Rational appeals for changing habits

While people engage with energy conservation messages on the basis of emotional appeals, the rational argument needs to be in place as well. Why are the behaviours you are targeting important, what difference do they make, how do behaviour changes translate into savings in national energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and costs for the household or organization?

What you need to do: 

Rational appeals should be presented in a way that is relevant for the target group. Changes that you may think are easy can be difficult for them, and vice-versa.  Here are some ways in which you can build a rational argument for changing energy-related routines:

  • Quantify potential benefits to the individual, family and society – preferably on the basis of real-life examples
  • Give realistic information on time and effort needed to change behaviour
  • Provide self-check and calculation tools for end-users
When does it work?: 

Rational appeals are likely to be helpful:

  • once your target group has bought into your argument and wants to learn more
  • when dealing with businesses and organisations, where rational decision making is the norm
  • when people need to justify their decision to change to others
  • quantification of benefits can offer a tool to keep people interested throughout the process of engagement
What do you need to look out for: 

► There is a risk that the metrics you use are not really connected to the target group’s daily concerns. For example, if the cost savings are too small to interest fuel rich people. Or if you are measuring CO2 emissions, but people feel their daily concerns are being overlooked.

► There can be benefits and reasons for changing behaviour that are not quantifiable, and these may be more important than the quantifiable. These can include reasons like 'doing the right thing', 'feeling more competent' or 'setting a good example'.