A Better Sign?

My wife and I got away for 2 nights this week. We went to a nice resort, turned off the laptop and the cell phone and did nothing but relax. It was awesome!

I don’t tell you all this to make you jealous but rather as a lead in to our topic today which is signs. While we were going for a walk at this resort, we spotted a sign that said “Unattended children will be given a double espresso and a puppy”.

As funny as this is, this got me to thinking about how much more effective that sign probably is. The resort could have said “Do not leave your children unattended” but I’m betting that the humorous sign is probably more effective.

France found this out a few years back with their “No Parking” signs. Instead of putting up “No Parking” they started posting signs that read essentially “If you park here, you will be in the way”. If may not be humorous but it does take the “bossy” edge off. They started to find that fewer people parked in the no parking areas.

There is a joke about the way the French people respond to being told not to do something that goes like this:

French, English and Americans paratroopers were being trained. When it came time to jump, however, all three groups frozen in fear, wouldn’t jump. Finally, to get the English to jump the leader yelled “Jump for the Queen!”. All the English jumped. The Americans wouldn’t jump for Obama. They tried everything until finally someone yelled “Krispy Kreme donuts when you land” and all the Americans jumped.

Nothing seemed to work for the French, however. They weren’t going to jump for the president, for French bread, cheese and wine (though it did get them closer to the open door). Finally, exasperated, the leader yelled “Fine! Don’t jump then!”

You guessed it, the French jumped.

Truth is that human nature (not just French nature) immediately rankles at being told not to do something. The two-year old toddler who yells “no!” is still alive and well in each one of us. Signs that phrase things in a humorous manner or in a way that doesn’t make it sound like a bossy parent take the edge off. I find that I respond differently myself. I don’t want to stop someone else from getting to where they are going by parking in front of their driveway so if it’s phrased that way, I tend to be more willing to not park there. When, however, I’m told “Don’t!” the two-year old in me comes out and I want to do it just because (This may be the French in me as I was raised in Paris, but I suspect that it has more to do with human nature then anything ethnic).

There is, of course, a time and a place for clear “DANGER” signs that aren’t try to be tactful or humorous but my question is, is there a way to increase compliance by finding a way to rephrase the signs to appeal to our better nature instead of applying to our rebellious nature?

Anyone have any experience with this? Comments?