Selling Good Habits

The NY Times (7/13/08) had a great article featuring Val Curtis' efforts to bring hygiene where there hasn't been much.  Curtis essentially hacked the marketing world's methods and used it sell health as opposed to material goods.

A FEW years ago, a self-described “militant liberal” named Val Curtis decided that it was time to save millions of children from death and disease. So Dr. Curtis, an anthropologist then living in the African nation of Burkina Faso, contacted some of the largest multinational corporations and asked them, in effect, to teach her how to manipulate consumer habits worldwide.

"For example, the urge to check e-mail or to grab a cookie is likely a habit with a specific prompt. Researchers found that most cues fall into four broad categories: a specific location or time of day, a certain series of actions, particular moods, or the company of specific people. The e-mail urge, for instance, probably occurs after you’ve finished reading a document or completed a certain kind of task. The cookie grab probably occurs when you’re walking out of the cafeteria, or feeling sluggish or blue."

The article is filled with many useful observations, like: “Habits are formed when the memory associates specific actions with specific places or moods.”