The key to social marketing is to get people to change their behavior. A successful campaign is clever, has a measurable social impact and, most of all, gets people to think or act differently.
In a world where we are constantly bombarded with all sorts of messages, it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of a campaign. Are our advertisements being seen? Is our campaign impactful? New consumer tracking techniques are being developed that help us get a little closer to answering these questions.
The campaign is powered by Partnership for a Healthier America, an independent group founded in 2010 in conjunction with Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. It works with businesses to change how they sell products and shift consumer behavior toward healthier choices. The group launched Drink Up in an effort to convince people to drink more water, any water — whether bottled, tap or filtered — especially in lieu of sugary drinks that contribute to weight gain and diabetes risk.
To measure the effectiveness of the campaign, NCS focused on the purchasing habits of households that were exposed to Drink Up ads during a 13-week period. Researchers found a lift in bottled water and water filter purchases among households that were exposed to the ads. This was in comparison with purchases from a control group of households that did not see the advertising.
In a second study, NCS determined two groups that seemed to respond more favorably to the campaign, “Well Beings” and “Fence Sitters." The Well Beings, or people already striving to live a healthy lifestyle, were more responsive -- driving more than 51 percent of the incremental retail sales. They generated $143 in sales for every 1,000 ad impressions served. Comparatively, the Fence Sitters, or people who often think about getting healthy but need a little inspiration, contributed 14 percent of the sales volume and generated $16 in sales for every 1,000 impressions.
In an article titled, Why Activists Shouldn’t Be Hosing the First Lady’s ‘Drink Up’ Campaign, Hank Cardello argues that it doesn’t matter whether the goal is clean and freely available drinking water, healthier beverage choices, or less plastic in landfills. These are all worthy aspirations, but they lose sight of the bigger picture.
“Regardless of their agenda, it’s safe to say that everybody supports efforts to curb childhood obesity. Trashing the beverage industry — which can mobilize its considerable product development and advertising resources (nearly $1 billion in advertising spent last year by Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper alone) on behalf of water — will not move the needle one bit in solving the problem," Cardello wrote.
"In fact, excluding the beverage industry from the water business will only worsen obesity, because of the value that bottled water provides: clean water available in so many more locations than there are public water fountains, and ready for transport. If nudging kids (and their parents) to drink more water is the goal, then water has to be highly accessible, wherever people get thirsty."
Cardello believes that the Drink Up campaign is a template for how advocates and industries can engage with each other to tackle social and public health problems.
“I believe the campaign is a model for every industry, for one simple reason: It’s working," Cardello wrote. "Its success to date should show anti-industry activists that working with businesses that are tied to a social issue can be far more powerful than attacking them — if (and only if) the industry can be shown that there are profits in doing the socially responsible thing. Companies will gladly lend their considerable marketing and distribution channels to social causes when they are also good for business.”
Image credits: 1) Drink Up Campaign 2) & 3) Nielsen Catalina Solutions
Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.