The Power of the Broken Promise

Tina Rosenberg has a great book called Join The Club that analyzes "how peer pressure can transform the world". She provides a few examples of what she calls the 'social cure' that has helped slow the spread of AIDS in South Africa, create a more meaningful church community, curb smoking rates in teens, and even overthrow a dictator.

But it's the anti-smoking campaign that stuck out to me.  For years, there was campaign after campaign telling youth how bad smoking was for them, and yet, teen smoking rates never declined.  No matter how many diseased lungs and tracheotomies they showed, it didn't matter.

The only thing that worked was when teens were made aware of tobacco company memos stating that they knew smoking was addictive and were intentionally selling to kids.  It wasn't that cigarettes were bad for you that got their attention; it was the fact that they were lied to.

Broken Promises

Thus, the Truth campaign was born and had tremendous effects on smoking rates in teens.  The campaign focused on the dishonesty, or broken promises, and that is what really set people off.  The ads hit that message hard, groups formed to make the message real, and results were finally realized.

Telling people that a product could kill them was less effective than telling them they were lied to by the people that made the product. These young consumers were more protective of their integrity than their health. 

Again, make your promises, and find ways to keep them.