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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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In Social Marketing, Nuance Is Everything

by the Responsible Gambling Council | Dec 13, 2013 11:16 AM

Newscan (Vol. 15, Issue 48)

RGC had another lesson recently about the importance of listening to the audience when constructing prevention messages. We are currently focus-testing a new campaign for 18 to 24-year-olds that addresses “the chase.” The core message is that, when it comes to gambling, perseverance doesn’t pay. The focus groups clearly understood the potentially negative effects of perseverance in gambling, i.e., “keep spending until you win” is a bad idea. So far, so good.

The participants pushed back, however, on the idea of quitting or giving up. They told us it goes against everything they had been taught: “if at first, you don’t succeed…,” “never give up on your dream,” “practice makes perfect,” etc. For them, the idea of giving in or quitting detracted from the message that perseverance doesn’t pay, which otherwise resonated well. In other words, the campaign had run directly up against a deeply ingrained set of beliefs. This nuance may seem subtle, but it obviously made a big difference to the 18 to 24 year-old audience of this campaign. Respecting that subtlety can make the difference between a credible campaign and an incredible one.

A few years ago we ran into the same push back with risk messages. We showed high-risk behaviours like extreme sports and associated them with risky gambling. The problem was that focus group members, all young gamblers, found images of sky diving and rock climbing appealing. The overwhelming message for them was fun, not risk!

The issue of audience acceptance often comes up when we talk about myth busting. There is considerable resistance to dispelling myths. It seems that a lot of the time what we think of as a myth others view as a strongly held part of their personal belief system.

So what?

In the end there are several “so whats” beyond the obvious, which is to always test your campaigns with the intended audience. Don’t assume you can myth-bust or change a perception just because you can explain it. Don’t expect that "the truth" will be accepted by the audience. It is a waste of time to put out a message that the audience won’t or can’t accept. Sometimes you can find another way to present your messaging that avoids the resistance. Or, you just have to find another topic—which is what we did after focus-testing the extreme risk-taking concept. Other times, it is possible to address a behaviour directly rather than challenge the underlying belief system.

The core demand of prevention campaigns is not whether the message is truthful (though it should be, of course) but whether it resonates with the intended audience. And if you find that it doesn’t, remember that persevering with a message your audience won’t absorb is not worth the effort. 

In other words, don't chase your losses.