Public Health England (PHE) is making a big push on Facebook for this year’s Stoptober campaign as it looks to drive more people to quit smoking.
Figures from the health body show that smoking has dropped to its lowest levels yet – with 16.9% of the population now smoking. And Stoptober has helped with that, with the campaign helping 500,000 people quit smoking last year – 20% of those who signed up. That is up from 13.6% five years ago.
This year’s campaign will continue its programme of daily email support and its Stoptober app. However, this year it will also be targeting smokers through Facebook, a platform where smokers are “absolutely dominant”, according to PHE’s marketing director Sheila Mitchell.
The Facebook strategy will see Stoptober pay to push its message of quitting, as well as using Facebook messenger bots to communicate with participants. The bots will be used as a support tool to aid smokers with cravings or problems during the programme.
“There is a lot of PR involved and a lot of noise in the media but at the heart of the campaign is social. We found that the big numbers and responses come from social and that within this Facebook is absolutely dominant.”
Sheila Mitchell, marketing director, Public Health England
Although the campaign is focusing more on social, and has moved on from the humour involved in the past, Mitchell said the key to its success has been its consistency, including keeping its original iconography and design.
“This has been really powerful internationally, with New Zealand, Mexico and the Netherlands having all incorporated it [the iconography],” she added.
Turning Stoptober into a ‘calendar moment’
Stoptober has also moved beyond Public Health England, with many organisations now getting involved with the programme through their own staff wellbeing programmes, including Greggs, Toyota and Mars. Mitchell claimed the campaign has become more of a “calendar moment, not so dissimilar to Dry January”.
Though in the past PHE has told Marketing Week that it is pushing an “always-on” strategy, Mitchell explained that Stoptober is a “spout” of its wider “always-on” campaign, as last year highlighted that October was a key quitting time for smokers, with more than 1 million smokers ending their habit.
“There is a difference between our always-on activity and our spouts, which we use to get noisier on the subject to get people’s attentions. We also recognise it takes smokers time to quit and have found that positive messaging works better. People have now started to rally round one another to give support, whether that is through the app or face-to-face” she said.
Mitchell said that by capturing people’s data and putting them into an eCRM programme, the organisation is also able to track how far along people are into the programme and how well they have done, sending messages of support if they have not reached their targets or congratulating them if they have succeeded.