The Power of Perception
Meg Ryan | Director of Client Services

Breaking Down Misperceptions to Impact Positive Behavioral Change



In today’s world, we often believe that our perception of reality is accurate – a true, unbiased depiction of ourselves, our experiences and those around us. But, the fact of the matter is, we’re usually wrong.


Perception influences the way we see reality which is often distorted by our past experiences, preconceived notions, self-interest, emotions, cognitive impairment and more. The problem is that these (mis)perceptions can have a profound, subconscious impact on our behavior and interactions with others.


Why is this important? Aside from the simple fact that we should always challenge our own perceptions in an effort to be our best selves and reduce conflict with others (wishful thinking, I know), there are many ways we can apply these insights in marketing and advertising.


Through our work with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) we are often tasked with developing campaigns to help raise awareness about a particular issue or growing health concern across the state. These efforts focus on driving some type of action or behavioral change to improve the health of Missourians. 


However, using marketing to change behavior requires a full and thorough understanding of not only the facts and supporting data, but the perceptions of the various audience segments you are trying to reach and the reasons why those perceptions exist. Only then can you accurately identify the problems you are trying to solve — closing the gap between the perception of the problem and the reality of the situation to drive action and positive change in behavior.


Sounds simple, right? If you’re laughing or shaking your head from side to side, you’re probably not alone. Challenging perceptions can be a very delicate process requiring a significant amount of empathy, sensitivity, and self-awareness in order to be effective. Don’t believe me? Just get two of the most outspoken people in the room from opposing political parties to weigh in on a controversial issue and watch what happens next. My guess is that both leave the room thinking they’re right and the other is wrong when in reality the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle.


You must be wondering how this might play out in a marketing scenario. so let’s take a look at an example from a campaign we recently developed on behalf of DHSS. 


We were tasked to increase awareness among Missouri residents of the opioid epidemic and evoke action among our core audience to visit the website, learn more about the issue and become active participants in the solution. However, before we could dive in, we had to consider some of the misperceptions that surrounded this particular issue such as:


  1. The opioid epidemic isn’t real. All the attention on opioid use is just hype. People dying from drug overdoses isn’t new.
  2. I received a prescription for opioids from my doctor, so it must be safe.
  3. People who misuse opioids are low-income drug addicts. It won’t affect me, my family or those around me.


The creative concept we developed that made the biggest impact on changing these perceptions while having the strongest call to action was Time to Act. The intention was to shock the audience with accurate data and statistics about the impact of opioid misuse, to disrupt our audience in their everyday activities to show how many people will die of an opioid overdose during the time it takes for them to complete the activity, and to encourage our audience to be part of the solution and take action. 


We used an integrated marketing approach with tailored messaging to surround our core audience groups that consisted of testimonial videos, influencers and various digital, outdoor, pharmacy and school media placements.


Below are just a few examples from the campaign:

Campaign billboard                            





Campaign ad displayed on smart phone           Campaign ad displayed on smartphone     smartphone showing campaign ad for facebook

Pharmacy Bag Campaign Creative

Influencer Instagram Post   Influencer Instagram Post



Though these statistics are jarring and the stories heartbreaking, the positive message in all of this is that there is something that we can all do to help change these numbers and work toward ending the opioid epidemic in Missouri. If you’d like to learn more visit


Have your own thoughts to share on this topic? We’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment or drop us an email.


In my next blog post, we will dive into the Science of the Positive — an approach presented by Dr. Jeff Linkenbach at a recent conference I attended — and the lasting impact it has on positive behavioral change when coupled with challenging perceptions. So be on the lookout!



Meg Ryan
Meg Ryan is the Director of Client Services at Elasticity. Meg serves as the account lead for the State of Missouri which includes clients such as Missouri Wine and Grape Board, Department of Health and Senior Services, Department of Economic Development, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of Conservation, Department of Social Services and Children’s Trust Fund. In addition to business development, she manages and oversees multiple campaigns and projects that span a variety of marketing and communications verticals. Meg has over a decade of experience designing and implementing strategic public relations and marketing campaigns for organizations and companies, ranging in size from startups to Fortune 500’s. A few past clients of note include USA Today, Downtown STL, Inc., Great Rivers Greenway, Regional Arts Commission, CompareCards, Autohaus BMW, and more. Meg is a two-time MarCom Award winner and graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in business administration. Meg loves to connect with other creatives and get inspired. She is constantly coming up with new concepts for TV shows, writing songs/lyrics and brainstorming solutions to problems (both big and small) that exist in everyday life. She has a vault filled with ideas and projects that she hopes will come to fruition and inspire others to unlock their creativity. When Meg’s not tackling work and personal projects, you can find her out socializing with friends, listening to live music or playing sand volleyball at Wave-Taco.
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