Abstract

This project was one component of a larger regional effort developing a litter prevention campaign. The Regional Litter Prevention Campaign has been built on a unique foundation of in-depth social marketing research and a team of three innovative firms; OpinionWorks, Noral Group International, and Ruder Finn. This research led to the creation of a Toolkit of communication items for partnering jurisdictions, agencies, non-profit organizations, and citizens. The extensive research shows there are deep-rooted barriers to changing littering behavior. For most litterers, littering is nearly an impulsive behavior and defenses for this run high including repression, denial, rationalization and externalization. The Regional Litter Prevention Campaign aims to take litterers out of their defenses by raising anxiety about littering and offering a higher level reward for being trash-free through the key-message of the campaign.

Behavior

Behaviors: Picking up litter and disposing of trash properly

Behavior Pattern: Continous

Why was this behavior selected?

Litter and trash have long been recognized as a problem in the POtomac watershed. AFF and our partners have been coordinating Cleanups for many years, but it is not sol.ving the problem. Citizens, elected officials, agency staff, and others have all been looking for a solution to this campaign that is not only exciting byt also effective. The extensive research conducted in order toa ddress the issues of admitted litterers produced a campaign that will hopefully change behavior. The response from stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive and most are eager to begin implementation on whatever level they can.

Are there component behaviors to the target behavior?

  1. Test local response to the initial anti-littering and anti-dumping messaging concepts via focus groups conducted in the upper reaches of the Potomac River watershed in Western Maryland.
  2. Test the best of in-region and national campaign strategies to determine what approaches and techniques resonate with residents of the upper reaches of the Potomac River watershed.
  3. Identify a broad tagline message that can be recognized throughout the Potomac River watershed, as well as develop sub-messaging, which appeals to targeted audiences in the upper reaches of the watershed.
  4. Identify outreach strategies that will be effective with audiences throughout the Potomac River watershed, as well as rural and suburban residents of Western Maryland.
  5. Incorporate results of the Westerns Maryland focus groups into the overall anti-litter PROACT campaign and 5-Year PROACT Communications Plan.

Target Audiences

Audiences: Litterers, Businesses, Apartment renters, Rowhome/town home/condo owners/renters, Detached single family homeowners/renters

Primary Audience: Litterers

Secondary Audience: Businesses

Demographics: N/A

Ages: N/A

Description of Target Audience

No demographic information was collected by the contracted groups. These people care for their own property and their family. They are busy with their daily lives and are not consciously thinkign about what they do with trash or any longer term consequences of their actions. The primary issue for this person is, however, some immediate gratification and reqard that comes with getting rid of things and discarding what is worthless to them in life, literally and metaphoically. Ultimately, getting rid of trash helps them to get rid of their own bad feelings and their own sense of inadequacy. Trashing when and where they want gives them a sense of automony and power. WHen they take out their anxieties on other streets and neighborhoods, it is a self-gratifying and self-enhancing experience They fail to connect how what they choose to do with trash could hurt the very things and people they care most about.

Research

How did you research your audiences: Focus groups

Barriers

Common trashing defenses:

  1. Repression: keeping issue out of consciousness
    1. "I don't remember trashing...(recently)."
  2. Denial: refusing to believe something exists to protect oneself from anxiety over the truth
    1. "It doesn't matter"
    2. "It's not really trash"
  3. Rationalization: utilizing a piece of reality as a defense
    1. "My litter wouldn't hurt anyone"
    2. "If there were only more trash bins; I can't find one when I need one"
  4. Externalization: project their own issue onto something/someone else
    1. "There are people who get paid to take care of trash"
    2. "That neighborhood just doesn't take care of themselves; they deserve it"

External factors

Trashing, or improperly disposing of trash, gives people instant gratification. It also meets their unconscious needs and can help them to feel empowered.

Rewards at 3 Levels:

  • The Innocent: "It feels right", "I act as I want, not as I should"
  • The Explorer: "I enjoy getting away with it", "it's almost like stealing a toss", "I feel autonomous"
  • The Warrior: "I feel empowered" by taking out anxiety on others' (property" while protecting what is theirs.

"When I throw trash I am throwing...."

  • "All those people I had interviews with. Their mannerisms told me they didn't think I was part of their organization. They were just going through the motions."
  • "An unimportant person"
  • "A monster. A male...my uncle yelled. He was trash"

Strategy

Outreach Tactics: Extrinsic rewards, Intrinsic rewards, Public commitment statements, Social diffusion, Social norms

What media/communication channels did you use? Face to face, Newspaper, Publications, Small group or public meetings, Social media

Primary Messages

Key message: By choosing to take care of trash, I am protecting muyself and my family's health, happiness and safety"

It is important to recognize the barriers/defenses and recognize the needs of the trasher. The needs of the trasher are not the community and not the Potomac, but rather the need not to have anxiety and the need to be consistent with their values (love for the things that are theirs such as family, homes, cars). Based on this, an effective behavior change campaign will create some anxiety about continuing to trash, then help them to feel autonomous, and then finally substitute another reward in the place of previous trashing behavior.

Lessons

How did you measure impact? Survey, Attendance List

Total People Reached

Total of 15 attendees at 2 focus group events.

Most significant lessons learned

While the final campaign materials are completed it is now time for implementation. One of the major goals from the start of the campaign was for jurisdictions to implement the campaign with what they are already doing. however, all jurisdictions and agencies ahve seen decreases in budgets which make it difficult to add new activities. This has slowed implementation, but alternative and inexpenseive means of implementation are still continuing.

What worked?

The research conducted has been the most valuable portion of this project. Research for bothd development of the campaign and in asessing the materials for effectiveness will be the key success for this campaign and could be the key to success of any other capaign wishing to change the behavior of people. This research has allowed for rapid participation and adoption by jurisdictions because it's potential for effectivenss is shown through research.

What were the most significant limiting factors to greater success?

The research conducted has been the most valuable portion of this project. Research for bothd development of the campaign and in asessing the materials for effectiveness will be the key success for this campaign and could be the key to success of any other capaign wishing to change the behavior of people. This research has allowed for rapid participation and adoption by jurisdictions because it's potential for effectivenss is shown through research.

Advice Or Suggestions

The results from our two Hagerstown focus groups have guided the direction of our litter prevention advertisements, and will be useful as we begin to implement the campaign in western Maryland and other rural areas within the Potomac River watershed. Since these groups were held, we have finalized the first advertisements to be used in the campaign, based upon the Sandbox draft with comments from the group included. There is now more trash strewn throughout the image which shows two children playing in an actual park sandbox. The language in the ad has been simplified and altered to reflect the audience's desire for an empathetic, empowering tone. As the campaign is brought to western Maryland and other rural aras, communications will focus around the outlets listed above. in addition, a website and social media will be used. Local community outreach led by church and other local leaders will be an effective mode of word-of-mouth advertising.