Megan Yarmuth

Photo of Megan Yarmuth

Account Director
Washington DC
Posts: 4

Megan Yarmuth is a former Account Director at Ogilvy PR.

Being Funny To Help Folks Get Serious

Mar 22

As social marketers we are often working on issues that are far from funny. We want our audiences to see our work and decide to make a better, healthier, and safer choice. However, often what is grabbing their valuable attention isn’t the solemn PSA or earnest ad placement urging folks to make a change. It’s silly cat videos and Call Me Maybe video parodies.

Using humor can be a powerful way to grab attention. It seems as though in a sea of stressful work and busy lives, that many will take the time to have a good laugh, and even pass it on to a friend. So why not use humor as the hook for a powerful behavior change message?

Last year at a conference, I passed a poster presentation on Avoid the Stork, The University of Iowa College of Public Health’s campaign to reduce unintended pregnancies. I chuckled as I started reading, intrigued and entertained enough to not only read the entire poster but look up the campaign once home.  The campaign has since come to an end but still lives online through humorous and to the point content. Avoid the Stork featured a rather large Stork with a baby strapped to it ready for delivery. It was featured in several  humorous scenarios as a reminder to use contraceptives. I was impressed by not only the creative but the clarity of the message behind the creative.

Avoid the Stork

And I must not be alone, the campaign noted positive results including a significant decline in unintended pregnancies statewide. Now that’s something to smile about!

So tell me, do you agree that being funny can communicate a serious message? What campaigns have you seen do this effectively?

Can Counting Bikes Change Behavior?

Aug 23

I recently read an article about a bike counter that was installed on a bridge in Portland, OR. The idea is that it counts how many cyclists cross the bridge and then keeps a visible tally for all who pass by, on bikes or otherwise.  From midnight to 3pm, Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge had a cyclist count of nearly 3,500. Pretty impressive.  In addition, the counter tracks several other factors including time of day and the weather.  Information like this can help city planners keep roads safe for all and provide better access for cyclists.

But more than just counting bikes, I wonder if seeing just how many of their fellow peers are pushing pedals will help motivate others to take up cycling as a more regular mode of transportation?  Surely knowing thousands of others are taking up biking will inspire action in others to do the same.

Nowadays this tactic of using positive peer pressure to change your perception of what your neighbors are doing is used widely and can be greatly influential.  From a note in your electric bill comparing your energy efficiency to that of your neighbors to seeing their recycling bin by the curb, harnessing the power positive peer pressure can have an immense impact and help positively change behaviors.

What do you think? Would driving by a sign promoting just how many of your fellow citizens were biking make you more aware of cycling as an option? What behaviors have you changed due to a little positive peer pressure?

Can Counting Bikes Change Behavior

Using Games in Social Marketing

Apr 19

I recently had the privilege of attending a George Washington University Health Communication and Marketing symposia on Social Marketing and Games.  It’s a topic that has seen significant growth in recent years, and being a big Scrabble nerd and Wii Just Dance buff, I had particular interest in.  Whether using board games, video games, or playing cards, using games to encourage a specific behavior or outcome can be a powerful tool.

Symposia speaker Sussy Lungo from the Pan American Social Marketing Organization, demonstrated how her team has developed and used games to create discussion and awareness around HIV and STI prevention.  Targeting high risk audiences, including potential sex workers and clients of sex workers, in countries such as Honduras or El Salvador can be extremely difficult.  Lungo however, feels that using games is one way to make inroads around a topic that is often hard to discuss.  By using card games with messaging built into the game at places such as bars and night clubs, game players have fun and the ice is broken for conversation around the topic in a safe way. Check out Lungo’s presentation here [PPT].

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Modifying Behavior Through Video Games

Jul 21

If you haven’t already heard, The Let’s Move! campaign, started by First Lady Michelle Obama, is working towards the goal of eliminating childhood obesity.  The campaign takes an approach that works through engaging multiple audiences, including children.  As part of the campaign, the First Lady has challenged gamers and inventors across the nation to create a video game app would help children and their parents eat healthily and become more physically active. 

And the First Lady is not alone.  Utilizing video games to encourage positive, healthier behaviors is a trend that appears to be on the rise.  Just as young children can use video games to learn math and reading skills, it appears as though people of all ages might also be able to learn the importance of exercise or calorie intake through gaming.  Adam Penenberg interviewed neuroeconomist Dr. Paul Zak recently for Fast Company on this very topic.  Dr. Zak felt that casual social games, such as those on Facebook, can truly modify behavior and that by focusing on small actions and using small amounts of motivation, behavior can be modified.   

So what are your thoughts?  Do you think our actions can truly be modified through games?  Why not see for yourself?  The Let’s Move! apps have all been submitted and you can now test them out and vote for your favorite at http://go.usa.gov/OI8.  Who knows, maybe one will have you rethinking that big piece of chocolate cake!