Background: ClearWay Minnesota, an independent nonprofit organization, is dedicated to reducing the harm of tobacco in Minnesota. ClearWay Minnesota funds and operates a free cessation program, QUITPLAN Services, for all Minnesota tobacco users. Prior to March 2014, QUITPLAN Services experienced volume declines and a decline in satisfaction rates for the services.
Program background: After an 18 month process of formative research and evaluation, ClearWay Minnesota launched a new model for QUITPLAN Services on March 1, 2014. The formative research revealed that tobacco users wanted a service that reduced barriers to accessing help, offered the kind of help tobacco users want when quitting and leveraged new technology. As part of the launch, a multimedia campaign was created to introduce the new services and show tobacco users that QUITPLAN Services was not only new and improved, but also incorporated their feedback in its design. QUITPLAN Services’ formative research with tobacco users was also helpful for creating the media campaign. The research showed that while tobacco users know they should quit and want to quit, they also wanted options for help to quit in their own way. In addition, the tobacco users were weary of scolding and judgments they received from family, friends, peers and media. A “No Judgments. Just Help” campaign was created to acknowledge the difficulties faced by smokers.
Evaluation Methods and Results: ClearWay Minnesota reviewed the success of the new QUITPLAN Services launch and marketing through tracking the volume of tobacco users served. We also conducted a satisfaction survey from September to December 2014 to gauge users’ interaction with the services. The “No Judgments. Just Help” television spots were also tested with focus groups and online message testing before production finished. The QUITPLAN Services volumes were overwhelmingly positive as we saw a 170 percent increase in tobacco users served. In 2013, QUITPLAN Services served more than 5,900 tobacco users. From the launch of the new services in March 2014 through February 2015, QUITPLAN Services served more than 16,000 tobacco users. Results from the initial satisfaction survey were positive as well, with 86 percent of users satisfied with services and 92 percent of users who would recommend services to a friend. In addition, respondents noted the “No Judgments. Just Help” campaign as an accurate reflection of the service they received and a reason for contacting QUITPLAN Services. Focus group feedback on the television spots reinforced that the main message was communicated. Tobacco users felt like QUITPLAN Services understood their struggles and provided the options they wanted in quitting.
Conclusions: Tobacco users are aware of the reasons to quit and can be turned off by scare tactics. An empathetic campaign like “No Judgments. Just Help” was effective at communicating QUITPLAN Services truly “gets” what it means to be a smoker, and can help tobacco users without contributing to the constant judgment.
Implications for research and/or practice: Formative research with tobacco users helps not only to enhance cessation services, but provides valuable insight in effective ways to communicate with the targeted audience.