At PSI, we like to bundle things - condoms and lube; male circumcision consumables; basic care products for PLWHA - so I was excited to check out some new research on message bundling. For those of you not in the know (like me, five hours ago), "message bundling" is just a fancy way of describing what BCC implementers everywhere are prone to doing - fitting lots of messages into one material. Is this a bad thing, in a field where we're constantly reminded that "focus demands sacrifice?" How many messages is too many?
A recent study of preconception health messages conducted by Karen King indicated that one could bundle up to four messages in a single print material without significantly impacting message recall, regardless of whether or not the messages were clearly related in terms of "category" or theme. What's not clear based on the study is the upper limit of bundling - subjects demonstrated significantly less recall for materials that contained sixteen messages, but no reduction for materials containing four. It would be helpful to know at what point between those two numbers the critical transition from memorable to forgettable occurs (maybe this brings us back to George Miller's Magical Number Seven, noted in this morning's plenary?). Also significant: the fact that the study only examined message recall for brochures. One would think that bundling would be more feasible using longer or more interactive formats. Ready for your next study, Dr. King?