Social Marketing Anti-Smoking Smoking - Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

Half of them will ultimately die from their habit" (Smoking and teens fact sheet, 2009, ALA). Teens continue to smoke in record numbers -- particularly girls, who often report that they use smoking as a method of weight control (Smoking and women fact sheet, 2009, ALA). Demographic groups of teens that report the highest levels of weight consciousness also report the highest increases in rates of smoking: "Between 1992 and 1998, smoking prevalence increased significantly among white girls (from 31.2% to 41.0%) but only slightly among black girls (from 7.0% to 12.0%" (Smoking and teens fact sheet, 2009, ALA). Also, it is difficult for teens to quit when they see the behavior normalized at home in their parent's behavior.

Teen's brains are not fully developed, and they often have difficulty appreciating the consequences of their behavior -- they feel immortal, even if they might be highly intelligent (Inside the teenage brain, 2002, PBS). Teens might intellectually appreciate the consequences of smoking, but the emotional resonance of dying from smoking, or suffering in a gruesome fashion has less resonance than socially rewarding activities with peers. These social rewards might take the form of losing weight or sharing a cigarette with friends -- or the social and psychological reward might take the form of not conforming to parental demands and expectations.

Step 3: Set objectives and goals

Specifically, the desired objective of the Facebook/Twitter campaign is to get teens to stop smoking that have begun to smoke, and to stop teens from starting to smoke who do smoke by increasing teen awareness about the consequences of smoking in a way that makes them want to influence their friends to do the same. On a more specific level, the campaign also strives to make smoking 'uncool' and encourage teens to 'unfriend' and 'unlike' smoking, including social smoking.

Many teens ages 14 to 17 may not yet have the freedom or financial resources to be hard-core smokers, but they can adopt social smoking behavior, imitating older teens and parents, as well as media figures. Social smoking can spiral into actual addiction. Teens need to come to believe that smoking is uncool. One advertiser notes, in support of Internet-driven antismoking campaigns: "Small closely connected groups will result in [more effective] behavioral changes," than messages targeted at larger audiences, because small groups working together on a media site feel a personal investment in one another's success and behavior (Quit smoking with social networks, 2009, Social media trader). Only then do they strive to influence family members and friends in the real world to change.

Step 4: Analyze target audiences and the competition

In contrast to teens growing up in previous decades, teens today, thanks to school and television educational programs are at least intellectually or theoretically aware that smoking is bad (Smoking and teens fact sheet, 2009, ALA). They may not fully appreciate the health risks of smoking, which include heart disease as well as lung cancer and emphysema. They may also not understand that smoking can exacerbate current health conditions, like diabetes. They may be vaguely aware of the fact that smoking is unaesthetic, and also harms the teeth and gums. They may or may not know the extent of the risks of second hand smoke (Smoking and teens fact sheet, 2009, ALA). This is critical as even teens who do not smoke may be unwilling to tell their friends to 'quit it' when they light up in a car, or go to a smoky club.

Teens may be less apt to perceive the health benefits of quitting, especially if they suffer no immediate negative health consequences, although some teens might experience coughing, retching in the morning, and shortness of breath. However, some girls may fear gaining weight and perceive weight gain as a barrier. They may fear gaining weight in the short run more than the health benefits (including increased endurance during exercise, which promotes weight loss) in the long run because of the nature of teen risk perception (Inside the teenage brain, 2002, PBS).

Some teens who are contemplating quitting may fear alienating their friends, and losing a self-affirming social network. The usefulness of a teen-friendly medium like Facebook is that it has fewer associations with parental obedience than a traditional public health message by the government. While the costs of smoking themselves weigh on teen's minds, the perceived 'costs' of being alone or seeming to please one's parents must be taken into consideration when constructing the campaign. This would be one advantage to having a separate, Twitter-based campaign for teen parents, to separate the 'Unfriend' smoking campaign targeting teens.

Step 5: Develop marketing strategies

The core product will be a Facebook campaign in favor of smoking cessation. There will a persona on Facebook that teens can become a 'friend' of, and teens can also become a part of an 'Against Smoking' network of friends. Friends can also pledge to stop smoking and become a 'fan' of the site 'Against Smoking: Unfriend Smoking.' Teens trying to quit will be able to post how long they have quit on their 'walls' through the use of applications they 'allow.' Friends and fans will pledge not to 'favorite' any pro-tobacco products or logos. This will create a socially rewarding network of individuals wishing to abandon a negative behavior.

The 'Unfriend Smoking' campaign will also offer logos that users can paste on their personal pages, such as 'I have been -- days/weeks/months/years without a cigarette,' 'xx/xx/xxx is my nonsmoking birthday' and games that allow people to 'bust the smoker' along the lines of other popular Facebook games like Bejeweled Blitz. These will counteract the media campaigns of cigarette companies. Additionally, applications can be created to show teens how much money they can save by quitting smoking. This campaign will be relatively low-cost, given that it is virtual, rather than paper-based, and the main expense will be the labor costs of maintaining the application after it is created. It is also convenient, as it can be accessed every time someone logs into Facebook. The key message it would convey is that smoking is not cool, and it socially alienates a teen from his or her peer group, as well as has a negative impact upon the teen's financial and physical future. The promised benefits for the teen are money saved, greater attractiveness and energy, as well as greater social acceptability and healthy. The tone of the ad will be hip, fun, and teen-friendly

Step 6: Develop and plan for evaluating and monitoring

The most obvious evaluation of the plan's success will be the ability to see how many individuals 'friend' the 'Against Smoking' persona on Facebook, and become a 'fan' of the site 'Against Smoking: Unfriend Smoking.' The site can be monitored to see how many active, as opposed to one-time users deploy the application. And to measure real attempts to quit, specific use of applications such as the 'I have spend x days/weeks/years' without a cigarette can be tracked. Questionnaires can also be submitted to 'friends' about the site's usefulness as well as their smoking behavior. Positive feedback, such as the fact that a certain number of teens have gone a month, two months, or a year without smoking, can also be 'Tweeted' on the more parent-focused Twitter account.

Step 7: Determine budgets and find funding sources

The federal government is one of the leading sources of anti-smoking marketing campaigns, along with the American Heart and Lung Associations. These stalwart organizations would clearly appreciate a new audience amongst the young. Facebook, in an effort to show it is public-spirited as well as profitable, could act in conjunction with government agencies and non-profits. Also, the costs of creating the applications and page would be relatively low, compared with print or filmed advertising.

Step 8: Complete an implementation plan

The great advantage to a Facebook media campaign is that once the 'Unfriend Smoking' page and persona are created, and the corresponding Twitter account with a similar username, the site can be flexible to the needs of the community. There is no need for a phased campaign, as messages can be tweaked seasonally (such as the beginning of the school year or holiday-driven campaigns) and also altered to include new scientific evidence that supports is message. 'Unfriending Smoking' on Facebook can be a lasting, rather than a fleeting ad campaign.

Works Cited

Andreasen, a.R. (1995). Marketing social change: Changing behavior to promote health, social development, and the environment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Andreasen, a.R. (2002). Marketing social marketing in the social change marketplace. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 21(1), 3-13.

Christakis, Nicholas a. & James H. Fowler. (2009). Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives. Little, Brown.

"Connected." (2009, September 30). Leonard Lopate Show. Retrieved October 1, 2009 at

Donovan, R., & Henley, N. (2003). Social marketing: principles and practices. Melbourne:…

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