Listed by the The New York Times Magazine as one of the most significant ideas of 2001, social norms marketing is based on the central concept of social norms theory – that much of people’s behavior is influenced by their perceptions of what is “normal” or “typical.” Basically, we do what we think the majority of others are doing. The problem with this is that we often severely misperceive the typical behaviors or attitudes of our peers – we tend to think others are behaving more maladaptively than they actually are! For example, if people believe that the majority of their peers smoke, then they are more likely to smoke. Using social norms marketing to inform people that the majority of their peers do NOT smoke, has increased the likelihood of those same people not smoking. Basically, this is the process behind the concept of social norms:
- Drinking and Driving
- Sexual Activity
- Drug Use
Informing people that the majority of their peers are acting in a positive or healthy way, while providing alternative, healthy choices, creates an environment in which people actively strive to emulate what they believe is typical of their peers.
Office of Prevention has begun utilizing this technique and views it as an innovative health promotion technique that has only begun to be understood and used to its full potential. One Broward County school to be celebrated for piloting social norms marketing is Everglades High School. For more information on Broward County Schools’ initiatives surounding social norms, please go to the Safe Schools Healthy Students link.