Southern Illinois University

Grassroots campaign and social marketing


The focus of this marketing communications project was tobacco control on the campus. The methodology included a grassroots campaign targeted primarily to the students, but also included messaging targeted to the decision-makers at the University, as well as in the local community. For this project a temporary website became our communications tool for disseminating information among the participants, and also to help give a sense of ‘place' to the effort – an online headquarters to which the students could relate.

The first goal was 100% smoke-free university housing; the other buildings on campus were already smoke-free. We identified key message hooks for each segment of our target audience. For instance, key messages for the students had to do with a right to breathe clean air, and vanity issues like stained teeth and wrinkles. Key messages for the university management had to do with statistics showing lower academic scores for students who smoke, student health, and liability. Key messages for the community were property damage, fire hazards and cost of cleanup.

Because we structured this project as a grassroots effort, the students themselves carried out the necessary activities for success. Students volunteered to participate, and we trained them in both tobacco and in understanding advocacy. We worked directly with student leaders to devise the advocacy plan and supporting activities. One method of raising the awareness was to get local bars to have smoke-free nights, publicized and supported by this campaign. This proved to be an interesting and effective approach for student involvement.