Rule #5: Pledge Allegiance

Make the behaviour change public


Make the audience commit to a change

Commitments are a useful tool to incorporate into your campaign when asking your audience to change their behaviour. Commitments come in many forms. For instance, your campaign may ask your audience to write down their commitment publicly and in a group, or it may ask your audience to verbally state their commitment individually (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012).


Public commitments increase the likelihood of behavior change

The act of making the commitment public makes people more likely to alter their behavior (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012). A study on public commitments and energy use showed that people who made a public commitment and agreed to have their names in the newspaper decreased their energy usage by 15-20%. Those who made a private commitment were found to reduce their energy usage by 0% (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012). The act of publicly committing induces a sense of shared responsibility, and is a great partner for harnessing the power of social norms and social diffusion (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012). Public commitments will be seen by others, and thus begin to foster social norms (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012).

The act of following through on a commitment plays into the deeper role of consistency in people’s lives. People who are consistent are perceived to be more reliable, and trustworthy than those who are unpredictable (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012). This notion goes hand in hand with the idea that when people agree to a small request, they are more likely to agree to a bigger request in the future (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012). For example, people who agree to sign a petition to make their condominium more accessible, subtly start to view themselves as someone who supports accessibility initiatives, and is thus more likely to agree to a larger request, for example a donation, in the future (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012).

Futerra acknowledges that pledges and commitments have their place in behaviour change campaigns, but argue that it must be take it a step further. They believe that for commitments to truly work in the long run, people must pledge to other people not just a website, or themselves (Futerra, 2011). In order for a commitment to be successful, it must be meaningful to the person they are committing to, thus personalizing the pledge will be the key to its success (Futerra, 2011).


Make the commitment visible and public

Tip#1: Don’t force or trick people into giving commitments

Commitments must be made out of their own free will; don’t pressure your audience into committing to something because chances are they will not follow through (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012).  If individuals are coerced into the commitment, then they do not view themselves as caring for the cause and will not agree to larger requests in the future.

Tip#2: Put yourself out there

Pictures are a great way of making the commitment visible and public. Once commitments have been written down, post them online, in a newspaper, in a hallway or even on the street – for the world to see. This acts as a type of “receipt” for your audience’s commitment. Make it a reminder for those that have committed, and a marketing piece for others to learn about the campaign (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012).

Tip#3: Start with small requests

By asking people to do small things, such as wear a pin or put a sign on their lawn, you are changing the way they perceive themselves. This can be used to get people to agree to larger requests in the future (Mckenzie-Mohr, 2011).


Ex#1: All at Once

A great example of a campaign utilizing commitment techniques is musician Jack Johnson and his All At Once Campaign. Striving to make a positive change in communities all over the world by engaging fans in environmental action, the Grammy nominated musician asks his fans to “Capture their Commitment” at concerts, and publicly committing to change their actions in one of two areas: eat local food or go plastic free and posting it to social media (All At Once, 2013). 

Ex#2: Turn it Off

The Turn it Off Campaign in Toronto was aimed at reducing engine idling in order to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to global climate change. The campaign used signs to remind individuals to turn off their engines, however they also had personal contacts who explained to the individuals the benefits and importance of turning their car off when sitting for more than 10 seconds. The driver was then asked to make a verbal commitment to reduce engine idling and if they would attach a sticker to their car window. This commitment decreased frequency of engine idling by 32% and the duration by 73%. This an excellent example of making a verbal commitment, but also making it public by placing it on the windshield(McKenzie-Mohr, 2011, pg. 50).


So remember: Make public commitments

Commitments are a great technique for furthering behavior change in your social marketing campaign. Maximize their potential by asking audience members to commit publicly, make it personal, and give them a “receipt” to help keep them on track moving forward.



All At Once. (2013). All at once: About. Retrieved Dec 12 2013 from

Futerra. (2011). New rules: new game. Futerra sustainability communications. Retrieved Dec 12 2013 from

McKenzie-Mohr, D. P. (2012).Fostering sustainable behavior: an introduction to community-based social marketing. Gabriola, B.C: New Society Publishers.

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