Prevention effects of an anti-tobacco brand on adolescent smoking initiation
Health marketing mass media campaigns have been shown to be effective in changing health behavior and behavioral mediators. Tobacco countermarketing mass media campaigns have been effective in reducing smoking initiation and progression to established smoking. Targeted message strategies used by countermarketing campaigns influence specific attitudes and beliefs about smoking. Such strategies have been used to build public health brands modeled on commercial branding strategies, and previous research has shown that adolescent affiliation with anti-tobacco brands is associated with reduced smoking uptake.
The current study was a prospective test to determine whether brand equity can serve as a protective factor to prevent youth from initiating smoking. This article reports on a longitudinal study of exposure to the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation's stand campaign and affiliation with the stand brand. Youth aged 11-17 were surveyed at baseline and their exposure to brand affiliation as measured by a validated multidimensional brand equity scale, smoking behavior, and other attitudinal, behavioral and sociodemographic characteristics were measured. Youth with higher brand equity in the stand campaign exhibited lower levels of smoking initiation at the first 8-month follow-up. Somewhat reduced, but significant, prevention effects were also observed at a second 20-month follow-up.
The brand leadership/popularity subscale had the strongest prevention effect. Descriptive social norms embodied in the individual items within this subscale may be the most important targets for social marketers employing a branding strategy. These results may be applicable to health behavior change communications aimed at other risk behaviors.