Scott Kleper, another former student of Fogg’s, cofounded San Francisco-based Context Optional four and a half years ago and serves as its CTO. The company works with large corporations to manage their presence on Facebook. “As a social-marketing company, we think that people are the influencers,” he says. Kleper, too, points to the importance of credibility online. He says that influencing people through their online friends is a powerful way to build credibility, especially when it comes to charitable giving. Context Optional worked with Kohl’s on a campaign to give away $10 million to 20 schools that were chosen through votes online.
Fogg has identified 15 categories of target behaviors, characterized by type and frequency. Is the behavior new or familiar? Do you want to increase it, decrease it, or stop it altogether? Do you want the change to happen once, many times, or for a lifetime? To help organizations and companies figure out which of the 15 types of behavior they need to initiate to achieve their goal, Fogg has set up behaviorwizard.org. The tool is aimed at helping organizations figure out what kind of behavior they want to encourage so that they can develop an appropriate motivational trigger. Motivators may be social, such as a recommendation by a friend on Facebook, or they can be emotional, like an empathy-inducing video.
Asked whether he isn’t simply systematizing the obvious, Fogg responds that this is exactly what he’s doing. Good design for a Web page or a public-relations campaign doesn’t come about by chance. “People have a poor understanding of what causes behavioral changes, and they design around those bad ideas,” he says. “Persuasion is intuitive, but thinking about it systematically is not. Once you hear it, it makes sense–but until then, it’s not clear.”
While he says that “persuasion” is no longer a “dirty word,” he won’t go on record about any of the specific campaigns he’s helped design as a consultant for Nike, American Express, and others. Whatever it is exactly that he does for these companies, however, he’s persuaded them to pay for it. He’s in such demand that he’s starting to hold persuasive-technology “boot camps” at his home in wine country; it costs $1,599.00 to participate. With very little promotion, a recent event sold out in less than two days.
Fogg believes that mobile applications are the next frontier of persuasive technology, and several of his projects are directed at using them to trigger changes in personal health and behaviors that affect the environment. Some of his designs are currently being tested in a clinical trial at the University of California, San Diego, that’s assessing whether text messages and other electronic nudges can help college students improve their eating habits.
He’s also wondering whether the law of diminishing returns will set in. As we are bombarded by more and more attempts to persuade us to click, buy, change our minds, or join a group, some “persuasive-technology fatigue” may take hold, he says. In this cluttered world, he hopes his students gain a new perspective that transcends today’s smart phones or social networks: “I want people to understand persuasive design no matter what happens to the technology.”