Posts tagged “shame”

Talk to the 5th guy

The 5th guy is a public health awareness campaign from the Florida Department of Health. It

illustrates a simple point – most people respect certain hygienic norms. They stay home when they are sick. They cover their cough with their arm or a tissue. And they wash their hands, especially after using the restroom. There is observational data on that: The American Society for Microbiology sent researchers into public rest rooms to watch what people do. They found that four out of five people wash their hands after using the restroom. Thus was born the campaign’s central character: the “Fifth Guy.” In the ads, this fifth guy – played by a wonderful comic actor named Ben Spring – keeps making the wrong choices and suffering the social consequences as a result. The take-away message is: Unless you are staying home when sick, covering your cough with an arm or a tissue, and washing your hands often, you’re a fifth guy, an outlier. That’s the motivation. No one wants to be a fifth guy – to be that one person everyone whispers about.

It’s interesting to think about the line between playing on social norms and shame-based advertising. Advertising is often about encouraging you to take some action, telling you that you should take action, telling you that everyone else is doing it are basic forms of persuasion.

Florida is trying to encourage what they claim is a dominant behavior, as opposed to trying to create a new behavior, so pointing to the majority makes sense.

Many years ago I worked on a project for Unilever. They were considering the challenge of “on-the-go cleansing” — people away from the place (the bathroom at home) where they normally use Unilever products. I think the timing was just before “germophobia” went mainstream. The people we observed and interviewed were experiencing a serious tension between the need to protect themselves from germs and the need to behave normally.

You were expected to shake hands with someone in a social setting, but you were also made aware of the fact that that person’s hands were covered in germs. You were expected to share food with colleagues and friends, but you may not know if someone else put their hands in the candy bowl without washing them. And you weren’t allowed to pay too much attention to your own cleanliness, lest you be seen as having a mental illness (i.e., OCD).

We identified several strategies for Unilever to use. One of them, like the 5th guy campaign, involved making things normal by making them common. The box of office tissue that everyone takes from, or the skin lotion pump that is used by colleagues at work are both examples. Everyone uses them, therefore it’s normal, therefore it’s okay.

Another strategy involved creating hidden usage opportunities, where new cleaning behaviors could take surreptitiously, in a pocket, or in the pages of a book.

And a strategy that lived between those two was to mask new behaviors as existing normal activities. For example, makers of insulin pens have begun to make their devices to look more like pens than syringes.

I hope there’s good data with this Florida initiative, but I suspect some of the biggest change has already taken place, within the organization itself. I remember that our clients at Unilever worked hard to grasp the depth of the struggles we shared with them; indeed, they kept referring to the “people with OCD” as we reiterated that most people had these very concerns over germs but did not want to be assumed to have OCD. Our clients were participants in the culture they were seeking to understand and getting to that new perspective took a lot of work on both sides. The (what I presume to be) new thinking exhibited by the Floridians is encouraging.

Keeping spam out of your brand?


I imagine many folks are familiar with the email newsletters from Constant Contact, that feature the SafeUnsubscribe logo above? I’ve received any number of newsletters sent via their service always from business or people I know. Their unsub mechanism has always seemed reliable, and I’ve felt good about the company as an alternative to other ways of sending mass-email that get flagged as spam, etc.

I was surprised, therefore, to get this:

An ad for some online pajama sales. With someone else’s name in the body of the ad (where my name presumably would be). I tried to unsub but the link didn’t work.

[Perhaps this was some sort of phishing scam, like those fake emails we receive from eBay, PayPal and every bank imaginable, asking us to log in and verify our accounts – those messages are clever fakes and don’t come from the companies they appear to come from].

I thought this was semi-legit and so I contacted the company about this messed up message they were sending out. Their less-than-helpful reply.

Dear Steve,

Thank you for contacting Constant Contact Customer Support.

We checked the account from which you received the campaign email and found that you have received a test email of one of the campaigns created in this account.

We understand that you tried to unsubscribe from this listing by clicking on the Unsubscribe link in the campaign but were unsuccessful.

Please be informed that certain features like “Unsubscribe” link do not function in the test email. If you wish to be removed from the mailing list please respond to the person who sent this campaign with your concern.

We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

If you have any further questions please send us a note.

Constant Contact Support

What? So they aren’t responsible for what is sent out? And send me off to someone else? As far as a test email, that’s absolute bunk. I received three more of the pajama ads, all from different From: addresses. Someone is spamming either with or without the consent of Constant Contact.

If it wasn’t from them at all, you’d think they would have identified that, rather than the ridiculous “test email” story.

I contacted their abuse address, which I should have done in the first place. This was a few wees ago, and they’ve completed ignored me.

Of course, bad customer service is always a bad reflection on your brand, but this company’s core brand seems to be that they are a trusted delivery vehicle for email – their stuff is screened, bonded, whatever, to be NOT spam. They’re used for spam, and they drop the ball, entirely.

How could anyone trust them, or in fact, permit them to send us email, if this is what we are letting ourselves in for. Maybe they are known widely as a spamhaus (as they are called) but I’d never been aware of it. I’m going to assume they are, however.

My second run-in with bad support around service abuse comes from LinkedIn, a social networking site. People connect with others they know; of course, what it means to know someone is up for interpretation and LinkedIn’s own version of what those links should represent has been ignored by many people. A few weeks ago someone appeared to be running amok and sending linking invitations to as many people as humanly possible. I received a direct invitation which I declined (this is not someone I knew at all), but saw them connecting with others I knew later that day.

The next day I received another connection attempt from the same person, this time through the “school colleague” feature of the system. At this point I was fed up; the system expects people to behave reasonably, this person wasn’t, and now I was getting repeated unwanted solicitations. I contacted LinkedIn about it:

Thank you for your email. We apologize for the experience you have had. LinkedIn is very concerned with member experience.

LinkedIn can assure you, LinkedIn was not the source of the spam you received. As stated in LinkedIn’s Privacy Policy:

“Your privacy is our top concern. We work hard to earn and keep your trust, so we adhere to the following principles to protect your privacy:

  • We will never rent or sell your personal information to third parties for marketing purposes
  • We will never share your contact information with another user, unless both of you choose to contact one another
  • Any sensitive information that you provide will be secured with all industry standard protocols and technology”
    • Would you please tell us what spam you received? Is it possible for you to forward copies of the emails (including full header information) so we may investigate the source of the emails?


      Loretta Thomas
      LinkedIn Customer Service

Of course, I described the situation clearly in my first message, but they obviously didn’t read that. I used the “spam” word and that clearly blinds support staff from reading the rest of the message. I sent in the message in question, and of course, have heard nothing weeks later.

Privacy is becoming a ridiculously heated topic now, and it’s intersting to see companies who are offering different forms of introduction/connection services fail to – when it’s right in front of them – protect the privacy and quality of communication that their members receive. All the while, of course, proclaiming how they are indeed doing so. It’s pathetic!

Update: July 12 – I hear back

This account has been cancelled for abuse. It was cancelled on 6/15/06.

Thank you,

Customer Compliance
Constant Contact


About Steve