Power of Apps

Want to change your behaviour? There’s an app for that!

Why are social marketers using applications to change environmental behaviour?


With advancements in mobile technology including location, movement, emotion, and social engagement, Smartphone Applications are good candidates for the delivery of behavioural interventions. Not only are they relatively affordable to develop, they are often more convenient, and allow the sharing of behavioural and environmental data.

Not to mention, many Smartphone Applications are useful and/or fun!

Tool applications, like your weather app, or calculator, aim to support the user. This type of app is also used to help people live a more sustainable.  Some examples:

PaperKarma allows users to stop unwanted paper mail by unsubscribing with a photo

Control4 is a smart home command centre that allows users to manage features, such as lights, temperature, cameras, etc.

Love Food Hate Waste allows users to keep track of food planning, shopping, cooking meals etc.  It also has recipe ideas and tips.

love food hate waste

In some of the instances above,the apps stand alone.  In other instances, like Love Food Hate Waste, the tool app is supporting a broader social marketing campaign.  

Game applications are FUN and addicting. They can also change a person’s behaviour.

We all know that person who sends game invitations, for the sole purpose, of getting further ahead in the game. Or that person who returns to their phone like clock work to harvest their crop. It can be an annoying habit.  But it’s not their fault. Really!

Game applications are often designed to encourage many people to participate and incorporate different aspects to encourage behaviour, including:

Appointment dynamic: Have people return to something at a specific time ex. On Farmville, your crop is ready to harvest in 30 minutes

Competition: Create teams, have them challenge each other

Progression and levels: Make it clear what people should want to achieve

Influence and Status: Badges for certain accomplishments  

These aspects can be leveraged in social marketing apps, like GOODCoins, to encourage positive environmental behaviours. Some other examples:

Myko: Users earn points and are placed in rankings, to compel people to compete and do better. A users score will show their red (bad) behaviours versus their green (good) behaviours.


JouleBug: Users are encouraged to be more sustainable at every step by being offered hundreds of achievements (like a Chief Temperature Officer badge) and a chance to get in the leaderboard.


Rippl: Lets you set routines and track your progress.


It’s important to remember…

Even though games are fun, gamification will fall short if it does not motivate people towards results or behaviours that truly interest them. Or, if the positive behaviour is dependent on rewards, not on being intrinsically engaging. That’s because in a good behaviour change game, the levels and badges aren’t what really matter.  The true reward is the journey of developing a habit.

On that note, I leave you with a thought from Nir at Business, Behavior, and the Brain on apps changing behaviour:

“To change behavior, products must ensure the user feels in control. People must want to use the service, not feel they have to.”






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