Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), such as Nicorette gum, double a smoker's chances of quitting, but many people don't try the gum or finish treatment because they don't like its taste.
"Taste is the number one barrier to quitting with Nicorette," says Patrick Seiffert, senior brand manager for Nicorette, a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare brand. "We had to change this perception."
GSK developed Nicorette Fruit Chill, a coated, fruit-flavored nicotine gum, and enlisted CKPR for the launch.
"GSK challenged us to change the way consumers look at smoking-cessation products," says Joel Curran, CKPR MD.
To build awareness of the product, the team set out to educate smokers on barriers to quitting, provide support and tools beyond the gum, and use a sweepstakes to challenge 1 million smokers to quit. CKPR sought direct interaction with smokers via pop-up smoking-cessation centers called Nicorette Stop Shops.
"Personal contact... is unique compared with our normal retail channels," Seiffert says. "The Stop Shops had diagnostic tools, which offered smokers an objective, non-judgmental assessment of [smoking's] impact. This was a powerful catalyst to engage them with smoking-cessation counselors... CKPR had the idea to bring this to life in a consumer event and recognized its uniqueness would draw media interest."
Primary research was key in developing tools and messages. A panel of doctors and other smoking-cessation experts provided ongoing input, served as credible, third-party spokespeople, and provided one-on-one counseling to smokers.
Stop Shops appeared for a week in New York, Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, and Chicago.
Stop Shops offered professional counseling, podcasts, educational videos, printed materials, and diagnostic tools. Educational and support resources were also posted at www.fruitchillmillion.com and distributed locally.
"Nobody was communicating to consumers in [that] way," says Curran. "We were overwhelmed with consumer interest. [Stop Shops drove] media attention and enabled us to go many directions with influencer outreach."
CKPR enlisted the support of more than a dozen national and local organizations.
The team also sent national, major-market, and long-lead media kits with Fruit Chill placebos.
National sales increased 221% following the media launch. Post-event sales increased 1,029% in New York, 74% in Atlanta, 55% in Houston, and 25% in Chicago. Weekly sales forecasts were surpassed by 28% during a period of the effort when all marketing activities, except PR, were dormant.
"We attribute a great deal of sales lift to the pop-up locations as opposed to the sweepstakes overlay," Curran says.
More than 2,100 print, broadcast, and online stories were generated, resulting in more than 200 million unweighted media impressions.
"The degree to which media embraced the story [was most exciting to me] because they saw our message as a true service to [audiences]," says Seiffert.
Seiffert says, "The PR component of the launch is complete, so we won't be working with CKPR on this project any longer."
GSK Consumer Healthcare
PR team: GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (Pittsburgh) and CKPR (New York)
Campaign: Quitters Can Be Winners: The Nicorette Fruit Chill Million Challenge
Duration: April-September 2006
Budget: $1.49 million overall; PR elements: $769,000
Smoking is an important social issue, and it's clear that GSK takes it seriously and is committed to being part of the solution.
Like the product it was created to promote, the campaign broke barriers in communicating with consumers and helped GSK make powerful strides toward helping people quit smoking.
CKPR's pre-execution research certainly helped - the campaign could have been far less successful had smokers felt uncomfortable or put off by messaging or by the Stop Shop environments. Providing tools and educational materials obviously increased the chances of quit success, and it also went a long way in establishing trust. GSK wasn't simply passing out placebo gum on the streets. The Stop Shops proved it was interested in health - not just pushing product.