Social marketing Smoking

Social marketing: Smoking







Launched in 1998, Florida “Truth” Campaign was an anti-smoking campaign aimed at attacking the adults who manipulated teenagers into smoking. The media served as the primary tool for enabling comprehensive campaign (Allen et al n.d.). The “Truth” Campaign featured aggressive fast-paced that presented facts on the habit-forming nature of smoking, the number of deaths, the hazardous cigarette ingredients, as well as the tobacco industry’s marketing practices (Hicks 2001). In less than two years, between 1998 and 2000, the rate of Florida’s teenagers in the middle school, who smoked, reduced to 8.6 percent from 18.5 percent, while those in the high school reduced to 20.9 percent from 27.4 percent. Additionally, almost all the young people (72 percent) in Florida of between the ages of 12 to 17 years gained knowledge of the campaign, a year after the launch (Hicks 2001). The campaign made a dramatic success, eventually becoming the model antismoking campaign in the United States. This paper critically analyses the campaign. It further suggests the next stage in the campaign to assist consumers in making the right decisions for positive behaviour change.

The objective of the “Truth” Campaign was to reduce tobacco prevalence among the young people and the youth. It was focused on cutting the risks of initiation, smoking and the possibility of advancing to established smoking

The campaign did not advise the youth on what to do or not to do. This was based on the approach proposed by market research experts that ‘just say no’ approaches to public health messages tend to be counterproductive. Instead, the campaign passed factual information and encouraged the teenagers to make their own personal decisions in changing their belief and attitudes towards smoking as well as smoking behaviour (Allen et al n.d.).

Additionally, the campaign featured youth spokespersons who exhibited social tendencies for smoking, including independence, rebelliousness, and risk-taking behaviours. The campaign targeted such stereotypical social images to alter smoking behaviours.

The target audience included school-going children, aged between 12 and 17 years old. The Truth Campaign also regularly undertook studies of its target audience to effectively understand the micro-market segments, such as the parts of Florida where the campaign made minimal effects.

Social marketing applies four central principles, namely the ‘four P’s. They include the place, product, promotion and price (Calonius 2006).

Concerning the product, the Truth Campaign provided tangible and intangible products to facilitate behaviour change and raising awareness about the hazards of smoking. These included cessation counselling. In regards to price, the Campaign had interventions, aimed at decreasing the costs of the teens, in terms of time, emotional, psychological and monetary costs. For instance, the Campaign provided summer bus tours in various locations in Florida, so as to reach the youth who faced barriers of encountering the campaign, due to time constraints, brought about by inconvenient school hours and geographic barriers, brought about by distance from the urban centres (Hicks 2001).

In respect to place, the Campaign adequately considered when and where the teens would perform the behaviour and ways of preventing smoking prevalence. For instance, it offered help lines that were available 24 hours a day. It also recruited a team made up of peer counsellors and scholars, who could make the campaign and its activities mode accessible. To disseminate the information, it used the media, public postings and training of the teens.

In regards to promotion, the Campaign used periodic market research to decide on the activities and channels that would promote the desired behaviour and to grab the attention of the youth. The promotion went beyond the use of traditional media to having the teenagers confront the tobacco industry and publicising the teen ‘terrorism” in the popular media. The campaign’s television component was complemented by radio ads, internet and grass roots “Truth tour”, which consisted of a summer bus tour to enable the youth experience the campaign in the dynamic setting. Overall, all the 4 “Ps” consistently reinforced the objective of the campaign in preventing smoking prevalence.

The concept of the campaign is ethical in nature, since it is based on the favourable activities and intended to design the development of individuals. Although the campaign has the potential to benefit the targeted group and the general society, it also has the potential of causing some detriments, through misuse of marketing, because of its confrontational content that hit at the tobacco manufacturers. Hence, it is deducible that what the campaign dealt with was trade-off between the right to smoke a cigarette as it is a legal product and the right to protect the young people from negative social influences (Akdogan et al. n.d). These lead to two central issues, namely the teleological problem and deontological problem. Teleological problem is concerned with the rightness or wrongness of outcome of the campaign. Since it led to reduced smoking prevalence and better health outcomes, it should be argued that the campaign was ethical. Deontological problem is concerned with the rightness or wrongness of the rewards (Jones & Hall 2006). Since the campaign was intended to cause positive behaviour change, it should be viewed as ethical.

Promoting positive behaviour change

Message framing is essential in promoting positive behaviour change. As stated by Lu (2013), behaviour influencing campaigns tend to be more effective, when they adapt their messages to the stage where the target audience is situated. Instead of seeking to get an immediate response, the “Truth” Campaign should have tried to move the targeted audience gradually towards the desired behaviour. However, the Truth Campaign used a ‘one-size-fits all approach’ that was never efficient. It could have been more effective to focus the campaign’s strategy on particular segments of the teenagers who shared similar values, lifestyles and motivations (Calonius 2006). The campaigns for habit-forming substances, such as smoking are most effective with individuals who acknowledge that there is a problem with smoking and have considered resisting it (Liu & Tan 2009).

In compliance with the principle of consistency, social marketing should be consistent with promoting behaviours that are beneficial to the society, as well as individuals (Smith 2006). In this case, the ‘Truth’ Campaign should have been applied wherever one had a target audience and behaviours that needed to be influenced. In which case, the objective should have been strictly behaviour change, rather than encouraging the teenagers to confront the tobacco industry with aggressive messages.

In regards to the perceived risks vulnerability, the Campaign should have given a new meaning to the target behaviour. Smith (2006) argued that it is essential for individuals to understand the risks associated with the behaviour change before they can accommodate. According to Lu (2013), barriers to change are typical internal to the audience and can be associated with beliefs, knowledge or beliefs.

Overall, the Campaign should have had knowledge objective, or what the teenagers should know and belief objective, or what the Campaign wanted the teenagers to believe.

Reference List

Akdogan, S, Coban, S & Ozturk, R n.d. “Ethical Perceptions of Social Marketing Campaigns: An Empirical Study On Turkish Consumers,” European Scientific Journal vol. 8 no. 25, 146-150

Allen, J, Vallone, D, Vargyas & E, Healton n.d., The Truth Campaign: Using Countermarketing to Reduce Youth Smoking, viewed 11 June 2014,

Calonius, H 2006, “Contemporary Research in Marketing: A Market Behaviour Framework,” Marketing Theory vol. 6. pp. 419–428

Jones, S & Hall, D 2006, Ethical issues in social marketing. Proceedings of the 3rd Australasian Non-profit and Social Marketing Conference Newcastle,10-11 August 2006, Australia: University of Newcastle

Liu, H & Tan, W 2009, “The Effect of Anti-Smoking Media Campaign on Smoking Behavior: The California Experience,” Annals of Economics and Finance vol. 10 no. 1, pp.29–47

Lu, A 2013, “Barriers and Benefits: Changing Behavior Through Social Marketing,” Behaviour Change, viewed 11 June 2014,

Smith, W 2006, “Social marketing: an overview of approach and effects,” Inj Prev. vol. 12 no. 1, pp.i38–i43.

Hicks, J 2001, “The strategy behind Florida’s “truth” campaign,” Tob Control vol.10, pp.3-5