Scalable influence

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

During 2009, the advertising agency DDB in Stockholm created a campaign for Volkswagen in which the car company sponsored a competition to find ideas that would make people change behaviours…by making something more fun. Not surprisingly they called it ‘The Fun Theory’1.

The three original experiments were fascinating (see pictures on the next page). In one of them, the stairs of an underground station, next to an escalator, were converted overnight into a giant piano keyboard. The proper notes would play when people stepped on the keys/steps. The idea was to make more people use the stairs instead of the escalator, because the stairs would be more fun. Sure enough, 66% more people than normal used the ‘piano stairs’. In a second experiment, a ‘bottomless’ bin was installed in a park. It was fitted with invisible receptors and a sound system so that when anybody dropped anything inside the bin, it would sound as if the item was falling deeper and deeper. Well, 72 kilos of rubbish were collected in a single day, 41 kilos more than in the ‘normal’ bin nearby. In a third experiment, a public recycling bottle bank was fitted with a dashboard and flashing lights similar to an arcade game. Throwing bottles through the holes produced different sounds and different scores on the flashing dashboard. In one evening, 100 people used that bottle bank compared to only 2 at the ‘normal’ one nearby.

These experiments are wonderful examples of many things, not only of ‘making things fun changes behaviour’. But powerful as they are, the key questions for us in the business of social infections are: what happens after the first day/week/month? And how sustainable is this behavioural change?

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