Rule #10: Don’t Stop Believing

Provide reminders and continuous encouragement

Use Reminders

Once you have designed and implemented a campaign that follows the above mentioned rules you still need to make sure people actually do the activity you want them to do. Prompts and reminders can be used as a cue for people to do a specific action, and can take then form of emails, personal visits or even stickers.

Because Sometimes People Just Forget

Reminders, or prompts, are important in social marketing campaigns because they help bring people to action. According to Heckler (1994), many behaviours targeted in social marketing campaigns involve habitual prospective memory, the memory that helps perform tasks. This type of memory, needed for daily activities such as recycling and water conservation, can be greatly improved with the use of prompts and other reminders. On average, it takes 66 days for humans to form a habit, this could be shorter or longer depending on the habit and the individual (Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts & Wardle, 2010). Prompts and reminders will remind people to engage in the desired activity and form habits. Heckler (1994) states that engagement in recycling can be improved by up to 20% when using prompts to remind people.

A study done in Australia found that households with prompts on showers and taps were able to reduce water usage by 23% over households that were just given information pamphlets. The people with the information pamphlets reported doing more of the once-off behaviours than those who had no information; such as installing low flow shower heads (Kurz, Donaghue& Walker, 2005).

 Put Prompts and Reminder Close in Space and Time

Tip#1: Put prompts close in space and time to action

According to Kassirer (1998), prompts should be used when people already have the desire to perform a behaviour change, but they need to be reminded. It is also important that a prompt is as close in space and time to the activity as possible (Kassirer, 1998).  For instance with the study in Perth, the prompts on showers and taps could be seen everyday and were most effective in reducing water usage. The information pamphlets, which were received once, had a higher proportion of people doing once-off behaviours (Kurz, Donaghue& Walker, 2005). The frequency of your behaviour should determine the method of reminders you use.

Tip#2: Continue engagement by following up and providing encouragement

In cases where you have gotten a commitment from your audience, or where the behaviour is only at certain times of the year, follow-up is necessary. Give your audience a couple of weeks and then send them a reminder of their commitment (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012). The follow-up technique is an important step that aides in making the behavior change go from a short-term decision to a long-term lifestyle change (McKenzie-Mohr, 2012). Provide feedback to reduce any anxiety that may be resulting from the change, show them the positive effect of their change, and how they are personally contributing to the betterment of society (Futerra, 2011).

 Ex#1: #thinkbikes

The Automobile Association in Britain has recently attempted to make the roads safer for cyclists with their #thinkbikes campaign.  Armed with information that 55% of motorists are surprised when they see a bike on the road, the AA sent out 1 million stickers that can be placed on the rear view mirror. By placing the sticker on the rear view mirror on the passenger side, motorists are reminded to also look for cyclists in that mirror. This  prompt, placed close in space and time to the event, is helping to create safer roads for cyclists.

Ex#2: Bob the Ex-Smoker

An excellent example of continuous positive encouragement can be found in a smoking cessation campaign by Health Canada. Through eight different television commercials, the campaign tracks the journey of Bob quitting smoking, from “Bob thinks about quitting” to “Bob the ex-smoker”.  These ads are an excellent example of continuous communication, as they follow someone on the journey through quitting, being someone that people can relate to throughout the process. The commercials are supported by a website with additional resources.  For instance, one of the tools on this website is the option to sign up for daily e-mails from e-Quit. Everyday, people who sign up get a different message from Health Canada.  These messages help to remind people everyday of their commitments to quitting smoking. Over 33,000 people signed up to receive these e-quit messages.

So remember: Provide reminders and continuous encouragement

Sometimes, behaviour change is as simple as reminding people to do something. Use prompts close in space in time to the activity that you want them to do and help them form a habit. Also, use reminders where the activities are not consistent and habit forming.


Heckler, S. (1994).The role of memory in understanding and encouraging recycling behavior. Psychology & Marketing11(4), 375-392.

Kassirer, J. (1998). Tools of change: Proven methods for promoting environmental stewardship. National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Ottawa, Canada: Renouf Publishing Co. Ltd.

Kotler, P., & Lee, N. (2005). Corporate social responsibility: doing the most good for your company and your cause. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

Kurz, T., Donaghue, N. &Walker, I. (2005). Utilizing a social-ecological framework to promote water and energy conservation: A field experiment. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35(6), 1281-1300.

Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40: 998–1009.

Mckenzie-Mohr, D. (2011). Fostering sustainable behavior: An introduction to community-based social marketing. (3rd ed., pp. 83-101). Canada: New Society Publishers.

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