Byline – Michelle Jiles

The presentations at the spring meeting for DC iSMA shared some barriers any behavioral researcher is familiar with: change behavior priorities vs an uninterested, unaware, or actively disengaged public. This was especially true for the population in the first presentation from Sarah Evans of Fors Marsh Group.  How often do travelers think about the produce they bring in to the United States from abroad? Turns out, not as much as the USDA would like, but more importantly those who brought in produce had no idea what they were doing could be prohibited or the impact.  Sarah and the Fors Marsh Group researchers focused their phased approach on data and regulatory awareness (invasive species piggy-back on some fruits and have decimated over 76,000 football fields worth of acreage, and no you cannot bring in escarole from Mexico), then launching advertising through the USDA website, pushing awareness of rules digitally BEFORE someone traveled, and using innovative campaigns targeting fruit stalls, billboards on travel routes, and luggage tags and t-shirts to get the message out.

Kyle Andrews, also from Fors Marsh Group, faced the challenge of an unaware and somewhat disinterested target population. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wanted to educate 45-60 year olds on their best retirement age, or the age where they can receive the most social security.  Few people are financially prepared for retirement so the goal was to increase people’s awareness and improve their retirement decisions.  The two biggest challenges Kyle and the Fors Marsh Group team encountered were the confusion over why it was CFPB and not the Social Security Administration providing this information and that in order to get the answer, participants had to think about how long they might live.  This left several of the targeted population depressed over the process. Fors Marsh Group is using the feedback to adjust and revamp an interactive web-based tool Monica Vines, Census Bureau, had the double-punch of unawareness mixed with apathy over the Census 2020 goal to reduce costs using a web-based collection method.  Can Census have an accurate count without any print advertising?  Monica and Census used the Savannah Census Test site as an opportunity to see just that. They used microtargeting, clustering zipcodes together in the 20 county test site and focused messages to those zipcodes. Areas with a lower median education level received different messages than those with a higher education, more families vs. more singles, or more minorities all received specific online messages to push them to use the internet site to enter their information.  You can find out more about the results at

And a big thank you to Fors Marsh Group for hosting the Spring Meeting!  If you are interested in becoming an iSMA member or learning more about social change marketing, visit the website at



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