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.

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.

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.

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.

When someone is not intrinsically motivated to change their behaviour, only one option is available to trigger a transformation; make the pain of not changing their behaviour greater than the pain of changing. That is why one of the world’s most accomplished behaviour change experts, from the anti-smoking field stated:

“Negative messaging campaigns do the grunt work. Positive messaging campaigns make them palatable for (government) donors to fund.”

Currently, too little is spent on demand reduction. 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 the desire is broken, then the money could be diverted to awareness raising and education campaigns to ensure that this new lack of interest is sustainable and future generations won’t rekindle the desire.

Whilst acknowledging our primary understanding 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 our 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 It Is Time For Large Conservation & Donors To Take Demand Reduction Seriously.

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 being based on supply side economics only

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.

How to Create and Evaluate Demand Reduction Campaigns

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

Over the years we have created a number of documents and tools to support the evolving understanding of demand reduction in the conservation sector. A detailed explanation of these steps and some examples for a range of illegal wildlife products, can be found in the documents are linked below.

More tips, tools and ideas to tackle the demand for endangered species can be found on the Breaking The Brand (BTB) website.  We took the decision to keep the BTB website lives, as it still gets many thousand visits each month. More information on demand reduction can be for presentations and media;  and also via BTB Blogs.

Currently many users of rare legal and illegal wildlife products in gain status, influence, power and/or prestige with their peer group by consuming these precious ‘products’. While in the short-term demand reduction/behaviour change campaigns will be needed to change people’s motivations to consume endangered species, to ensure a long-term sustainable future we must provide alternative ways to engage with nature. This involves re-directing desire as the final step in demand reduction campaigns.