Overcoming the socioeconomic and gender gap in fruit and vegetable intake

Social Marketing Strategies to Enhance Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Social Marketing campaigns are similar to product marketing campaigns in that they are trying to change the attitudes and behaviors of target audiences. However, they differ in that they are generally not offering a product/service for purchase. This means that the “payoff” or reward for consumer compliance is much less tangible, it offers much less immediate gratification, and may even involve personal sacrifices and changes to deeplyingrained habitual behaviors. For this reason, Social Marketing campaigns are required to epitomize the best practices associated with conventional marketing campaigns, and are also required to effectively tap into unmet needs, existing social drivers and core values to be persuasive.
Studies of the effectiveness of public health campaigns over the past 50 years in the United States(1; 2; 3) indicate that success is more likely when campaign designers:

  1. Conduct formative research to understand the needs and interests of the target and refine the impact of campaign messages.
  2. Segment the audience into meaningful sub-groups and develop messages highly relevant to that group. Lack of segmentation and message targeting are thought to be major factors that have contributed to failed social marketing campaigns(4; 5).
  3. Ensure high message exposure in reach (how many people) and frequency (how many times they receive the message). It is important to realize that there is a minimum level of exposure to a message, below which it is unlikely to make an impact on the target audience.
  4. Use multiple mediums, and generate word-of-mouth discussion about the campaign among the target group. It has been demonstrated that information obtained through word-of-mouth is considered twice as valuable as information from advertising (Keller Fay Group, 2006).
  5. Mobilize credible and popular third-party groups and individuals in support of the campaign.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation – which, together with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is responsible for the extremely successful “Five-A-Day” campaign in the United States – has just launched a new campaign to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables in America. The campaign is called “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” and is designed to drive up adult consumption towards the goal of 9 to 11 servings (4.5-5.5 cups) of fruits and vegetables per day. In many ways, the new PBH campaign exemplifies the best practices detailed above. Notably, the campaign has:

  1. Specifically targeted Gen X moms (women aged between 25 and 42 who have children under 18 years living at home), and campaign messages and mediums are designed to impact this group. This targeting is based on the understanding that these Moms are: highly engaged in their families’ health; active information-seekers; accessible through a variety of mediums; helping establish habits of a lifetime in their children; and, have a significant influence over their partners and their parents.
  2. Developed messaging that reaches all Moms with an encouraging, motivational way. “Fruits and Veggies – More Matters™” is a relevant rallying call to those moms who think their families (and they) consume enough fruits and vegetables. For Moms who feel like their families eat too little, “Fruits and Veggies – More Matters™” helps them begin to address this shortfall without setting an overwhelmingly high standard.
  3. Because research showed that most Gen X Moms already had a good attitude about fruits and vegetables in their families’ diets, the campaign focuses on providing them with spurs to action, including: new ways to prepare fruits and vegetables; help negotiating different fruit and veggie preferences within their family; and assistance in recognizing and managing unhealthy food messages in popular culture. Importantly, the campaign uses its interactive component to get Moms together with other Moms to exchange tips, recipes and to offer each other encouragement.
  4. Cultivated various mediums for getting the word out, including not only the on-line environment, but earned media and partnerships that initially include 21,000 retail stores, more than 170 products and the U.S. public health system.The “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters™” campaign is also being closely measured to ensure that it is having the desired impact and to allow for its message to be strengthened over time.
  1. Snyder, L.B. & Hamilton, M.A2002. A meta-analysis of US health campaign effects on behavior. In R.C. Hornik (ed) Public Health Communication: Evidence for Behavior Change pp352-384
  2. Derzon, J.H. & Lipsey M.W. (2002) A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of mass communication for changing substance abuse knowledge, attitudes and behavior. In W. D. Crano and M. Bergoon (Eds) Mass Media and Drug Prevention (pp. 231-258)
  3. Noar, S.M. A 10-year retrospective of research in health mass media campaigns: where do we go from here? Journal of Health Communications. 2006; 11(1):21-42.
  4. Flay, B.R. and Sobel, J. L. (1983) The role of mass media in preventing adolescent substance abuse. In T.J. Glynn, C.G. Leukefeld, & J. P. Lundford (Eds.) Preventing Adolescent Drug Abuse NIDA Research Monograph Series (47).
  5. Myhre S. L. and Flora J.A. (2000) HIV/AIDS communications campaigns: progress and prospects Journal of Health Communications 5, pp. 29-45.