Case Study #1
February 17, 2019
The American obesity epidemic is not new. However, general â€œefforts to educate people about the health risks of a poor diet do not seem to be working,â€ and Americans now suffer from obesity and other health issues more than in previous decades (Richtel & Jacobs). From 2008 to 2016, obesity in American adults rose from 33.7% to â€œnearly 40 percentâ€, a worrying trend (Ibid).
However, these diet-related health concerns do not hit all Americans equally. Low-income households tend to choose low-cost, energy-dense foods and often lack â€œkitchen facilities, cooking skills, money or timeâ€ required for healthy eating (Drewnowski & Eichelsdoerfer). A low cost nutritious diet is possible, but meals are often â€œlow in palatability and variety, may require dramatic shifts in eating habits and may be time intensive to prepare,â€ making them inaccessible without additional resources and/or lifestyle change (Ibid.).
To make matters worse, healthy eating alone cannot change obesity. Physical activity is the second key component needed to combat health concerns. An estimated 77% of American adults fail to meet national physical activity guidelines (Ducharme). The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionâ€™s National Center for Health Statistics did not segment the population into income levels, though they noted that employed people saw higher physical activity numbers than unemployed, and that those â€œworking in managerial or â€˜professionalâ€™ positions were more likely than individuals in production rolesâ€¦ to meet the standardsâ€ (Ibid.). It may be inferred that low-income individuals participate in less physical activity than their higher income counterparts.
California designed their Champions for Change marketing campaign to combat these exact issues. Champions for Change social marketing campaign was designed to â€œpromote fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, and food securityâ€ to low-income families (SNAP-Ed Toolkit). The marketing campaign is part of a joint venture between the California Department of Public Health, Californiaâ€™s Nutrition Education Obesity Prevention Branch, and the federal governmentâ€™s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The Champions for Change prosocial campaign targets itâ€™s website and marketing materials to â€œlow-income mothersâ€ in California, especially those of Hispanic or Latino descent (SNAP-Ed Toolkit). This audience was selected due to the disproportionate need of low-income families to implement healthy eating and physical activity changes, and â€œbecause mothers play a key role in their familiesâ€™ healthâ€ (Ibid.). Therefore, low-income mothers are at the forefront of the obesity epidemic in California.
Californiaâ€™s Champions for Change â€œis a recreation of the former California 5 a Day Campaign,â€ originally designed in 1997 for the same purpose (SNAP-Ed Toolkit). This rich history of prosocial marketing allows recent marketing campaigns to build off the successes and avoid the failures of previous years. While there is no published formative research, the campaign can pull from over 20 years of market testing to craft their campaigns. As the Champions for Change YouTube page was created in March of 2017, it can be inferred that marketing managers understand modern social media practices as strive to meet them as able.
Champions for Change asks three things of their target audience: Eat Better, Be Active, and Get Involved (Champions for Change). Based on background research, eating better and being active re the two components needed to combat obesity, and becoming involved a movement can make it easier to participate.
The campaign website is divided into those three headings, with detailed information and outbound links available for curious visitors. For example, the â€œBe Activeâ€ website section has features on â€œPlay it Safeâ€ for kids, â€œFun with Yoga,â€ a â€œHow Much Activity?â€ guide, and a video on simple exercises. These small pieces of information are easy to dip into and out of without getting overwhelmed, or could lead to more research were a viewer so inclined.
The entire website is also available in Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Hmog. This inclusiveness helps ensure that low-income families across California have the same opportunities to fight obesity.
On the â€œCA Champions for Changeâ€ social media pages, every single post is simple and stays on one of these three messages. However, the vast majority of social media posts are in English. One Valentineâ€™s Day post asks: â€œNeed help planning for Valentine’s day? Surprise your sweetie with these heart-healthy dishes.â€ This â€˜Eat Betterâ€™ post features and appetizing photo, straightforward text, and a link to SNAP-Edâ€™s Valentineâ€™s Day menu (also available in Spanish). These three messages are crafted to work together across all media channels to help families fight obesity.
In 2017, Champions for Change ran a â€œBe Betterâ€ campaign that combined these three messages through â€œtelevision, radio, billboard, public transit,
and digital advertisementsâ€ (Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention). The current Champions for Change website is a product of the Be Better campaign, created in conjunction with the Runyon Saltzman Agency (RS-E).
Statewide evaluations of Champions for Change go back for years, the oldest of which currently available online are from 2013. Interviews were â€œconducted with a female caretaker and one of her childrenâ€ and indicated that 38% â€œdemonstrated unaided ad recallâ€ (SNAP-Ed Toolkit). This study also showed that based on self-reported behaviors, â€œcampaign exposure was not related to changes in fruit and vegetable consumptionâ€ or levels of physical activity (Ibid.) While these results seem disheartening, the campaign continued.
The most recent year for which evaluation data exists is 2017, during which the â€œBe Betterâ€ campaign launched and ran for 26 weeks. Of the â€œlow-income Latina, African-American, and White mothers randomly sampledâ€ for evaluation in English and Spanish, unaided recall jumped to â€œan unprecedented 78%â€ (Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention, p.2, RS-E).
Also in a positive change since 2013, the 2017 evaluation found that â€œmaternal awareness was associated with positive differences in outcomesâ€ for both fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity (Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention, p.44). Mothers who demonstrated unaided recall of Be Better ads also had higher levels of healthy eating and physical activity.
This unequivocally proves the effectiveness of the 2017 campaign, especially in comparison to prior campaigns. Researchers noted, however, that the differences between mothers interviewed illuminated â€œthe need to more precisely target interventions and media campaigns to address the needs of families at different stages of their life (e.g., age, education) and cultureâ€ (Ibid.). The successful Be Better campaign learned from its shortcomings and recognized an opportunity to become better itself.
Champions for Change effectively learned from decades of experience honing their healthy lifestyle messages to low-income families. By pinpointing their campaign message down to three distinct, easily understandable and applicable suggestions (Eat Better, Be Active, Get Involved), marketing those messages with bright simple advertisements in English and Spanish and placing those ads in specifically designated market areas, the Be Better campaign proved that communication theory coupled with research equals success. Over just four years, California raised unaided recall of their ads from 38% to 78%. Perhaps most importantly, over those same four years, recalling Campaign for Change ads went from having no effect on healthy eating or physical activity, to having a positive correlation for both.
Champions for Change. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2019, from https://cachampionsforchange.cdph.ca.gov
Drewnowski, A., & Eichelsdoerfer, P. (2010). Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet? Nutrition Today, 44(6), 246-249. doi:10.1097/NT.0b013e3181c29f79 Retrieved February 14, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2847733
Ducharme, J. (2018, June 28). Only 23% of Americans Get Enough Exercise, a CDC Report Says. Retrieved February 14, 2019, from http://time.com/5324940/americans-exercise-physical-activity-guidelines
Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch California Department of Public Health. (2018, January). Evaluation of the Champions for Change 2017 Be Better Media Campaign. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https ://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DCDIC/NEOPB/CDPH Document Library/RES_MediaEvaluation2017.pdf
Richtel, M., & Jacobs, A. (2018, March 23). American Adults Just Keep Getting Fatter. Retrieved February 14, 2019, from Case Study 1_Haynsenadults.html”>https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/23/health/obesity-us-adults.html
R/S-E. (n.d.). Champions for Change. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.rs-e.com/work/champions-for-change
SNAP-Ed Toolkit. (n.d.). Champions for Change. Retrieved February 14, 2019, from https://snapedtoolkit.org/interventions/programs/champions-for-change