Challenging Dogma - Spring 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Drop10 ‘Cause It’s Hot- Stephanie Cox

Healthworks is an all-women’s fitness center with locations all throughout the Boston-Metro area. As a high end fitness center it incorporates many different ways of catering to the wants of its clientele, including the utilization of group-based workout regimes in order to increase motivation and bolster commitment from ladies to their health goals. Among these regimes is Drop10, an 8-week progressive program which incorporates a wide range of high-intensity exercises including plyometrics, weight training and cardio, aimed to help ladies shed pounds and tone down.

While this program is an evidence-based workout designed and tested by Healthworks top personal trainers, the methods through which it has been marketed fail to demonstrate a sound understanding of the social psyche and rationale people utilize when making decisions, including those about how to attain their fitness goals. Specifically, the intervention promoting the program fails to first frame the issue from the most optimal perspective. Second, it doesn’t take full advantage of the manner in which the message is delivered and the titanic impact that can translate into. Finally, it lacks an appeal to people’s core values, as well as support that what it promises to do will reinforce those core values.

By critically analyzing each aspect of the current intervention and subsequently applying the proven theories of Framing, Advertising and Communication to make appropriate improvements, Healthworks can more effectively encourage their clientele to take an active approach towards their health goals and to utilize the Drop10 program in doing so.

Intervention- Current Methods of Promotion

The Drop10 Intervention currently utilizes a vast array of methods encouraged by some of the more traditional social science models used for promoting behaviors in public health. For example, the webpage for the program lists expected outcomes and benefits of it, a method supported by the Health Belief Model, the Theory of Reasoned Action and the Social Learning Theory (1-3). All of these theories rest on the premise that behavior is planned and reasoned by people and that to persuade people to change their behavior one must appeal to their reason. These theories all appeal to reason in part by making specific mention of the expected outcomes of a behavior and supporting one’s attitudes about such outcomes. While this can be a beneficial means of informing people about what the behavior change can accomplish, it is not enough to be the primary method of persuasion, which is how it currently stands in this intervention.

Promotion of the program also introduces it, although only briefly, by using a specific group currently enrolled and by providing a personal quote to go alongside the list of expected outcomes. The majority of the video solely focuses on these members performing exercises which are a part of the workout regime. This method of Modeling is also supported by the Social Learning Theory and holds that people will more readily adopt a behavior that they see being modeled (1). This is a belief that is also held by Communication Theory (4) and will be a point of major improvement for the intervention later in this paper. While these current methods can be appropriate means of persuasion for some behaviors and products, the realm of health behaviors is best marketed with an understanding of the social psyche, wherein the irrational nature of people is recognized, appreciated and tapped into as a source of power for persuasion.

Flaw 1- Framing

When trying to persuade people to change their behavior the context in which the issue is framed is of tantamount importance. The intervention for the Drop10 program is currently bereft of any particular frame around the issue, and thus fails to capitalize on this very powerful method of persuasion. By simply listing the facts which are relevant to the program and the expected outcomes of a change in behavior, the intervention is making the false presumption that this is enough to convince people to change their behavior, and also that getting people to change their attitude will result in their change in behavior.

Framing Theory, however, suggests otherwise. Instead of simply presenting people with facts and figures, Framing Theory states that context is crucial in the art of convincing. By setting your argument to be viewed through a specific lens by the client, it allows you to control the initial setting in which they see the issue, as well as the specific information they’re being exposed to. Utilizing the wrong lens through which to view your concept can trigger the wrong response from viewers and be the root cause of the failure of an intervention. Equally just as harmful to your campaign can be the

complete lack of a lens, which is what is demonstrated here. Advertisements and promotions of the program fail to provide prospective clientele with any prepped cues as to how they should respond to it.

Flaw 2- Message Delivery System

The main methods used by Healthworks to spread the message about the Drop10 program is simply the company’s own webpage, an uploaded video clip and posters in the gym itself. While the video does utilize a specific real-world group participating in the program, it fails, as do the other sources of information, to adequately utilize those messengers in delivering the information. The impersonal nature of the webpage and the authoritarian perspective from which it is delivered provide a less than ideal messenger for persuasion. The ideal messenger should be one most similar to the clientele to be persuaded. They should be very familiar, attractive and appealing, helping to aide the client in envisioning how they, too, can become like this person with the help of the product being advertised. The ideal messenger should be able to demonstrate how this program can be easily adopted by the new user and help them attain the promise they desire it to fulfill.

