Fact: most of our decisions aren’t made on a straight cost-benefit analysis.

Instead, the majority of us decide based on context and self-image: what kind of person am I, and what should a person like that do in a situation like this.

And that’s what’s so great about the signage pictured on the left.

I took the photo with my phone after dropping my kids off at school the other day, just because the sign was so devastatingly effective. Honestly, how much more effective do you think that speed limit sign is at actually reducing unsafe driving speeds due to the added verbiage?

Forget percentages — I’d say it’s more effective by a matter of multiples!  Like 2x or 3x more effective.

Why? Because it reframes how drivers interpret the sign, moving it from a governmental imposition that’s no big deal to flout to a community standard that would be bad manners to disregard.

How does it do all that?

By redefining the the speed limit as a “Neighborhood” speed Limit — i.e., a standard agreed upon by the local community — and by adding in the normative “Nice neighbors don’t speed.”

If you consider yourself a respectable, decent neighbor and you pass that signing going 30 mph, you feel like a heel, as if you were purposefully or carelessly endangering your neighbors’ kids and pets.

And so you slow down!

This does not often happen with just regular old speed limits.

The point is that marketers frequently fail to take this decision-making process into account, relying instead on pure self-interest, as embodied in the WIIFM acronym.

Marketers rarely consider HOW the prospect sees herself and how we can bring our desired action into alignment with her self image. We don’t emotioneer our persuasive messages. But we should…



  1. Mike Slover on 10.16.2012

    Jeff this reminds me of the “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign that the Texas Department of Transportation devised as a way to get people to quit littering on the highways in 1986. Has became an identity of Texans and Texas as a State since then,