Monthly Archives: August 2011

I have a strong longing to understand more about desire…

Desire. It’s the ‘D’ in AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action). It’s the fundamental cause of all human actions according to Hobbes. What does it mean for social marketers? Desire seems to be a lot about what we want other people to do – the “desired behaviour”. 

Having identified a desired behaviour – let’s say, pregnant women taking folic acid for the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy – which segment of this population should we target? We might pick women who already believe that taking folic acid is a good idea and have some level of desire to do so. But let’s make life hard for ourselves, and choose those women who have no desire to take folic acid. Yes, yes, I know I’m supposed to but….

If Desire is the precursor to Action, then how do we encourage desire where there is none? Can you make somebody crave/long for/salivate over/lust after (pick your favourite “desire” synonym) something where there’s no appetite? 

Two thoughts: Pavlov’s dogs and acting.

Pavlov’s experiments resulted in dogs salivating when they heard a bell ring. By associating the sound of a bell with an object of desire (food), Pavlov was able to prompt a physical response of desire for something (we assume!) that previously didn’t exist. Does the prospect of taking a folic acid supplement get your juices flowing? Me neither. But it could…

If actors were limited by their personal experiences, then this advert might have been a reality “Young male orphaned wizard required for multi-movie project; ability to speak to snakes essential.” Instead, they are often advised to draw on an experience that is similar on some level and use that to help them prepare. I’ve not been trapped in a room with a zombie (as far as I know) but I don’t need to in order to know what heart-racing, adrenalin pumping, numbed-finger fear is like.

So back to folic acid. The question to ask in this example could be: what do pregnant women desire (to have, or to avoid) in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy? And how can the experience of taking folic acid supplements be changed to feel more like those things and to trigger the same reaction?

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