Aligning Behavior with Desired Outcomes

Lessons for Government Policy from the Marketing World

Published in: Social-Behavioral Modeling for Complex Systems, Chapter 38 (2019). doi: 10.1002/9781119485001.ch38

Posted on RAND.org on June 11, 2019

by Katharine Sieck

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This chapter starts from the premise that the very disparate worlds of government and marketing share a common interest: influencing certain human behaviors toward desired ends, be that safer driving or stemming the opioid epidemic or selling pizza and life insurance. However, the tactics they use to achieve these goals are quite different, in that governments can influence through legal sanctions. In the absence of influence by punishment, the marketing world relies on the social sciences to identify points of persuasion and techniques for inspiring behavior change. In this chapter, I review three approaches that I developed while in the marketing world that have potential positive benefits for policy-makers: identifying the right question, integrating social theory into quantitative data, and rethinking qualitative methods. I argue that in clarifying the motivations for and mechanisms of behavior change, it is easier for organizations to elicit alignment with the final goal. My aim through this discussion is to highlight opportunities for those in government to learn from the soft power tactics in an effort to build a more collaborative relationship with communities and citizens alike.

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