Background on Campaigns & Promotions
What are campaigns and promotions strategies?
- Campaigns and promotions are intervention tools used to educate the public about the benefits or consuming healthy and nutritious foods and to increase consumption of nutritious foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, multigrain cereals, fish).
- This intervention strategy uses television and radio advertisements, press releases, letters to the editor, posters, billboards, brochures, clothing, stickers, websites, and a number of other communication channels to distribute intervention messages to large numbers of people.
- Using specific nutrition messages, campaigns and promotions can:
- highlight the association between food choices and health outcomes (e.g., fat intake and obesity)
- promote behavioral change (e.g., purchase foods with less sugar; eat more fruits and vegetables)
- improve knowledge and skills related to the benefits of nutritious foods (e.g., increased energy, weight loss) and challenges with making lifestyle changes (e.g., skill-building for healthy food preparation)
- change community norms (e.g., offer healthy options in restaurants and grocery stores)
- Nutrition campaigns and promotions include mass media campaigns and point-of-purchase campaigns. These intervention tools are designed to increase knowledge and awareness about the relationship between nutrition and health, types of nutritious foods to purchase and consume, healthy ways to prepare foods, and the appropriate amount of different foods to consume.
How do campaigns and promotions impact nutrition behaviors?
- Campaigns and promotions, when used alone, are useful in creating community awareness about the importance of nutrition to health and quality of life. Increasing knowledge and awareness is often the first step to supporting behavior change. Therefore, campaigns and promotions may be particularly useful in helping individuals become ready to change their behavior.
What are mass media campaigns and how can I use them in my nutrition intervention?
- Mass media campaigns use media channels (e.g., newspaper, radio, television, internet) to deliver messages to large numbers of people (e.g., schools, workplaces, communities, regions, states). Such campaigns translate what are often complicated nutrition messages into specific, easily understood, messages about what to eat (e.g., more fruits and vegetables, less fat), how to eat (e.g., smaller portion sizes), and how to prepare foods (e.g., baking rather than frying).
- The campaign can be used to raise awareness, provide information, or change attitudes and community norms. Mass media campaigns can provide messages about a specific change in eating patterns (e.g., increase fruits and vegetables, increase low fat milk) or provide more general recommendations (e.g., follow the food guide pyramid). Previous research emphasizes the importance of using consistent messages across a variety of media channels (e.g., print, television, radio). For example, a media campaign may be created so that the messages aired during teen television shows support the classroom posters promoting healthy snack foods.
- One of the strengths of mass media campaigns is their ability to reach and educate large numbers of individuals about nutrition. If, for example, a mass media campaign in a large metropolitan area addresses 500,000 individuals and successfully decrease the daily fat intake in 3% of the population, then the campaign has impacted the health of 15,000 individuals.
- Additionally, mass media campaigns can minimize staff time once the campaign is up and running because individuals independently read, watch, or listen to the messages. They can also be relatively less expensive per person if the intervention is targeting a large community. Reaching this many people through other intervention strategies may require more time and funding than available. Finally, the messages and materials have the ability to be reused or updated for long-term efforts.
- Alternatively, mass media campaigns (particularly television advertisements) can be very expensive to create and maintain and may seem impersonal to individuals in need of social support. In addition, these campaigns are difficult to evaluate in terms of measuring how many individuals actually received or read the messages, whether individuals changed behavior as a result of the mass media campaign, and whether the behavior change is sustained over time.
What are point of purchase campaigns and how can I use them in my nutrition intervention?
- Point-of-purchase campaigns provide cues to action about the nutritional value of certain food items to influence purchases in cafeterias, restaurants, grocery stores, and through vending machines. Some initiatives attempt to highlight the enjoyable taste, not just the nutritional benefits of healthier options. Studies have demonstrated that consumers both want and need nutrition information at the point of purchase to help them decide which foods to buy. It has been estimated that “in-store” decision making accounts for at least 65% of all purchases in supermarkets. Examples of point of purchase campaigns include:
- placing promotional signs or posters highlighting certain types of food at cafeterias and grocery stores (e.g., placing a “Five a Day” sign in the produce section of the grocery store to encourage purchase of fruits and vegetables or placing table tents in cafeterias listing menu healthy options)
- providing nutrition information to compare healthier and less healthy options (e.g., milk versus soda on a sign at a school vending machine)
- using symbols (e.g., a heart symbol for low fat items) to indicate nutritious items and/or substitutions on menus and in vending machine.
- As with mass media campaigns, point-of-decision interventions have the ability to reach and educate large numbers of individuals with minimal cost. The greatest effect on changes in individual behavior occurs at the beginning of the intervention. As individuals become accustomed to seeing point-of-decision materials, they also become less attentive and less interested in the messages communicated.
What should I consider when developing messages for my nutrition intervention?
- The duration of campaigns and promotions influence their effectiveness in changing nutrition behavior. While small-scale campaigns with specific messages tailored to population subgroups are more effective than larger campaigns among these groups, they have lower overall population impact. Likewise, longer, more intensive campaigns featuring frequent messages through a variety of communication channels are more effective in changing behavior as well as maintaining behavior change over time, but are far more complex and costly.
- Messages and communication channels may differ depending on the population of interest. Campaigns and promotions may be intended for an entire community or they can be targeted to meet the needs or interests of a particular group. For example, the message may be geared toward young people (e.g., eat well-balanced school lunch, avoid non-nutritious foods in vending machines) and incorporated into daily lessons.
- Alternately, messages may be conveyed in different languages and address cultural norms in different communities (e.g., Spanish, Vietnamese). Messages are often most effective if they are geared toward specific changes in knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs about eating that are particularly salient for the group of interest. For example, parents may be particularly motivated to respond to messages encouraging them to protect the health of their children by preparing meals in healthier ways.
- Campaigns and promotions can provide a direct message about nutrition (e.g., the association between high fat foods and obesity) or an indirect message about changes in behavior, environments, or policies that lead to improvements in nutrition. For example, a campaign may be used to advertise the availability of healthy options in cafeterias.
- Previous work also suggests the importance of framing messages positively rather than negatively (i.e., highlighting the benefits of eating nutritious foods rather than the consequences of eating non-nutritious foods).
- In addition, promotional items may be used to promote awareness of (i.e., branding) the intervention or enhance ability of individuals to engage in desired behavior(s).
With whom should I work to create the best message for my nutrition intervention?
- It is helpful to work with different community partners (e.g., media or communications experts, community members, local businesses) to determine the most appropriate messages and ways to communicate those messages. Partners may include:
- supermarkets or grocery stores,
- food banks and pantries
- restaurants (fast food and other)
- food producers/manufacturers
- food vendors/retailers
- consumer organizations
- advertising agencies
- government agencies
- health departments
- food stamp office
- WIC clinic sites
- schools, worksites
- senior center/independent living facilities
- TV and radio personnel
- civic or community organizations (Head Start, Girl Scouts, YMCA, youth, environment)
- metropolitan centers
- rural areas
- cooking professionals
- media personnel (food journalists)
- professional models
- community leaders
- city and county officials
- community members