In addition to having a static, impersonal approach through which their message is communicated, the Healthworks Drop10 intervention insufficiently espouses the power of priming and positive labeling(5). It makes no mention to any type or mold that clientele can either identify with or live up to. This is a very powerful tool whose current use is extremely lackluster and dismal. Similar to the art of framing, providing potential

clients with appropriate figures to identify with empowers the marketer with the ability to highlight the type of clientele they would like to attract, as well as control the first images the client associates the product with. Those images should be ones that the client either identifies with already or aspires to identify with. Successful interventions readily make use of these tools and fit them to best match up with the clientele they possess. A failure to do so results in a primary reliance upon client reasoning, which has readily been established as irrational.

Flaw 3- Advertising Theory: Weak promise, no support, no value!

The entire premise of this intervention is that rationality is what governs people’s actions and that simply showing them what they need to do in order to reach their goals will convince them to do it. This is not the case, however, especially when it comes to healthy behaviors. Advertising Theory rests on the basic concepts of promise, support and values, none of which are successfully portrayed in the intervention as it currently stands. 1 A very weak promise is made by stating the expected outcomes of the program, however this promise does not follow the key principles of successful promises as outlined by the Advertising Theory (6); the promise is small in nature and fails to draw any kind of emotional appeal. A weak promise makes for a weak commitment, which is exactly what Healthworks is experiencing with their program. Furthermore, the current intervention insufficiently supports what tiny promise it does offer, but again fails to do

so in an effective way, mainly by offering a low degree of support for the relatively weak core value of health.

The Drop10 intervention makes a meager attempt through video to show what a client has to look forward to as a result of being a part of the group, however it does not go into depth nearly enough to draw meaningful results. Instead of promising clients that they can attain something they want and then showing them how to do it with the use of the program, it makes spiritless claims and provides a scarcity of appeal to the emotionally charged and invigoratingly motivational core values that people more easily identify with and are inspired by.

Finally, the current intervention has chosen to focus on the value of health. While fitness experts may see this as a crucial value to be highly regarded, there are many other core values with which the general population more readily identify with and regard to a higher level, such as security, family, control, freedom, and loyalty (6). People are more successfully compelled to take part in something that they view upholds the values close to them, rather than something backed by simply reason. By choosing to identify their program as one which upholds one or a combination of these core values the Drop10 program will take advantage of this concept upheld by Advertising Theory and thus be more successful in persuading ladies to participate in the program.

Fix It 1- A Matter of Control and Security

As stated, the first improvement that could be made to made the Drop10 program more successful would be to appropriately frame the issue. To use framing properly one must not only choose a frame, but make sure it is the correct frame and solicits the desired response. Choosing the correct frame through which to set the intervention requires the consideration of all of the different frames possible and the core values that underly each particular frame. It also requires a knowledge of the type of people being addressed by the intervention and the values most important to them.

A variety of possible frames exist for such an intervention. The issue could be framed as a physical health/weight loss issues, as a proven workout that gets results and isn’t a waste of time/energy, as a way of ridding the restrictions put on one’s life by carrying extra weight, whether those restrictions be on their dating life, their image, their work abilities, or even their social circles. An array of restrictions can be tied back to one’s weight, especially since society views personal appearance as such a highly regarded and influential aspect of life. But again, it is crucial that the appropriate frame is chosen and that the desired outcome can consistently arise from it.

Healthworks women are women of power, women of confidence, and women of action. Thus, these women focus on the core values of security, control, and freedom. I propose that Healthworks frame the Drop10 program as a program that aides already confident ladies in shedding any of the current restrictions they’re experiencing in their life by shedding their extra weight. Such restrictions can be exemplified by any of the previous examples, or as a combination of such, although demonstrating restrictions on one’s image or work abilities might reach the greatest number of clientele, as these can be problems faced by women of all ages at any point in their lives.

By framing the issue as one wherein their current status, power or confidence is threatened you can motivate more ladies to act in furthering the resistance of this threat. Framing the issue as one wherein their freedom and security is currently threatened allows the intervention to appeal to their emotional sense and desire to act on the situation. Further showing the issue as one wherein they have control over the presence of the very thing which is threatening these core values (the restrictions on the various aspects of their lives) will motivate women exposed to the intervention to participate in the behavior change and take back control over these areas of their lives as a result. The Illusion of Control theory suggests just this as it explains that people are more likely to participate in a behavior when they perceive to have control over it (8). Furthermore, successfully encouraging people to change their behavior first allows their attitude change to follow.

