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Can Shame become the next major Tool to change public behavior? Can Shame become the next major Tool to change public behavior?
by Prof. Michael R. Czinkota
2015-07-09 10:26:01
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Beijing, the Chinese capital, has, for decades, been infamous for its heavy smog. Since 2014, the government has focused on improving the air quality. Smog related investments amount to $130 billion in support of policies designed to move away in power development from coal to cleaner energy sources.

smog01_400Outdoor smog has been linked to 1.2 million premature deaths a year in China.  An outdoor concentration of pollutants of 300 units is considered detrimental to personal health. Often, however, in Beijing concentration levels exceed 500 units.Yet, outdoor air quality is not the only worry. Also of concern, but relatively more difficult for the government to monitor and control, is indoor air pollution, which is mainly caused by human smoking. However, only three cigarettes burning in a restaurant can result in a pollution level of 600 units, which is much higher than the typical outdoor air pollution.

To reduce such second hand smoking risk, a new law came into effect on June 1st, 2015. Violators of smoking restrictions are not only hit with fines. Repeat offenders will be named and shamed on a public government website. Anyone breaking these new regulations and policies  will now face a fine ranging from $30 for individuals to $1,600 for businesses. Repeat offenders will see their names posted on a government website for one month, alongside a list of their offenses.

There are more than 300 million smokers in China. They account for nearly a third of all the smokers in the world. The Chinese government has also restricted tobacco commercials and raised the tobacco tax by 120%. The new rules are widely cast, covering economic as well as public perspectives.

A core dimension of the new law is Public shaming. Witnesses to infractions are urged to notify the government. However, most people claim they would not want to be involved and would not report violators to officials to avoid trouble. Social pressure can be exercised through shaming and is expected to make the new law more effective.

One must ponder the question: Can “shame” really work in implementing government policy? There is the walk of shame scene in TV’s“Game of Thrones”. Also, shame is not just an Asian tool.

Jennifer Jacquet, author of Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool believes that the real power of shame can work against entire countries and can be used successfully by the weak against the strong. (Click here for Jennifer Jacquet’s interview) . She claims success for a website run by the at lists the names of people who have not paid their taxes. The site targets only the top 500 delinquents, and the state has retrieved more than $395m in back taxes since it was launched in 2007.

Lately, republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush advocates the use of shame as a tool, and states that it should be used to reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies. He believes that since people don’t feel ashamed of single parenting, it has become ok for young women to give birth out of wedlock and young fathers to walk away from their paternal obligations.
These examples show how shame can be used to prevent certain behavior in business and society.  Shame can take on a reduction against corruption and business fraud. It can raise the attractiveness of honesty in competition. Working to avoid shame, can lead to better weights and measurements, a concern to avoid being ridiculed by competitors and losing one’s long developed reputation. Avoiding shame by reducing, eliminating, and making up for past mistakes, can strengthen a company’s unique selling proposition and let it emerge as a seasoned competitor. Particularly in fields such as marketing, where the ‘brand’ and personal perceptions are paramount, shaming can become a major influence if not the rationale for the curative approach leading to a healing of relationships between business, government and consumers.


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Michael Czinkota researches international marketing issues at Georgetown University He served in trade policy positions in the Administrations of Presidents Reagan and G.H.W. Bush.


       
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