Rule #9: Press Play

Keep it positive, keep it fun

Use a positive, fun approach

To create a successful social marketing campaign, it is important to reinforce behaviour change in a positive or fun way. This includes encouraging a positive behaviour, such as promoting biking to work, rather than discouraging negative behaviours, such as deterring people from driving to work. It may also be beneficial to incorporate humour or music into your campaign.

Negative massaging can cause negative reactions

When negative messaging is used to highlight the dangers of a large environmental problem, people can perceive this as a threat. Crompton and Kasser explain that when presented with a threat, people often use coping strategies which usually cause people to engage in undesired behaviours, or not make changes at all (Crompton & Kasser, n.d.).

Making activities fun can have a big impact on the level of primary engagement your campaign has. In fact, Volkswagen’s Fun Theory believes  that the easiest way to change people’s behaviours is through fun. For instance, stairs at a subway station in Stockholm became fun to use  when the steps were made to be like the keys of a piano, noise included. Making the stairs more fun increased the number of people choosing to take the stairs by 66% (The Fun Theory, 2009).

Choose positive behaviours and make it fun!

Tip#1: Keep the messages positive

Keep the messaging positive and empowering. This will help avoid framing the problem as a threat and increase the likelihood of participation.  If people do perceive a threat, encouraging problem-focused coping will help with positive behaviour change. Doug Mckenzie-Mohr (1991) finds that people use problem-focused coping when they have a sense of community, and when people see that they can have control over the situation. Positive messaging and the promotion of positive behaviours, rather than discouragement of negative behaviours, will create a sense of control and community, and guide individuals to use problem-focused coping. Positive messaging can also help to avoid spillover, as discussed in Rule #7.

Tip#2: Make a game

There are two different advantages of incorporating games into your campaign. The first is that creating a game can encourage many people to participate. The second is that you can incorporate different aspects of games in order to encourage a behaviour.  It can be a real life game, a competition between individuals or an app that you can download. You can incorporate different aspects of games to help encourage people to change their behaviour. Some examples:

  • Appointment dynamic : Have people return to something at a specific time (Priebatsch, 2010) 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(Priebatsch, 2010) ex. LinkedIn showing a progress bar “You are 80% done your profile”
  • Influence and Status: Badges for certain accomplishments  (Priebatsch, 2010)


Ex#1: Send this instead

It is a good idea to choose a positive behaviour, rather than telling people what not to do.  The Send This Instead campaign, presented by the Child Sexual Exploitation Unit of the Ontario Provincial Police, previously focused on educating teenage girls on the dangers of sending someone a naked picture of themselves. When this approach wasn’t working, they decided to develop a clever alternative for girls to send to individuals who requested inappropriate photos. The app has a library of clever options, such as a black image with a speech bubble “Too dark?”. This encourages a positive behaviour, of sending a fun photo, rather than discouraging a negative behaviour.  The app also has information to help teenage girls deal with similar situations, and an easy link to report abuse to the police.

Ex#2: Dumb Ways to Die

The Dumb Ways to Die campaign is another successful campaign that uses fun to convey their message. The campaign focuses on creating greater awareness around the importance of safety when using a metro or train system. The message originated from the Australian Metro as an attempt to reduce the yearly rail accidents the country was experiencing. The success of the campaign is due to the featured catchy song “Dumb Ways to Die” and entertaining characters that demonstrate a number of silly ways to die, such as taking your helmet off in outer space, or dressing up like a moose during hunting season. The ad concludes that the dumbest way to die is to be hit by a train. The funny characters and catchy tune create a perfect recipe for success, which resulted in over 87 million views on YouTube. In addition to the original ad, the song was featured on the radio, and a karaoke version was also released, encouraging individuals to create and upload their own versions of the song. A children’s book and a smartphone app were also released as part of the campaign, which was the No.1 free app in 18 countries including Canada, U.S.A, Australia and Germany. The Metro reported a 21% decrease in accidents and deaths compared to last year’s statistics (Pathak, 2013). With the original intention of wanting the song to have a global appeal, this campaign has created not only national, but global awareness about the importance of safety when using a train system.

 So remember: Keep it positive

Avoid threatening fear-based messages in your campaign and try to empower individuals into problem-focused coping. Also, try to make behaviour change as fun as possible by incorporating games, music and other fun mediums.



Crompton, T., Kasser, T. (n.d.) Meeting environmental challenges: The role of human identity. WWF.Accessed from

Pathak, S. (2013). How music propelled the most popular campaign of the year: McCann’s ‘dumb ways to die’. Retrieved from Advertising Age

Priebatsch, S. (2010, July). Seth Priebasch: The game layer on top of the world [Videofile]. Retrieved from

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