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Quitting is for life, not just October

Kerry RobinsonThe year has flown past and once again we have reached the 1st October, the start date to quit smoking for those who are following the Department of Health’s ‘Smokefree’ brand campaign ‘Stoptober’.

The Smokefree brand was launched to both motivate smokers to quit with NHS support and to help local services and the NHS to present key messages about quitting consistently and effectively. The thinking behind the campaign is that smokers register online to quit smoking for 28 days of October. In return they receive a free pack containing a number of quitting tools and support information. There is also the option to sign up to a daily text service, and a Smokefree Facebook page available, where smokers can share their Stoptober experience with others.

Cigarettes and "No smoking" sign

But just how effective is the Stoptober campaign? The NHS has released the statistic that 160,000 smokers took part in the 2012 campaign and gave up smoking for the required 28 days of the campaign – impressive to say the least. (At the time of writing just shy of 200,00 have signed up for Stoptober 2013)  I was one of those 160,000 last year and I am pleased to say that I have not touched a cigarette since. But this is not the case for everyone.

The Stoptober campaign is initially effective as consumers are bombarded with reminders as the month of October approaches, and the campaign messaging angle is a call to-come-together-to-do-good- for-oneself rather than a focus on the negatives. During my Stoptober I did find the information pack, daily texts and online support extremely helpful in my bid to quit. However, any smoker who has attempted quitting before will tell you that you don’t stop thinking of cigarettes after 28 smoke-free days, and I have to say that I did miss the daily ‘pat-on-the-back’ texts when my month ended. I take a proactive approach by visiting online support sites regularly – something which I believe is key to my continued success.

The sad reality is that most people who manage to complete Stoptober smoke-free go back to smoking after the campaign ends. It’s my feeling that this may correlate strongly to the loss of brand communication with its audience.  Come November many Stoptober ‘ex-smokers’ feel either abandoned see the end of the campaign as a green light to light up again.

Stoptober is an extremely successful campaign for the NHS and boasts an impressive statistical rate of short term success. That said, any good marketer will tell you that a brand needs an on-going dialogue with its target market if it wants to remain top-of-mind and relevant. The challenge for any health initiative is sustained change. Whilst the concept of Stoptober is a brilliant marketing tool for Smokefree, if the ultimate aim is to motivate smokers to give up for the long term, the brand would benefit from ensuring their brand voice reaches its audience for more than one month of the year.  No easy task considering the nature of its audience, this is one for the marketing guru’s perhaps…

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