Sweet Santa Clara: What to do About a Sugary Problem?

Current American diets and lifestyles leave our minds highly susceptible to hijacking. Ever heard of glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, and starch? They’re all sugars, and adding them to common food products is a cheap way of making those products more “craveable.” The problem with hiding sugar in popular drinks and foods is that over-consumption can lead to adverse health effects from liver and heart disease to diabetes and obesity.

The World Health Organization sets the healthy limit for annual sugar consumption at 20 pounds, but in a typical year the average American consumes 57. In Santa Clara County, an average of 31% of adolescents and 54% of adults are obese, but those numbers are even higher in the Latinx community where 41% of adolescents and 72% of adults are obese. The CDC has also reported that over their lifetime, over 50% of the Latinx community are expected to develop type 2 diabetes (compared to 40% of all US adults).
Seeking to address this growing public health crisis, the SCC Public Health Department tasked SGA to create an educational campaign exposing the negative effects of sugar found in various juices and other sugary drinks. The campaign goal was clear: influence the attitudes and intentions of Latinx adults regarding the number of sugary drinks (e.g. soda, sports drinks, etc) they provide to children in their care.

There’s one consistent truism when it comes to conducting outreach—listen first, then act.
The Cut The Sugar campaign placed a premium on listening to input from the priority population during ad development. In collaboration with a local community group, SOMOS Mayfair, SGA used focus groups in both Spanish and English as well as intercept surveys to develop the ad campaign. The feedback from this research guided the overall appearance, tone, and messaging to reflect subtle nuances that emerged as being necessary to effectively reach our priority audience. The multilingual Cut The Sugar campaign consisted of outdoor print ads, ad scripts for radio, and digital ads. There was also a public outreach component which featured large inflatable blow-ups and alternative drink tastings deployed at community events. These items opened the conversation about the health risks associated with excessive sugary drink consumption.
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In order to assess the impact and effectiveness of the campaign, intercept surveys were conducted to measure factors related to Latinx caregivers’ provision of sugary drinks to children in their care. These surveys were given to individuals in the same geographical location where the campaign ran over the course of three months and were then analyzed for statistical significance. Results were differentiated between people who had seen the ads (AKA exposed) and people who had not seen the ads (AKA comparison group). The main findings showed that:

  • People who were exposed to the Cut The Sugar campaign planned to give 46% fewer sugary drinks to children in their care than people who had not been exposed to ads.
  • 54% of respondents who saw the ads reported giving fewer sugary drinks to children in their care than they had at the same time the previous year, whereas only 20% of the comparison group reported a reduction in sugary drinks.
  • When asked to identify which of the beverages from a list were considered sugary drinks, people exposed to the ads were 33% more likely to be able to identify sugary drinks correctly than those in the comparison group./li>
  • 60% of respondents reported the most important motivator for reducing the number of sugary drinks they gave to children in their care was to decrease the risk of their child developing diabetes, with 42 respondents ranking this at #1 and 97% of respondents selecting this as a motivator.

Have questions about our data or approach? Feel free to email us at info@sga-inc.net.

How Do We Motivate Behavior Change?

In the late 1960s, Stanford University professor Walter Michel began his now classic “Marshmallow Experiments.” He offered four and five-year-olds a choice: they could either have one marshmallow now (he put it in front of them) or, if they waited 15 minutes, they could have a second.

Not surprisingly, most of the kids couldn’t wait and chose to gobble down the first marshmallow. But a few showed restraint. Michel observed that the children who waited to double their marshmallowy profits had found ways to distract themselves and focus on something else.

Michel followed these kids throughout school, college and into early adult-life, and found that (on average) the kids that could delay gratification did much better in school, at work, and even in their marriages than those who gobbled down that first marshmallow.

So what does this mean? It’s simple. Delayed gratification is difficult while instant gratification is obtainable and easy, making it hard to see the benefits of long-term payoffs. Saving money for retirement, exercising for optimum health, and making changes for the environment are all extremely difficult because we don’t get an instant pay off. We have to consciously work for something we cannot initially see.

Behavior change campaigns need to be conscious of this reality in order to be successful. Although most people can understand the long-term benefits of a change, changes like this are not as compelling as something with instant gratification. Successful behavior change campaigns allow audiences to celebrate small, incremental wins that bring them closer to the bigger picture and the overall goal.

