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If you can’t stop smoking, cancer will!!

Heard that one before? How about, ‘There are cooler ways to die.’ Anti smoking campaigns showcase the pinnacle of failed traditional marketing campaigns and represent billions of dollars wasted in advertising funds.

Understanding the various vectors that contribute to its ineffectiveness would probably bring out some valuable marketing insights. Although it may appear that an increasing number of people have actually retired or never attempted smoking, after years of sharp annual decline, per capita cigarette consumption is actually now at a plateau while teen smoking has now increased substantially since 1991.

smoking-packPart of the reason why such campaigns tend to fail is possibly because most campaigns currently target the tobacco industry and often ‘preach’ to individuals towards kicking the habit. Hence, following repeated exposures to these messages, one of two things happen: The first possibility is that the message is so weak it can’t really connect to your cognitive reasoning (eg: Tar “.xgm”, Nicotine “.x gm”, Benzene “” etc) and you’d probably wonder, Ok, so what? Either ways it’s just tiny decimal numbers and obscure chemical compounds, I’m sure regular airborne pollution contains more toxins than that. The second possibility is that the consequences stated appear so unbelievable (like the super gross pictures on the pack) that it fails to connect to you emotionally as you fail to see how your picture perfect life could possibly end up like that.

Ok, all that sounds plausible, but heck, what else do we do? As Prof. S. Ramkumar at the S.P. Jain Center of Management would say it, introspecting on why campaigns don’t click and the fact that complains or faults pour in, often provide deeper insights into what must be done differently. In the same way here, rather than increase the visual appeal and impact of the core message, what needs to be done is a paradigm change in the core messaging itself.

Smokers are exposed to anti-smoking messages designed to discourage youth from starting to smoke, but they seldom encounter smoking cessation messages that offer realistic strategies on how to quit. Instead, too many messages offer overly simplistic solutions that generally fail to hold.

Just about everyone who has smoked long enough has tried to quit at some point or the other. And they have been quite successful at quitting… like a ten thousand times over! Dad had wondered a long time back as to why normally free thinking intelligent men could in a second go from point smart to point stupid by puffing away when all around them there are blaring messages of the death it brings. What most smokers fail to acknowledge is that smoking is an addiction. It is extremely challenging for the body to just abandon the chemical high and quit. Withdrawal symptoms last long after that.

Therefore the key is to switch from pure scare tactics and visuals to imparting workable techniques on kicking the habit. A paradigm shift in marketing campaigns towards education on simple yet practical steps on quitting step by step, inch by inch is what would probably work.


November 10, 2009 at 5:17 pm 1 comment

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