The New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) recognised the problem it had. RTA knew the behaviour it wanted to shift. The challenge was to craft a message that would work for an audience that didn’t respond to conventional fear-based campaigns.
They went straight for the jugular, with a clever campaign based on the eternal attraction between the sexes, but with a simple twist.
Girls were shown watching a teenage boy speeding and behaving like a road-rager. In a simple but emotionally-charged gesture, they show the boy their pinkie fingers. It needs no words to explain that girls think boys who drive like maniacs are compensating for inadequacies elsewhere!
This behavioural change crusade, known as the ‘pinkie’ campaign, was splashed across media and Clemenger BBDO Sydney executive creative director, Paul Nagy, explained the success:
“It was memorable because it bucked the trend of speeding ads showing torn metal and shocking deaths. And it contained a brilliant insight: you speed to look big, but the very people you’re trying to impress think the exact opposite of you.”
It’s funny and it hits the target audience where it hurts most: in the ego. What’s more, it worked. ‘Pinkie’ became one of NSW’s most successful campaigns. Follow-up research showed three-quarters of young drivers said the ads had encouraged them to stick to the speed limit.
Statistics showed that in NSW, only a year into the campaign, 22 fewer P-plate drivers died compared with statistics from the year before.
Quite simply, ‘shift’ identifies behaviour, defines the new thinking or action required, and isolates the audience for whom the message is intended.
Yet surprisingly few influencers start here.
What do you want to shift with your messages?
What’s the difference between good and bad? Can we pinpoint the moment when a story we are telling moves from bad to good to great? When I’m pondering this difference, I sometimes think about poor Walter White from the TV series Breaking Bad – you know, he’s the high school teacher with cancer who turns into a drug kingpin so his family could be financially secure when he died. That’s one confused line between good and bad, isn’t it?
But you can’t deny Walter’s guts. Quite often in business we need just a hint of the courage displayed by Walter as he waded into the drug trade. He was such a rookie when he started, but through trial and error, taking on feedback, and practice, he became great at his (decidedly illegal) new vocation.
Yep, that’s right: I am saying we can all learn something from Walter White! Please bear with me. I’ll explain.
At my daughter’s school they started teaching the violin in grade 2, much to the parents’ horror. We knew we would have endless cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof performances before something passable emerged. But the music teacher was wise and explained that kids at that age love trying new things – and don’t even know if they are bad it at. By the time they realise, if they have stuck with it long enough, are likely to both enjoy the violin and be good at it. She turned out to be right!
Good ideas need time to incubate, and to go through a gawky adolescence phase before emerging fully-blown and beautiful. It’s often ugly ducklings who turn into swans, after all. But our pressing need for instant gratification often betrays us into making speedy decisions. That’s what makes Walter White’s persistence surprisingly admirable.
Whatever your vocation – and please let it not be the drug trade! –Walter White showed persistence, motivation and drive to succeed. Funnily enough, those traits will generally take you far regardless of whether you’re intent on using your powers for bad or good.