Let’s take clean water, for example. Many people state that they are motivated to keep their creeks, rivers, bays, and oceans clean. That’s a huge goal and it can take a long time to see noticeable changes. But choosing to pick up your dog waste all the time in order to keep stormwater clean (and ultimately larger water bodies of water), is an incremental step towards accomplishing that larger goal. Personal barriers (like “I don’t have a bag,” and “other people leave their dog waste”) and motivators (“I want to be a good neighbor” and “this protects my kid”) are way more powerful when it comes to the smaller actions that contribute to the larger goal.

So how do you keep an audience engaged with a campaign goal as big as keeping the ocean clean? You use your resources and social media platforms to constantly motivate your audience by allowing them “little wins” that move everyone toward the larger goal.

Start conversations over social media that allow your audience to engage. If you’re trying to clean the ocean, encourage your followers to make Facebook pledges to pick up after their pets, and make your quippy sound-bites educational! Show your audience how their small actions will collectively make a big difference, all while helping keep lawns lush and shoes clean.

Always think big—but remember to start small and add on from there. Count every step, celebrate every win, and make it a big deal! Despite how far a single action/change may feel from a long-term goal, celebrating the little wins keeps your audience engaged and ready for the big win up ahead.

Sports and Essential Communication Lessons: What Football Taught Me About Marketing

Walking through my neighborhood on a Sunday morning is no longer a time for quiet self-reflection. House after house, cheers of excitement and shouts of anger escape through insulated walls and double-paned glass. This can only mean one thing: it’s football season. The bright flat screens that peak through neighbor’s windows and the individuals glued to it all sport matching jerseys as they high-five or fist pump in unison. Sports, like football, are an incredible study of human behavior, especially with all that you can learn and apply to concepts such as communications and marketing. Here are a few you may find intriguing:

1.) Play to Group Identity: Football season combines the power of patriotism with the addiction of being a sports fan. In his book “The Righteous Mind,” Jonathan Haidt talks about humans having a “Hive Switch,” in essence where people naturally move from self-identity to group identity.  It is not only a very seductive and powerful shift, but an important thing to remember when communicating with people. Reaching out to people through their group identity is an extremely powerful way to reach your audience.

2.) The Power of Emotions: I have to admit I am not a huge football fan but when I am at my parents house sitting next to my very serious Dallas Cowboy fan of a father you bet I am screaming at the TV screen as much as anyone else in the room. The community you form wherever you may be to watch a game—whether it’s at a family member’s home, a restaurant, a bar, or the electronics section at Target—is riveting. You catch yourself hugging strangers, yelling at your cousin, and standing on furniture that you definitely shouldn’t be standing on. It plays on your emotions: excitement, anger, happiness, fear, suspense. It brings us together despite who we are and what we look like. If you speak through emotions you can motivate and communicate in ways you did not believe possible.

3.) The Addiction of Suspense: One of the reasons I believe football is so popular in the US is because most games are equally matched and aren’t determined until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Football games often have scores that are neck and neck separated by a touchdown or just a single field goal, and it makes you watch to that very last minute of the game (and sometimes overtime). So the audience has to deliberate: can their team make a miracle field goal or Hail Mary pass, or is it over? We are naturally drawn to suspense, we want to know what will happen, how things will change. While we always want to be clear in our communications, sometimes holding off on the punchline and building the drama of the outcome is a great way to engage your audience.

So here’s to football. Here’s to engaging communications. And here’s to finding an excuse to join a group of strangers on an autumn day to root for your favorite team.

3 Steps to Pedal Forward and Make Positive Change

May 19th is Bike to Work Day!  At SGA, we believe that bicycling is a great way to demonstrate behavior change. Remember when you were a kid and you first learned how to ride a bike?  At first, you were scared: Don’t let me fall!  Of course, you fell.  But then you got back up because you were motivated: Learn to ride a bike by yourself.  This whole process involved removing barriers, while promoting motivators. In essence, the steps needed to change behavior.

So how do you remove barriers to get people to bike more or to get them to change? Here are three wheely good ways to overcome barriers:

1) Remove the perceived danger of riding by making the experience positive. A short bike ride can:

  • Break down old perceptions: hard and scary
  • Create new perceptions: easy and fun

2) To overcome resistance, start with baby steps. Overcoming one small step of the task is easier than tackling the whole task at one time.

