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What “This Girl Can” Can Teach Us About Effective Compliance Communication

By Kirsten Liston

In 2015, Sport England decided to tackle the challenge of getting more women to exercise.

Their research showed that two million fewer 14- to 40-year old women were participating in sports than men—despite that fact that 75% said they wanted to be more active.

The result was the “This Girl Can” advertising campaign.

I watched the TV spot, and I found myself surprisingly moved. You can watch it below:

Turns out there’s a reason I had an emotional reaction: The campaign was rooted in deep research into the emotional barriers that keep women from participating in sports.

There’s a great write-up about the ad on Campaign, a magazine and website for the marketing, advertising, and media communities.

If you’re trying to communicate persuasively with an audience, I recommend reading the whole case study. Our top 3 takeaways:

1. Persuasion is about emotion, not information.

The “This Girl Can” spot contains absolutely no new information. Why? Because lack of information isn’t the problem.

Instead, research into the target audience uncovered a fear of judgment, based on appearance, ability, or even just spending time on yourself.

Women didn’t need more information—they needed a different perspective, one that allowed them to change or challenge their assumptions.

Similarly, there are compliance topics where lack of information really isn’t the problem.

Take harassment: Even before the current #metoo moment, pretty much everyone had enough information to recognize harassment and know it wasn’t appropriate.

Consider: Are there topics in your program where you’re throwing information at a culture or emotion challenge? What could you do instead?

2. Impact comes from audience insights.

The campaign started with nine months and 600 pages of research. Everything about the ad was a direct response to what their target market was telling them. The people involved listened closely.

Consider: You’ve likely done a lot of work to identify your risks. Do you also know what’s stopping your audience from complying?

Could there be emotional or cultural barriers—or even just impatience—that stop people from doing what they know is right? If so, what kind of message could change that?

3. You can do a lot in 90 seconds.

“This Girl Can” is 90 seconds long, which is exactly the mark we try to hit these days with our custom videos. (We find people lose interest by the two-minute mark.)

According to a case study on the website Campaign, the spot has been watched more than 37 million times on Facebook and YouTube alone.

And they’re not just watching: The campaign got 1.6 million more UK women to exercise.

As the Campaign write-up says, “Changing consumer behaviour is one of the fundamental challenges of marketing, and….no mean feat.”

Changing behavior is also one of the fundamental challenges of compliance, so it’s worth noting that behavior change isn't correlated to the length of your communication.

In fact, you can get results in as little as 90 seconds, as long as it’s a powerful communication and you’ve done your homework going in.

As anyone in advertising will tell you, developing a message that drives real behavior change isn’t easy—but it is possible. Are emotional or cultural barriers holding your audience back? We can help. Schedule a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts.

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