Demographics and Dive Bars

When the Colorado Department of Transportation saw that motorcycle fatalities were on the rise, they knew something had to be done. Accident data pointed to the fact that many fatalities might have been avoided if the riders had been wearing helmets. And yet we are in a state where helmets are not required by law! Our job was to create a campaign that would encourage motorcycle riders to wear safety gear, including helmets.

First stop, our target audience. Motorcycle riders are already a small group, but we needed to know more in order to pinpoint our message. Which riders are most at risk? Who needs to hear our message most? The fatality data revealed an interesting tidbit: older, male, weekend riders were actually much more at risk than other groups.

Using this data, we dug up more demographic and psychographic information on our target. How? By stopping in to the local biker bar, of course. We bellied up to discover that these weekend warriors are affluent, hate being told what to do, and feel strongly that other drivers on the road are the biggest danger they face. According to our target, “cagers” (another name for four-wheeled car drivers) don’t check their mirrors, do a thousand other things behind the wheel, and generally do not pay much attention to the road. Notably, those who do wear safety gear or helmets claimed that the main reason was to protect themselves from these unpredictable, irresponsible drivers.

In fact, drivers were not found to be at fault in the majority of motorcycle fatalities from that period. We could try to convince our target they were wrong, but they probably wouldn’t listen. In behavior change communications, we know the importance of meeting people where they are. We needed to use this insight to connect with these bikers and drive action.

Next stop, campaign concept. Because our target doesn’t want to be scolded (who does?), we determined a peer spokesperson would be most effective. Our new friends from the watering hole proved to be excellent and credible talent for the photo shoot. By showcasing real, relatable riders, we could use social norming to promote more protective gear. Lastly, to make our message resonate, we would evoke the same rationale that other riders use.

Last stop, campaign launch. People were impressed with our striking, real-life photography, but not all drivers were thrilled with their portrayal and shared their grievances online. We seized this controversy as the perfect opportunity to chime in and share more important safety information with a broader public, extending the life of the campaign far beyond what paid media alone could offer.

The campaign won several awards and accolades, but most importantly, motorcycle fatalities have decreased by 25%. Who said advertising isn’t saving lives?