3) Make bicycling a social norm. Get beginners to team up with other bike riders.  If they are the only person riding, it feels odd, but if they see more people doing it, the more normal it becomes.

While it’s important to overcome barriers, it’s also crucial to promote the motivators. We asked SGA staff what their motivations were to bike to work. Here’s what they said:

“I love riding my bike to work. I ride to work to help create a friendly biking culture in Long Beach. Our city has this big goal of being named as the most bike-friendly city in America. It’s up to us to make this dream happen.”  Joy Contreras

“Biking to work makes me feel good, charges me with positivity, and allows me to enjoy the outside. I also want to show my daughter that cars aren’t the only way of transportation, especially for short distances.” Anya Liddiard

“I ride to get one less car off the road and a little bit less carbon going into the air. I ride 10 miles each way which gives me time to clear my mind and gets in my daily exercise in one fell swoop.”  Stephen Groner

Changing behavior isn’t easy, but it can be done.  Remember, change is like riding a bicycle. Hard at first, but easier as you practice.

Learn How Renewable and Raw Materials Like Hemp Can Save the Earth

Let’s start by saying SGA hasn’t been watching a Cheech and Chong marathon and no, we don’t have the munchies.  With Earth Day just around the corner, we wanted to bring awareness to the many ways that hemp can help save the environment.

Unfortunately, hemp gets lumped in with its notorious cousin, marijuana (Cannabis sativa). The truth is that while hemp is derived from the same family of plants as marijuana, it comes from Cannabis sativa L strains that contain less than 1% THC, meaning hemp carries no psychoactive properties.

Over the years, a hemp revival has taken shape. Perceptions have shifted, especially among business owners, farmers, nutritionists, activists, and green consumers. As a renewable and raw material, hemp can be incorporated into many products, making them more eco-friendly. Even the hemp flowers and seeds can be used, leaving nothing to waste. Here are more reasons why hemp’s environmentally-friendly characteristics make it a sustainable wonder crop.

  • It’s a farmer’s best friend. Not only does hemp grow in a variety of climates and soil types, it doesn’t require a lot of space and its fast growth rate produces high yields. Because the crop improves soil health, no fallow period is needed to grow food crops.
  • It’s an environmentalist’s best friend. The hemp plant grows like a “weed” so there is no need for most pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides (it is naturally resistant to most pests). Hemp also thrives on less water than most crops and has also been proven to remove toxins, radioactive materials, and metals from contaminated soil. When planted around the infamous nuclear disaster site Chernobyl, scientists found that hemp conducted phytoremediation, which is the process of removing the chemicals from soil, better than any other plant.
  • It can compete with cotton. Hemp has been used as a durable fabric since time immemorial. As a textile, hemp needs approximately half as much land and half as much water as cotton does to thrive. Cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural commodities. It can take 2,700 liters to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt.
  • It’s a superfood. Hemp seeds are used in a variety of health foods, including hemp seed butters, hemp seed energy bars, hemp oil, and even hemp seed milks. The seeds have a nutty flavor and are regarded as a superfood since they are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are a complete protein.
  • It could save the trees. Hemp pulp has been used to create paper for at least 2,000 years. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, and even the finest Bible paper today remains hemp-based.

So this Earth Day, don’t let our environment go up in smoke…switch to a renewable product that will help save the environment, leaving a cleaner and greener planet for the next generation.

7 Green Holiday Tips for Your Business

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” -Rumi

People may mistakenly believe that they have to make grand, life-altering changes to make a difference. This can lead to frustration and disappointment. SGA believes that true change begins with a series of small steps — little things you do everyday can make an impact. Small steps turn into daily occurrences and daily occurrences turns to change.  This concept can also be applied to businesses. That’s why this holiday season, we are sharing 7 small steps you can take to help your business become a little greener.  Start implementing these changes now to lay the foundation for a greener tomorrow.

