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,

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