Demand reduction: a comparative difference to education and awareness-raising

Over the years there have been examples of demand reduction campaigns that have changed consumer purchasing decisions and behaviour very quickly. In the broader sense we can look at what has been learnt from anti-tobacco and road safety campaigns.

From a wildlife conservation perspective, maybe the best known is the Lynx (now Respect for Animals) ‘Dumb Animal’ anti-fur campaign.

Though they are often quoted as successful campaigns, the strategy has been rarely copied. By knowing what will trigger emotion in the users, campaigns can be designed targeting the consumers that can initiate a behaviour change. The problem is that the conservation industry doesn’t have extensive experience in researching, designing and producing demand reduction initiatives. Over the years large conservation organisations have run:

  • Fantastic awareness raising advertising campaigns
  • Good quality education strategies

Currently too many awareness raising and education strategies are being re-packaged and sold to the public (and donors) as demand reduction and they are not. To help understand the difference, Breaking The Brand created a model for rhino horn that can be applied to a broad range of species.

A good insight in to how to create a demand reduction campaign can be found in second episode of the BBC 2 ‘The Men who Made Us Spend’ program.

Model Defining Demand Reduction

To clarify the difference between demand reduction, education and awareness-raising Breaking The Brand created a model in 2014 outlining how we would define each of the different types of campaigns.

When you look at campaigns though this filter do can see that very little (and for some species nothing) has been spent on genuine demand reduction campaigns.

How To Create a Demand Reduction Campaign

There are a number of steps that you should follow when designing a demand reduction campaign for illegal wildlife consumption. In summary, these steps are:

  1. Identify the user groups for each of the different products or different uses
  2. Find out the true motivations to use the products
  3. Summarise the patterns
  4. Derive potential reasons to stop using and calibrate with target group(s)
  5. Identify the most effective communication channels
  6. Design campaign messages and test

A detailed explanation of each of these steps and some examples for a range of illegal wildlife products, can be found at: https://breakingthebrand.org/how-to-create-a-demand-reduction-campaign/

While the social validation of the demand reduction process is happening, progress is too slow within the global conservation players. There is a reluctance to cause discomfort in their adverts even when empirical research demonstrates that discomfort came trigger behaviour change in groups that aren’t intrinsically motivated to change: https://breakingthebrand.org/empirical-evidence-shows-the-way/

There is an over-generalisation of the behaviour change model that states don’t use fear or negative messages as this will stop people engaging. While this approach is very necessary for campaigns that need to encourage people to go for a health check, especially when they think there is a problem, there is a misguided notion that this type of approach should be used with the customers of rhino horn. Breaking the Brand has yet to speak to one of the wealthy users of genuine rhino horn in Viet Nam who are intrinsically motivated to change.

All this means that too little is being spent on demand reduction. For rhino horn Breaking The Brand wrote about this in February 2016: https://breakingthebrand.org/how-much-is-spent-on-rhino-horn-demand-reduction-campaigns/ We have to ask the question, doesn’t it make more sense to put the big money into genuine demand reduction, to create behaviour change in the actual users? Once we have broken the demand, then the money could be diverted in to awareness raising and education campaigns to ensure that this new lack of interest is sustainable and future generations won’t rekindle the desire for rhino horn.

While Breaking The Brand’s primary knowledge is about the users of rhino horn in Viet Nam, many users are multi-species consumers. As a result of the recent elephant census we decided to demonstrate the type of campaign we could create to target just one group of ivory consumers.

From our perspective, not one dollar has been spent to- date on a demand reduction for ivory (let me say that again, from BTB’s definition of what constitutes a demand reduction campaign, we would say that there are no funds going towards a genuine ivory demand reduction campaign). We write more about this in: https://breakingthebrand.org/it-is-time-for-large-conservation-donors-to-take-demand-reduction-seriously/

Given everything outlined above and other issues including:

  • The desire to supply driving up demand
  • The over generalisation of the sustainable use model, when there is no market for a farmed product
  • Trade decisions are only made based on supply side economics

These are just some of the factors behind Breaking The Brand evolving and becoming incorporated in to Nature Needs More. This enable the team to tackle the areas undermining the success of a demand reduction approach.

For more information on Breaking The Brand, including the research we have done on how to evaluate a demand reduction campaign, follow the link: https://breakingthebrand.org/