  • Donate to your favorite environmental organization this holiday season. Choose a non-profit that is local to your community to make the most impact. Want to donate products to needy communities and other non-profits? Consider donating via good360.org.
    • Bonus: Donate in your employee’s name and bask in the feel good nature of giving.
  • Volunteer time at soup kitchen or shelter. Need more inspiration? If you’re in the Los Angeles area, there’s an annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count that will be held in January. SGA staff will be grouping together to make sure everyone counts regardless of where they live. Get a group of your coworkers and go together!
  • Donate leftover holiday party food. If food is being served in abundance, refresh trays rather than putting all of it out at once to prevent spoilage. Any food that has not been put out at the end of the party can be donated to a local shelter or food pantry. Not only will this reduce waste, but this will enhance the spirit of Christmas giving to those in need. Call ahead for details on what the shelter can use and how to deliver.
  • Decorate the office with natural or recycled items. It is completely possible to turn trash into treasure. It’s called upcycling. If you need any last minute gift ideas with a more personal and eco-friendly touch, this is it. Get started with a mason jar. Use it to gift baking sets, remake your desk lamp and more. Get ideas here. If you’re wrapping last-minute gifts, use recycled paper or organic material to wrap a gift instead of using a new roll of wrapping paper which can save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • Don’t use disposable utensils for lunches or dinner.
    Twenty-five percent more trash is discarded from Thanksgiving to New Year’s than any other time of year. Let’s apply positive behavior change within ourselves and not add to that percentage.

    • Bonus: Before the year ends, set up a casual potluck with your coworkers and aim for a zero-waste shared meal.
  • After the season ends, recycle your Christmas tree. Yes, it’s possible to recycle your Christmas tree. Live trees are biodegradable. In the Los Angeles area, there are many locations where your tree can be turned into mulch. Find a location near you.
    • Bonus: If you don’t have a recycling program in your area, contact the National Christmas Tree Association: info@realchristmastrees.org to learn how you can begin one in your community.
  • Green employee gift ideas. Give gifts of locally produced food and products in cloth shopping bags or baskets with your company’s logo. Reusable coffee cups or travel mugs can also be purchased with company logos.

The Cause Marketing Approach to Life: Anya Liddiard

Meet Anya Liddiard, our primary Marketing Manager on LA Stormwater, whose life trajectory followed the question: What can I contribute to make the world a little better? A native Russian who holds advanced degrees in Economics and Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University, Anya later relocated to the West Coast, even though she initially didn’t like the weather in California. Today, you can find her enjoying California’s splendors with her family and upcycling abandoned furniture. “I’m that person that drives and picks up interesting items off the street to repurpose them. It is my way to consume less,” Anya says.

Her passion for sustainability and cause marketing has been successfully harnessed while working at her previous marketing and advertising jobs with NBC and E! Networks, Tesla, and Hyundai. Today, she brings her experience and her belief that doing good is good business to SGA.

Here’s what she has learned along the way:
I come from the fast world of traditional advertising and I have always been driven to find that component to do good in this world. Throughout my journey I have developed a certain approach to my life and my work.

Go Beyond Consumerism: Encourage people to buy more than the product and get behind a positive cause. While working at Hyundai, I was challenged to ask deeper questions. How can someone benefit from this company rather than just motivating people to buy our product?

Go Beyond Promotion: Promote positive behavior change. Find ways to challenge yourself and change people’s behavior for the benefit of all. Search for patterns and opportunities to solve brands’ business problems by adding value to the world, even if it’s as small as motivating people at work to use one paper towel at a time.

Go Beyond Messaging: Make people think differently. Find ways to help brands and consumers prove who they are through the actions they take. This could mean creating meaningful partnerships, acting on a cause, creating inspiring ideas of social change or simply giving reusable water bottles for people’s birthdays (been there, done that!).

Above all, the most important approach to my life lies in my daughter. I began Russian in the Park in Long Beach to immerse my daughter in her culture while getting families together to celebrate Russian culture.  As a mother, I am lovingly driven by the needs of my daughter and hope to keep her interested in her culture and language.

Appleseed: Social Marketing in the Developing World

At SGA, all of our projects focus on using social marketing to change behavior and improve communities working hand-in-hand with our clients. That goal is the foundation of every decision we make in designing our programs and, in this case, even in the decisions staff make when they move on from SGA. This very special blog features Appleseed, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization started by former and current SGAers through a program at SGA called Core Time.

Appleseed (appleseedimpact.org) brings social marketing to the places that need it most to improve what children eat. Appleseed partners with existing nonprofit organizations who are doing great work in deserving communities, but maybe don’t have the marketing background or resources to undertake the kind of social marketing campaigns that SGA implements for communities across the state. By volunteering its expertise, Appleseed is able to increase the impact of its partners by orders of magnitude and make big change in short time.

