Qual Street

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Naming it: the story of the designated driver


Just listened to Rory Sutherland’s radio 4 programme on marketing. He told the story of how behavioural scientists wanted to encourage people to feel comfortable NOT drinking in social settings, in order to reduce drink driving.

Apparently they borrowed thinking from Linguistics – the Sapir Whorf hypothesis which says if you give something a name, you fundamentally alter the way it’s perceived.

So they coined the phrase Designated Driver…

And then, the behaviour scientists turned to the TV industry not for product placement, but behaviour placement. Shows like Friends dramatised the Designated Driver role as accepted behaviour and soon the idea became normalised, All-American.

And the drink driving rate dropped

So there you have it, behaviour change through the art of persuasion.


Kath Rhodes, Qual Street Owner

I love love learning and so I invest time and resources with Ambreen and Claire into exploring social psychology, neuro science, creativity and new techniques in research. Read all about it and help yourself to the ideas that will deliver your business the insight it needs

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@Qualstreet on 17 March 2023