The assignment after the first class was to propose behaviors that could be influenced through fun. One student proposed ‘Make New Yorkers Smile”. I keep stumbling across interesting projects that fall loosely into that theme. I am interpreting smile broadly here. Smile to me means stop, pause and think differently about the city. Take a scene, event or experience that we otherwise take for granted and enjoy it. The razor wire doilies do that for me. The behavior change may be just a one-time experience or one that continues to influence.
Below are a series of projects that made me stop and think. I discovered most of these on Spontaneous Interventions. A fantastic and inspiring collection of projects.
Can we use FUN to influence behavior for the better? Might FUN be the easiest way to motivate good?
We know from childhood studies that fun is good for us. It helps shape the brain.
It can be a very effective motivator. Nursery school teachers know this. Get a bunch of 4 year olds marching and singing and they will do just about anything – clean up, march to the door, whatever you need them to do. Fun can also motivate thousands to get out of their seats and wave their arms.
Fun is also good for the soul. It can do strange things to people like inspire them to blindly throw money away.
And it can distract us from pain. There are a lot of products for children that use fun to distract them from reality– such as Hello Kitty Band-Aids and utensils shaped like airplanes.
The impact of fun is not just anecdotal. Scientific studies have proven that pleasurable activities such as listening to music causes the brain to release dopamine, often referred to as the’ feel-good’ chemical. Dopamine-induced pleasure may help explain why music has been such a big part of human society throughout history.
Yet somewhere along the line, as we grow to adulthood, we are mostly faced with negative encouragement and threatening motivators. Products are often created to dissuade or restrict behavior. These park benches in Japan send a message: sit here but not for too long and definitely don’t sleep here. The round tube in the image on the left and the pitched seat in the image on the right create an uncomfortable bench that no one wants to sit on. Defeating the purpose of having a bench at all.
We use threatening spikes and the fear of a flat tire to greet customers returning rental cars.
And we try to scare people into behaving appropriately such as this sign to discourage the feeding of deer on Fire Island.
It isn’t all threats and negative reinforcement though. Companies such as McDonalds have figured out that fun can be an opportunity. They use fun to convince kids to eat unhealthy food. Happy Meals entice us with the promise of fun in the form of a free plastic toy.
And from the beginning Apple recognized the opportunity to connect people to their technology. When the first mac turned on and actually smiled at its owner – a revolution in computing was launched.
My local TD Bank has figured it out. They entice the next generation of customers with a loose change counter. You pour your coins into a machine, guess the total and win a prize – adding a rare element of fun to a bank visit … and the appeal is definitely not limited to children.
Zappos was founded on a promise of delivering happiness.
Mint.com makes the tracking of personal finances fun and has tapped into a new market, connecting with people who viewed financial management as an otherwise formidable task.
Serendipity and surprise is a primary feature in the restaurant finding app Urban Spoon.
Google is very smart about using FUN in the form of Google Doodles to make Google and Google search in particular, memorable and delightful. They cleverly make google a participant in our cultural lives.
The notion of using fun to motivate behavior was the theme of an initiative launched by Volkswagon in 2009 and dedicated to the idea that something as simple as fun may be the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. The campaign invited people to submit ideas for influencing positive change through fun. Volkswagon funded the best ideas. This short video is the winning project. By creating a stair that mimics a piano keyboard it persuades commuters in Stockholm to take the stairs rather than ride the escalator. This popup chocolate shop in Denmark made promises of good deeds the currency for buying chocolate. Chocolate was given away in exchange for a commitment to do an act of kindness. Payment options ranged from ‘Serve breakfast in bed to your loved one’ to ‘Don’t comment on your girlfriend’s driving for a week’. Interestingly, the most popular was ‘Help clean your friend’s house’. Least popular? ‘A week where you don’t lie to your father’. Ipad cash regsiters made it easy for people to post their promises to their own Facebook profile as well as the profile of the receiver – using peer pressure to ensure they made good on their payment. And then of course many people provided evidence of their good deeds in the form of pictures on Anthon Bergs, the chocolatier’s, Facebook page.
This recent campaign created by the Ad Council aims to persuade children to brush their teeth for a full 2 minutes. To motivate and entice children they built a website offering two-minute videos, provided by the Cartoon Network, that children can watch on a mobile device while they brush. The videos are pure fun and unrelated to dental hygiene.
There is room for infusing fun everywhere. Consider electric street signs. There is the traditional quiet yelling of the flashing DON’T WALK, the countdown to disaster which sends a clearer message, and finally, my favorite.
Persuasive Design is about making things influential. How can technology play a role in influencing behavior and change behaviors?
Technology can be a powerful tool for persuasion. Amazon has done a masterful job at realizing this potential. First and foremost, they make it easy to buy stuff – and once you have bought something it is easier to go back to Amazon and buy more stuff than it is to shop anywhere else. Simple techniques such as remembered shipping and billing information and more subtle techniques such as suggesting, personalizing and conditioning are at play. McKinsey published a report last year indicating that 30% of Amazon revenue is from suggested products.
One-Click, invented in 1998 took e-commerce to the next level. At the time it was released it was a big leap of faith for some in terms of security and trust. Amazon was awarded a process patent on one-click technology. Its impact on the bottom line is a closely guarded secret but all indications are that it is widely used and a significant force in driving repeat business.
Amazon uses the power of suggestion in several clever ways. There are subtle suggestion that you buy more than one item by grouping pairs of like-items together and enticing the purchase of the combination with a low price. Reviews and suggestions of books (or products) that others like is very effective. Clothing e-tailers take this one step further by suggesting articles of clothing that look good together. (If you like this sweater, it goes well with these jeans.)
Suggesting can be as subtle as a default checked opt-in. Changing the default opt-in on driver license renewal forms from default opt-out to default opt-in generated an increase in organ donors of 80% in Sweden.
Tailoring is a variation on suggesting and implies a suggestion that feels personalized to you. Amazon leverages your personal history and maps it to the history of others ‘like you’ to make their suggestions very targeted to your buying patterns. Amazon lists these suggestions under the label ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’. Netflix use of customer’s ratings of previously watched movies to suggest other movies they might like.
Good design is another powerful influencer. Studies have proven that we like things that look good. We trust them more and assume they are credible.
Social pressure and social endorsement has emerged as a powerful motivator. We are lemmings by nature, if our friends, or people whose opinion we respect “like” something, that is a significant influencer on our behavior. Advertising in early 2000s was dominated by social pressure using celebrities as the influencer. This has evolved to be our social circle. Facebook’s “like” functionality is powerful. We trust our friends. Leveraging that trust has huge potential for persuasion.