Appleseed produces a podcast to keep its donors up to date on its work. This episode of Appleseed Radio follows the origins of Appleseed with Stephen interviewing Philip Kao, former SGA Project Manager and Appleseed Project Director.

Listen on if you ever imagined what it would be like to mix social marketing with a healthy dose of giardia.

You can also read the full interview transcript here: Appleseed Radio Episode 6 Transcript

If you want to hear more of Appleseed Radio, check them out on the Appleseed Radio Page and if you want to learn more about how SGA’s work shaped Appleseed (like how a brand guide to get Bay Area teens to stop littering helped shape a strategy to get rural farmers to embrace a funny looking corn), drop us a line and let us know.

The 3 I’s of a Successful Facebook Page

Facebook is the platform that gives your organization a voice and an identity in a community of more than a billion active users. Whether you’re a local agency striving to make positive behavior change with residents or a for-profit marketer selling an idea, Facebook provides a concrete space to communicate with your target audience.

SGA helps a large number of local agencies operate Facebook pages and we’ve found a few key trends that have proven successful. We call them the 3-I’s:

  1. Identity. Facebook is hugely visual and this visibility enables you to transform your mission into a brand perception. SGA has successfully integrated the Facebook page of the City of Los Angeles Stormwater Program to support and promote their community events, website, and eNewsletter efforts. By forming a steady image online, your organization forms a stronger presence offline and a community around your brand.
  2. Interaction. Facebook provides an arena for your organization to be a part of a meaningful conversation in a targeted way. You can communicate your organization’s perspective and share your values on trending issues that matter most. Communication can also be narrowly targeted and tailored to provide an authentic voice for your audience.  For example, SGA’s work on the San Bernardino County Stormwater Facebook page interacted with fans at the local level and found that audiences reacted best when content was localized to their specific city or community.
  3. Insight. Facebook is a multi-tool that enhances communication by giving you insight into your fans and their interests. Facebook makes its money by selling ads, therefore, they need to empower the ad buyer. That means giving you data on your target audience. An effectively built Facebook campaign will incorporate data that is every bit as analytical as a countywide survey but at virtually no cost. Every Facebook post becomes a survey question with real-time analysis that can inform the next campaign. Using Facebook Insights gives you an opportunity to further enhance your reach and cultivate a loyal fan base.

The ultimate goal of any strong Facebook profile is to form a tangible identity which your audience can resonate with, interact with, and, ultimately, support. Facebook is not just another tactic in your arsenal. Rather, Facebook provides a platform where you can brand yourself and your vision as an organization to a diverse target audience at a low cost and an abundance of data.

Getting OC Gneighbors to Think Saving Water is Gnormal

Stormwater is such an abstract concept for people. But when we’re tasked with getting the public to understand pollution-conveying runoff and the need for water conservation during an ongoing drought, we needed something – or someone – to help in the effort. We needed a gnome.

We looked for a mascot for our client, Orange County Stormwater Program. A lovable and personable garden gnome came to be and residents named Gnorman during a social media contest. While in reality Gnorman is a custom-made ceramic piece, he has taken on a life of his own during this campaign and speaks in a voice that residents listen to.

When emails come from Gnorman, the quality of engagement goes up. More people joined the bi-weekly newsletter mailing list. The open rate topped 60 percent. The message was not only getting out there, but was also being well-received.  Website page views increased. We found that the public loved the personal stories that were being shared. People began emailing to share their own stories and photos of their gardens, but not with us, with Gnorman. Emails were actually addressed to Gnorman. So, he replied back. He also showed up at local gardening events to educate OC residents and appeared in a video about a drought-tolerant yard. In all, he was seen across 34 cities, reaching 3.1 million residents.

Getting a social marketing message across always has its challenges. Even when people know how important an effort like water conservation is, getting them to take action isn’t always easy. Gnorman has made it easier. These days, you can find him on more than 1,000 lawn signs all over Orange County. He keeps touting the message: Over Watering is Out. Blue ribbons on those signs indicate that resident has taken action to have drought-tolerant landscaping, reduce sprinkler times, save water and eliminate runoff.

The program’s goal to create a new norm – or gnorm – was achieved. Christy Suppes, an OC environmental resources specialist says, “We believe residents understand their impact and how their actions at home made a difference.” Additionally, the campaign was honored by the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) with the Outstanding Regional Stormwater News, Information, Outreach and Media Award.

For more information on the campaign and Gnorman, check out overwateringisout.org