What Elements Make a Vegetarian Leaflet More Effective?
This study from the North Eastern U.S. looks at what kind of images and informational approach contained in a vegetarian leaflet might be the most effective in reaching a young audience. Using a variety of test booklets, researchers conducted initial surveys, as well as follow-ups, to better understand what literature tended to produce the best results, and how respondents differed in their stated intent versus whether or not they actually changed. The study reveals that for many youth, showing a wide range of farm animals, and focusing on how to go vegetarian (vs. why to go vegetarian) yields the best results.
Various demographics respond differently to different messages, and this research from the Humane League Labs (HLL) focused on youth, an audience that has generally seemed open to hearing pro-animal messages, and is driving trends of vegetarianism and veganism. For this study, HLL wanted to explore whether young people responded more positively to: a cruelty message or a health message; a message including all farm animals or just chickens; and a “how to go veg” message or a “why to go veg” message. “A booklet with each possible combination of the above three variables was created and used in the study, for a total of eight booklets. As a result, in addition to providing general answers to the above questions, the study also suggested which combination of elements might make for the most persuasive leaflet.” Respondents at Colleges in the North-East U.S. (as well as selected stops on The Warped Tour in the North-East) answered a questionnaire on how often they ate red meat, chicken, fish, and eggs, and were then given one of the eight different booklets. After reading the booklet for as long or as short as they wanted, they were asked to fill out another short survey about how much they anticipated they would change their diet in the future. A control group filled out both surveys but didn’t get a booklet. Three months after the initial surveys, all of the participants got an email with a follow up survey (enticed into responding by the possibility of winning a $500 gift card). 3,233 respondents participated in the initial survey, and 569 people responded to the follow-up.
The results were analyzed to see just how much each respondent’s diet had changed between the time they filled out the first survey (prior to seeing a booklet) and when they filled out the follow-up survey three months later. It was then calculated how many animals’ lives these positive changes could save. According to HLL, there was “a sharp difference between the overall impact of different types of booklets.” The category that had the greatest influence overall was the types of animal pictures used. When pictures of all farm animals (versus only chickens) were included, the reported changes would have saved 150% more animals. The question of why vs. how also made “a significant difference.” Those who received a booklet that discussed the “how” of vegetarianism reported dietary changes that would spare 50% more animals. The question of cruelty vs. health made the least difference overall, both resulting in dietary choices that saved a similar number of farmed animals.
All in all the study provides strong evidence that, when it comes to vegetarian booklets aimed at young people, “the single most effective booklet in the study discussed all farm animals, was cruelty-focused, and was how-focused.” The authors suggest that it could be possible that the same demographic might respond to a similarly packaged message in the form of a video, but note that they “cannot know without direct testing.” They also recognize that there is a huge difference between a stated intent to change, and change itself. In one category, “those who received a booklet with only chickens reported just as much intent to change as those who received a booklet with all animals, but the latter group ended up sparing more than twice as many animals with their diet changes.” In fact, in all categories, the stated intent to change was greater than the change that actually took place. However, the difference in intent vs. impact was not explored, and could be an avenue for fruitful future study.