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Social norms marketing is a prevention techniques that has been used with good results in college settings to reduce the amount of drinking that goes on across all students. Although it is often used to good effect to reduce drinking on college campuses, it can be used to promote healthy behaviors in a number of areas, such as to: promote non smoking, reduce bullying, promote drug abstinence, reduce violence and for any other applications

Social norms marketing works by correcting myths that people may have about how normal or widespread certain behaviors are in the community. 1

In a survey of Canadian University students it was found that the average student drank only twice a month, but students believed that the average student would drink twice as frequently, at least once a week.2

How "social norms marketing" works:

  • If you, as a college student, drink heavily, you probably think that the average student drinks more than they do and that your behaviors are within the normal range (your perceptions may be influenced by your immediate peer group)
  • If you are informed of the true amounts average college students are consuming, and how much more than average you are consuming, then you are more likely to reduce your consumption out of the high risk range.

Some examples of the kinds of messages you might see in a social norms campaign include:

  • 76% of U of _ Students have 3 or fewer drinks per week.
  • Most U of _ Students have 4 or fewer drinks when they go out to party3

How Well Does Social Norms Marketing Work?

  • A study on student athletes exposed to social norms messaging about alcohol use found that after 1 year exposure to accurate information, binge drinking amongst these athletes dropped by 30 percent and the negative consequences experienced as a result of drinking dropped by 34%. 4
  • A social norms campaign at Florida State University is credited with reducing high risk drinking amongst male students by 15%5

Social Norms Marketing is a relatively cheap way to influence a change in behavior across a large population of at risk people.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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