AS DEFINED BY THE NATIONAL SOCIAL NORMS CENTER AT MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY---
Unfortunately, our perceptions are often inaccurate: We tend to over-estimate the number of our peers who value and make unhealthy choices and under-estimate the number who value and make healthy choices. If, in a given group or population of people, most people are making healthy choices but most people believe that their peers are making unhealthy choices, then a social norms marketing campaign may reduce the misperception and further encourage healthy choices.
The effectiveness of social norms marketing interventions can be undermined if the overall environment supports and promotes unhealthy choices. The effectiveness of social norms marketing interventions can be enhanced if the norms that are promoted reflect a group that the individuals closely identify with. Social norms marketing campaigns are perhaps best conceptualized as culture change interventions, taking more than one year to realize the behavioral change effects.
The social norms approach focuses on positive messages about healthy behaviors and attitudes that are common to most people in a group. It does not use scare tactics or stigmatize an unhealthy behavior. It avoids moralistic messages from authorities about how the target group “should” behave. Instead, it simply presents the healthy norms already existing in the group. It builds on the assets already in the community, through participation by community members, and by highlighting those who make healthy choices.