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Friday, September 9, 2011

Today's guest article: Social Proof

I teach marketing as well as issues of health and nutrition so this article by Bette Dowdell fits both bills and appeals to me.  I think to be healthy in this day and age is a challenge and takes some willingness to be pretty different in diet and many typical social situations.  Bette's contact info is at the end.

Social Proof

Social proof is a advertising concept based on the fact most people don’t like to be different. To get people to accept a new idea or product, you have to reassure them that anybody who’s anybody is climbing on board.

If would-be customers think you’re asking them to be different from others, they won’t buy.

For example, a few years ago I was asked to give the invocation at a Martin Luther King program. As the program went on, a group of Native Americans got up to introduce a tribal dance. To start the ball rolling, the leader asked me to join them. So up I got, joined the circle and started bobbing and weaving, proving right there in front of God and the whole world that I don’t have a drop of Native American blood in me. Fortunately, the whole point was about going beyond what separates us, so my lack of native dance skills worked well.

It obviously didn’t look like nearly as much fun as it was, though, because most people refused the leader’s invitation to join in. But he kept at it, and after a while another game soul accepted the invitation, then another, and another, until it became more a group thing than individual performances. The poor guy had to work almost the entire, very large room, but social proof finally arrived.

People who had previously refused to join our merry band realized they were being left out of the fun and all but ran to get into the quickly expanding circle. At that point, joining in became the popular thing to do, and they didn’t have to worry about getting funny looks for being different.

What in the world, you might be asking, does this have to do with health?

Right now, social proof aren’t us. Only a relatively small group of health-field natives talk about becoming our own health advocate. So most people, concerned about fitting in, still follow doctors, the media–any “authority figure” that makes them feel comfortable–and not responsible.

When things go south, and as one neighbor said to me, “It just gets to be patch, patch, patch,” they’re still part of the majority. The sick majority, but a majority none the less.

Those of us who take time to learn how to be healthy and do pretty much anything it takes (notice the allowance for an annual Snickers bar), are the oddballs.

And I salute you, fellow oddball. Yes, being different can get wearisome at times. And having people sneer at the decisions you make gets old really fast.

Well, I’ve been sick and heard people suggest I give in to “my lot in life.” Instead, I walked the road less traveled, made my health a priority and took responsibility for my decisions.

I may be an oddball, but now I’m a healthy oddball.

And here’s some good news. I talk to everybody, everywhere I go, usually about health, and people are more receptive than they used to be. Social proof is still a ways off, but we’re gaining ground.

Maybe we should start an “Odd Like Bette” club. We could wear buttons and figure out a secret handshake and stuff. Maybe that would take us over the top, into the land of social proof.

Or maybe not. No matter.

The important thing is that we take responsibility for our own health–no matter what others think. Living the best possible life is always better than following the crowd into the ditch.

Bette Dowdell

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