the root of our behaviors pave the way for change? Indeed, it can. Transforming undesirable behaviors is pivotal for individual growth, community harmony, and environmental sustainability - enter the Behaviour Change Campaign, one of the most well used tools of those working in the social change arena.

What is a Behaviour Change Campaign?

Behavioural change is the process of adjusting or transforming the way a priority population behaves. It will involve encouraging, supporting and equipping these audiences to make adjustments to individual daily habits, leading to social change. In the realm of humanitarian aid and international development, behavior change campaigns are deployed to shift both individual and community behaviors and attitudes towards a range of complex areas. In short, a behaviour change campaign aims is to bring about a specific action or change in behaviour from your priority population and this is why I also like to refer to them as action campaigns.

Habits and Behaviour

A habit, in psychology, is any regularly repeated behaviour that requires little or no thought and is learned rather than innate. Habit formation is thus the process by which behaviors become automatic.

Research, such as the 2009 study from the European Journal of Social Psychology, sheds light on the complexity of habit formation. It unveils a spectrum ranging from 18 to 254 days for habit establishment, with an average of 66 days for behavior automatization. Notably, certain behaviors prove more resistant to change than others, influenced by individual predispositions.

Breaking the shackles of habit demands a multifaceted approach. Pleasure-driven habits, in particular, wield a tight grip due to the dopamine-fueled rewards they offer. Dr. Nora Volkow, of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, advocates heightened awareness as the initial step towards change. Identifying triggers and altering behavior towards them is pivotal.

"Moreover, substitution strategies, like replacing unhealthy habits with beneficial ones, offer a pathway to transformation."

Elements of Effective Behaviour Change Campaigns

Behavior change campaigns serve as catalysts for societal evolution, encompassing health, environmental, and personal wellness realms. These initiatives follow a strategic trajectory, ushering individuals from awareness to action, ultimately fostering specific outcomes. Yet, there's no one-size-fits-all approach; each campaign is tailored to its organizational goals and target audience.

Effective campaigns delve into diverse behavior change topics, from smoking cessation to environmental stewardship and personal well-being. Small shifts in behavior can yield monumental impacts on health and life expectancy, cascading positive effects onto broader communities.

To execute a successful behavior change strategy, eight pivotal steps come into play:

  1. Define the Problem and Key Actors: A deep understanding of the issue and relevant stakeholders lays the groundwork.

  2. Conduct Thorough Research: Know your audience intimately through qualitative and quantitative research.

  3. Outline Your Approach: Uncover what motivates your audience and tailor your messaging accordingly.

  4. Change Perception: Make behavior change enticing by framing it as enjoyable, easy, and trendy.

  5. Identify and Remove Barriers: Address obstacles hindering behavior change, providing tools and interventions for support.

  6. Encourage Baby Steps: Break down behavior change into manageable increments to instill confidence and motivation.

  7. Utilize an Integrated Approach: Employ a mix of digital, traditional, and interactive tools for comprehensive engagement.

  8. Monitor and Evaluate: Continuously track campaign effectiveness, adapting strategies based on real-time insights.

In essence, behavior change campaigns wield transformative potential, catalyzing shifts towards healthier, more sustainable lifestyles, communities and society as a whole.

Examples of Successful Behaviour Change Campaigns

Got Milk?

In the realm of advertising, certain campaigns stand out as transformative forces, reshaping behaviors and perceptions with lasting effects. Among these giants is the iconic "Got Milk?" campaign, a brainchild of the California Milk Processor Board and Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Launched in 1993, its simple yet compelling question sparked a revolution in milk consumption.

Championing the cause of dairy, "Got Milk?" sought to entice younger demographics to embrace milk, combating the decline in consumption. Its impact was palpable, with milk sales soaring and the dairy industry reaping significant rewards. By leveraging celebrities and a catchy slogan, the campaign captured hearts and minds, transcending mere advertising to become a cultural phenomenon.

Crash Test Dummies

Similarly, the Crash Test Dummies campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tackled the issue of seat belt usage head-on.

Through humorous yet poignant PSAs featuring Vince and Larry, the campaign drove home the importance of buckling up, ultimately saving lives and reshaping societal norms.

Got it? Get it.

Closer to home, the "Got it? Get it." campaign spearheaded by PSI Caribbean tackled HIV prevention and sexual health with vigor. Employing a multifaceted approach spanning traditional media, community outreach, and social media engagement, the campaign left an indelible mark on the Caribbean region. By normalizing condom use and fostering positive attitudes towards sexual health, "Got it? Get it." achieved commendable results, touching the lives of thousands across the region.


Reflecting on these campaigns prompts introspection. What made them effective? Was it the catchy slogans, celebrity endorsements, or the strategic use of media platforms? Undoubtedly, a combination of factors contributed to their success. From changing perceptions to breaking down barriers, each campaign adopted a holistic approach to behavior change.

Yet, challenges persist. Behavior change is nuanced, requiring sustained effort and adaptability. While these campaigns achieved commendable results, they also highlight the importance of continuous evaluation and innovation.

As we contemplate the power of action campaigns, let us ponder their efficacy. Are they the most suitable approach for our initiatives? What lessons can we glean from past successes and failures? By delving into these questions, we pave the way for future endeavors to make meaningful strides towards positive change.


Kevon Gareth Foderingham is an art for social change advocate, creative and social impact consultant, artis and author. He is the Founder and Principal Consultant of East Yard Enterprises.


AMPLIFY: Nonprofit Creative Capacity Building Program is an initiative of East Yard Enterprises implemented in collaboration with U.S. based MPCo - The Marlin Payne Company and funded by the U.S. Embassy Port of Spain at the end of last year. 

Since the program’s launch in November 2023, East Yard Enterprises, MPCo and guest speakers have been working directly with 11 Trinidad and Tobago based nonprofits and social enterprises, providing them with training, information and tools that support social sector capacity building in strategic creative campaign development that includes marketing, budgeting, resource mobilization, and brand management best practice.

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