Lasting change happens over time. The same is true for social change and behavior change campaigns—they necessitate clear and consistent efforts over time. They are challenging, but certainly not impossible. In this case study, we will explore the three key parts of any successful social or behavior change campaign: forming the message, designing for the community, and creatively reaching an audience. Using four different client examples, you will quickly see what makes the difference between a successful campaign and a good effort.

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The Challenge

When it comes to creating behavior change in any person, it is a challenge. This is for a myriad of reasons, but usually, because the thing you are looking to change is deeply rooted in how that person sees themselves, views the world, and how their culture influences their beliefs. The same logic can be applied to social change campaigns, except you are looking to change the collective opinion and behavior of an entire group of people as opposed to one person’s behavior. Working from a common framework called Human-Centered Design (HCD), the Uptown Studios Marketing Team uses design thinking and HCD methodologies to form the message, design for the community, and creativity reach the audience

Forming The Message

The first step to changing the behavior of any given audience is to learn how you are going to communicate with them. To discuss this step, we will use our work with the Placer Community Foundation as an example.

In the summer of 2020, the Placer Community Foundation (PCF) received a grant for COVID-19 outreach. With no vaccine in sight and the holiday season fast approaching, PCF wanted to create a campaign to encourage Placer County residents to wear a mask and social distance. In Placer County, there was a disproportionately high amount of Latinx people testing positive for the virus in comparison to their non-Latinx counterparts. Wanting to address this disparity, the campaign messaging needed to focus on Latinx audiences while also offering parallel messaging that could be useful for the general Placer County population. With our target audience identified (Latinx people in Placer County), we first needed to research and understand them. We did this through two main avenues: first by collecting data from PCF and their county connections and second through Census tract information and Pew Research Center research. Our work with PCF included a baseline survey of Contract Tracers in Placer County, a community-based organization survey to help understand the needs of the Latinx community in Placer County, and lastly a survey of the Placer Latinx Chamber of Commerce. Combining insights from all surveys and supplementary research, the Uptown Studios Marketing Team was almost ready to move forward with creating messaging. 

Before we could begin to create messages, we identified the actions we needed our target audience to complete. Given the pandemic, the main call to action of the campaign was very clear: wear a mask and social distance. However, initial research informed the Marketing Team that many Latinx families live in larger households, making social distancing difficult. Taking this into consideration, a third messaging arm was added: “harm reduction” education. With our call-to-actions identified, we then created key messages. To create proper behavior change, we then identified the easiest action that could be built upon the existing habits of our target audience. The Uptown Studios Marketing Team rolled all of these facets into messages that they determined would have the most impact. 

Those messages went through rounds of testing and feedback from members of the Placer Latinx community until the final campaign messaging was chosen and implemented into all designed materials. 

Designing for the Community

Like the work we did for Placer Community Foundation, the animations created for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) needed to look like the community they were speaking to. Similar to the process of identifying the message, the Uptown Studios Marketing and Design Teams collected their research and brainstormed the proper look and feel for each campaign. This meant deciding on the ages of people in images, what scenarios to highlight, and what family dynamics to represent. Since CDPH’s campaign was only an animated video, the look and feel adopted the color palette of CDPH and instead, the Uptown Studios Video Team focused on animating scenes that depicted the target audience in action: carpooling to work, grocery shopping, and riding public transit. 

To get a better idea of how a social change campaign might look when it’s solely image-based, our work for the City of Sacramento, Show the Love campaign is a great example. Both the Show the Love campaign and the CDPH animations came from government and community-based organizations. Given the surplus of COVID-19 related campaigns also happening at the time, both designs were purposefully made to look like they came from a non-government source. This meant focusing on visuals that felt authentic to the target audience while also featuring actual members of the target audience. Partnership engagement for the City of Sacramento campaign meant the Uptown Studios Marketing Team was able to secure photos of beloved community members to utilize on social media, digital ads, and billboards. Using real community members gave the campaign a genuine, approachable feel that was perfect for relaying its central message: Show the love to those in your community by wearing a mask and social distancing. 

Creativity Reaching Audiences

With all campaign assets ready to go, it came time for the Uptown Studios Marketing Team to strategize how they would reach their target audience. In addition to creating content that would speak to them and look like them, content placement was essential. Just posting to social media was not enough to reach the hardest-to-reach audiences. Members of the target audiences identified did not have consistent access to the internet, and our research showed that they had multiple trusted sources of information. The largest and most advantageous for these was to reach out to the community-based organizations and PBIDs that were already in touch with and serving each target audience. 

Engaging community partners can be challenging. Strategic planning identified the need for multiple partnership summits and needed supplementary materials. Using our work with the Sacramento Department of Regional Parks, Life Looks Good On You campaign, we can see partnership engagement in action. First, the marketing team identified a list of possible partners to solicit for participation in the campaign. This included partners that would be featured within the actual campaign creative as well as partners that could assist in pushing out all messages. 

The Life Looks Good On You Campaign has run every summer for the past six years. Over the years, the Uptown Studios Marketing Team has partnered with the Sacramento Republic Soccer League, California State University, Sacramento Women’s Basketball team, and Sacramento Youth Groups to feature community members as campaign models. Media partners included the City of Sacramento, the Drowning Action Rescue Team (DART), Sacramento Metro Fire, Sacramento Police, City of Sacramento, Office of the City Mayor, and multiple city council members and state assembly members. 

With partners secured, the Uptown Studios team got to work to create campaign materials for all partners. These materials included social media posts and graphics that partners could easily copy+paste and publish on their own channels, landing pages, and partner distribution events. Social media toolkits included instructions for how each community-based organization could engage their audience in the campaign as well as graphics, flyers, and other materials they could include in their regular communications. Landing pages make it easy to direct traffic to one central information source as well as easier to track the number of people engaging with the campaign. Partnership distribution events served as educational training for partners about the campaign, materials available to them, and how they could engage their audiences in the campaign even more. This made it so when the campaign was ready to launch, messages were coming from multiple channels and trusted organizations throughout the entire duration of the campaign. This exponentially increased the campaign’s reach, engagements, and impressions resulting in a successful behavior change campaign. 

Measuring Your Impact

When conducting any marketing effort, it is important to measure and evaluate the success of your campaign. Social change campaigns are no different. To accurately measure your campaign, you need to first collect all of your campaign assets and ensure that you have a way to measure their reach, engagements, and impressions. You can use Google Analytics for your landing page, conversions within google analytics to track toolkit downloads, and then a social media analytics tool (like Sprout Social) to track all social media analytics. For media buys and installations, you can collect analytics in a myriad of different ways.

For our Placer Community Foundation campaign, we had multiple outreach events and mask distribution. Compiling numbers and then looking at COVID cases among Latinx people in Placer County over the same span of time the campaign ran, we can gather a holistic idea of our campaign’s success. For our Life Looks Good On You campaign, we simply track the number of confirmed river drownings each year. In the three years prior to beginning the campaign, there was a steadily growing number of drawings recorded each season. In 2015, the county recorded a record-high number of drownings (13). The campaign launched in 2016 and by the end of the season, zero drownings were recorded. In the six years the campaign has run, drownings have remained between 0-3 each season. It is by measuring these metrics that we know this social change campaign continues to be successful year after year.

Lizzie Carroll
By Lizzie Carroll