Framing this issue as such also allows proponents of the program to exemplify a proper response by a current Healthworks member. In understanding the Healthworks women are active, positive and powerful, it would be appropriate to prime those exposed to the intervention with related cues. For example, a strong, powerful woman carrying a few extra pounds could respond to the threat those pounds pose on her work or social environment, or on her personal image, and could view that as an opportunity to take an active role in shedding those pounds with the help of the Drop10 program.

Fix It 2- Don’t Shoot, but Do Change the Messenger

Instead of using the static and impersonal methods of delivery currently employed, the Drop10 program would benefit from revamping the primary ways of delivering their message, a concept backed by Communication Theory. This theory holds that the most important factor in trying to persuade someone to do something is who is making the request or sending the message in the first place (4). This concept is also backed by the Diffusion of Innovations Theory (9), wherein one of the key clusters of influence surrounding the rate of adoption of an innovation is the people who are currently using the innovation and the characteristics they possess and represent. Thus, by correctly identifying characteristics the target audience values, an effective method of delivery of the information can be attained by subsequently choosing a messenger which embodies these characteristics and is more similar to the client, rather than authoritarian in nature.

Communication Theory advocates that the messenger be believable, attractive or appealing, and familiar (4). Possible messengers, therefore, include current Healthworks women themselves who have gone through the program, popular media figures from the community (or their wives, as this is an all women’s center), or other Healthworks members who are directly connected to prospective clientele. Drop10 could be advanced by taking this messaging a step even further, and making direct consumer messaging as a means to get information about their program out. Encouraging and incentivizing current members to bring their own friends into the network and act as advocates themselves can have a tremendous impact on the

effectiveness of the message and subsequently the rate of adoption, a concept further upheld by Social Network Theory (10). By choosing messengers such as the aforementioned, prospective clients are able to envision how this program can affect them personally and can demonstrate how the program can be adopted by them.

Fix It 3

In order to remedy the lack of promise, support and value utilized in the current intervention strategy the program should first recall the core values most important to their prospective clientele. As previously stated, these values include security, control and freedom. Therefore, as with framing, the promise made to clients should be closely knit with these core values and really strive to be as strong and emotionally compelling as possible (7). Possible promises could be that participating in the program and losing ten pounds will help you regain control over seemingly shaky areas of your life, whether they be professional, social or personal, or that participation will help you build freedom in your life by shedding the stigma and the physical and psychological restraints that comes with carrying extra weight. Support for these promises could easily be provided through the use of imagery and music.

Due to the compounded problem with health change behaviors in that the benefits are not immediately seen, a successful intervention also requires either a lot of mind games capitalizing on other benefits to be had from the behavior change, or getting the person to commit from the beginning to the behavior change for a long enough time to be able to actually see results. The easier and more effective route of these two methods would be to present the benefits of a behavior change that can be immediate. Immediately after you join Drop10 you will be able to identify with the strong, powerful women of the Drop10 program that don’t just sit back and expect good things to happen but are willing to work for them, and work hard. Immediately after you join you can meet your group trainer and how they can inspire you to be proactive towards the commitment you just made. Immediately after you join you can have more confidence in your own ability to change things because you’ve already taken the first step to change yourself by making the commitment to yourself and to the program.

All of these immediate promises are strong mental and emotional motivators that will encourage people to act more than telling them they can drop ten pounds till you’re blue in the face. Again, they can be successful by being demonstrated to the prospective client and backed by strong support possible through video and music. By providing clients with a large promise that connects to the core values held closest to their care and supporting it with effective images and sensory inputs, the Drop10 program can effectively utilize Advertising Theory to market their program.


By critically analyzing each aspect of the current intervention and subsequently applying the proven theories of Framing, Advertising and Communication to make appropriate improvements, Healthworks can more effectively encourage their clientele to take an active approach towards their health goals and to utilize the Drop10 program in doing so. Successful application of these theories would lead marketers to frame the issue as one wherein a lady’s current status, power or confidence is threatened by bearing the burden of carrying extra weight, a problem which the program is successful at addressing, by utilizing messengers who are similar to the prospective clientele more effectively, and by making a promise that this program is one which can provide security and reinstate freedom and control to a woman’s life that is validated through effective support.


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