Awareness campaign – awareness is not enough

Awareness campaign – awareness is not enough

Last week I was allowed to work on the concept for a fun awareness campaign for an inclusive sports world, which is very important to me as the team leader of my son’s football team. It made me think about the usefulness of awareness campaigns and what is needed to make it actually lead to the intended change.


A good example of an awareness campaign is the SIRE campaign with the hashtag #bekind. You may have seen this or heard of it. With commercials on both radio and television, print material and of course the hashtag it is in itself a great campaign. There was ample attention in the media for the SIRE initiative and it also caught on considerably on social media.

I speak in the past tense, because now a few months later there is little being said about ‘bekind’. The conversation is silent and the “buzz” is gone. People have returned to the order of the day and that is precisely the problem of many awareness campaigns: They make the target group or the public aware of something, but do not always lead to the desired goal, namely behavioral change.

The term "awareness campaign"

The term awareness campaign implies that the goal of the campaign is awareness, but that is only the first part. The ultimate goal of an awareness campaign is behavioural change.

What is often forgotten is that there are important steps between awareness and behavioral change that should be taken and that are not always taken now. The Transtheoretical Model of Change” (Prochaska) also known as the “Stages of Change Model” is a good example of what I mean.

In the phase of precontemplation someone is not aware of a certain problem. Let us keep it close to the subject of SIRE and take anti-social behavior as an example.

Person X is in the precontemplation phase and is not aware that his unkind behavior is a problem for the people around him and his relationship with others.

Person X sees the SIRE commercial and finds himself after seeing the video above, in the contemplation phase. This person realizes that he also exhibits this behavior and that something has to change.

After this he will have to go through four more phases before the new social behavior to be taught becomes a habit.

Stages of Change Model

However, the campaign only consists of the videos and the posters and radio commercials. Only when you open the website the purpose of the campaign becomes clear:

With the #BEKIND campaign we hope that people realize that unkind behavior is not needed for anything and it is harmful to others. With the disarming ‘BEKIND’ SIRE encourages The Netherlands to address each other with one word about unkind behavior. With this we want to make The Netherlands a bit nicer.

At first glance a nice goal, and now the “but” comes ….

The campaign has no follow-up to lead the public towards behavioral change. There is no “call to action”, which invites the public to go through the following phases. Watching a video or finding a poster may lead the public to realize that unkind behavior is not needed for anything and can be offensive to others, but it does not necessarily lead to the second part of the objective, which is making The Netherlands a bit nicer.

We do not stop at awareness

When I was working on the concept last week, I did not stop at raising awareness as an objective. At OM we always go for the maximum result. The concept that we have submitted goes beyond awareness. The campaign is designed not only to make the target group aware of the problem, but is also designed in such a way that it encourages the target group to take action and ultimately change behavior.

We believe that everyone can bring about change that he or she considers important. It is not for nothing on our homepage. Awareness is not enough for that. To bring about real change, a campaign will always have to go a few steps further, because otherwise a great campaign will only be a great campaign instead of what it really should be: A way to bring about real change .