Marketing for beggars

Imagine I gave you a brief in which I asked you to find a way to get beggars more donations. What would you do? If you work in advertising, you will probably come back with a campaign that gives beggars a face and a story. Your campaign strategy will be aimed at increasing the motivation to donate by calling for more empathy with the homeless.

If I gave the same brief to a behavioural designer, increasing motivation is the last he would do. Behavioural designers first see if they can make the desired behaviour easier or the undesired behaviour more difficult. The most obvious method would be to replace the question for a donation with an easier question, or a more pleasant one.

The most ingenious beggar I ever came across had a board that said: ¨which religion gives most to the homeless?¨ And he accompanied this with a little donation bowl for each religion. It will not surprise you that the atheists wanted to demonstrate that they did better than religious people. Another smart beggar had trained a bird to take the coins out of people’s hands. He turned the donation into a small payment for a Facebookpost-worthy attraction.Marketing for beggars

Behavioural designers are always looking for a ¨hot trigger¨ moment: the moment when motivation meets ease, or when not taking the bait is harder than simply taking it. On YouTube there is a hilarious video where a beggar asks for money through the open window of a parked car. The woman in the car indicates she only has credit cards with her, upon which he coolly produces a mobile payment machine out of nowhere. And the beggar on my last holiday who had left a ¨waterfall preservation donation box¨ next to a lonely waterfall. He won my prize of the day.

The moral: if you get a behavioural briefing, always think of how you can make the behaviour easier and more enjoyable, or the undesired behaviour harder. Start thinking of advertising only when these options fall short.


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