Social Norms Marketing Reduces High School Drinking
Social norms marketing is an effective method of reducing tobacco
use and alcohol consumption among high school students. High schools
in Evanston and Naperville, Illinois, which have been among the
first in the country to utilize a social norms model on the high
school level, have witnessed significant reductions after just two
"The success among a growing number of colleges and universities
in achieving significant reductions in high-risk drinking and related
harmful behavior has paved the way for the social norms approach
to be applied successfully in high schools and communities,"
said Michael Haines, Director of the National Social Norms Resource
Center. "We have developed a guidebook...so that high schools
across the country can implement their own successful social norms
A Guide to Marketing Social Norms for Health Promotion
is the first comprehensive, step-by-step manual for those who are
interested in using the social norms approach to address school
age and community-wide issues. The guide explains in depth the five
stages necessary for a successful social norms campaign, including
initial planning, data collection, strategy development, implementation
“Strength in Numbers" was launched in November 2001
targeting Evanston Township (IL) High Schools' students, parents
and staff. The campaign included a yearly survey developed by the
Center for Prevention Research and Development at the University
of Illinois, focus groups conducted periodically throughout the
year, and postcards, ads and promotional items displayed and distributed
throughout the community. After the second year of implementation,
data showed a 25% reduction in the proportion of students who use
tobacco regularly and an 11% reduction in the proportion of students
who drink alcohol regularly. Due to the initial success, the campaign
is now expanding to include middle school students and their parents.
The Naperville social norms marketing campaign also began in 2001.
A survey of a random sample of 9-11th grade students indicated that
students thought that only 9% of students their age never smoke,
when in reality, 75% reported they do not smoke cigarettes. Seeking
to correct this misperception, students were targeted with a poster
campaign for the next 16 months, after which they were resurveyed.
Results show a 7% reduction in perceived peer tobacco use and an
8% reduction in actual tobacco use. A new campaign, focusing on
underage drinking, began in January 2004 and will continue for the
next four years.
"Social norms is truly a cost-effective method of achieving
widespread results that focuses on positive behaviors as opposed
to scare tactics," remarked Haines. "We are encouraged
by these early findings and hope for additional successes in the
other communities, such as the two in Massachusetts participating
in the Social Norms Alcohol Problem Prevention for Youth (SNAPPY)
project, experimenting with the social norms model."
The National Social Norms Resource Center is
an independent center that supports, promotes and provides technical
assistance in the application of the social norms approach to a
broad range of health, safety and social justice issues, including
alcohol-related risk-reduction and the prevention of tobacco use.
It is the only national center devoted exclusively to the understanding
and use of the social norms approach. Opened on July 1, 2000, the
Center is directed by Michael Haines, a nationally recognized proponent
and pioneering practitioner of the social norms approach. For more
information, visit "http://www.socialnorm.org".
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