To persuade people to adopt ideas or change their behaviour requires research. It is necessary to understand the beliefs, attitudes and perceptions underlying their behaviour in order to find the motivations and 'moments of truth' that might influence them to change their ways.
Knowing how smokers' views differ on the issue of butt littering and identifying their propensities for behavioural change is extremely important if organisations such as Butt Free Australia are to be successful in reducing butt litter around Australia.
Developing compelling messages and triggers that will influence both the attitudes and the behaviour of smokers who litter their butts is also vital. They help shape appropriate campaigns and projects that tackle the issue of butt littering head on to bring about behavioural change.
While a number of studies addressing butt littering behaviour have been undertaken over the years, Butt Free Australia recognised the need for a current and extensive research study that looked at attitudes and behaviour behind cigarette butt littering in Australia.
In 2009, Butt Free Australia commissioned Millward Brown, a research company with a reputation in the Australian research industry for high quality and effective market research, to conduct a two-staged research project.
The first stage was a qualitative component, with six mixed gender focus groups (in Melbourne and Sydney) comprised of smokers who all admitted to butt littering at some stage.
This was followed by a quantitative phase, involving a nationally representative sample of 1,000 smokers, male and female, aged between 18-64 years, both in rural and metro areas.
The project identified three key groups, and went on to profile the groups, look at where butt littering featured as a concern, how butt littering was rationalised and what the most compelling messages were likely to be to bring about behaviour change:
- Litter infrequently and only when they believe there is no alternative.
- Littering is a conscious act when they do it and they don't blame a lack of infrastructure.
- Any detrimental impact of butt littering on others will be motivation to change behaviour.
- Surprised by their frequency of littering and consider it largely an unconscious act.
- Less emotive about the issue and more receptive to facts.
- Raising the consciousness of the act of butt littering will make a difference to the behaviour of butt litterers.
- Many actively litter and are defensive about smoking and also the butt littering message.
- Tend to blame a lack of infrastructure.
- Hard to reach and need an immediate payoff to change their behaviour.
Research that drills down even further into the various butt littering segments was then undertaken in late 2010. Firefly, the qualitative consultancy of Millward Brown, undertook this next phase.
An !deaBlog which employs a social media style of forum to elicit reactions and opinions was held over a five day period. Amongst other things, this innovative technique was used to explore the broader concept of socially unacceptable behaviour, butt littering behaviour and implications for campaign activity.
A presentation 'Understanding Attitudes & Behaviour Behind Cigarette Butt Littering' can be downloaded here (1.2 MB).
A presentation of '!deaBlog - Insight Mining' can be downloaded here. (3.02 MB)
Useful behavioural research
- Packaging Stewardship Forum:
Litter Behaviour Studies – (1997 – 2004)
- Community Change:
Environmental and community psychology
- Fostering Sustainable Behaviour
Community Based Social Marketing
- Keep Australia Beautiful
National Litter Index