Publication Details

Phillipson, L., Jones, S. C., Larsen-Truong, K., Robinson, L. & Barrie, L. (2013). Using social marketing to promote cold and flu prevention behaviors on an Australian university campus. Cases in Public Health Communication and Marketing, 7 99-119.


Background: Cold and influenza transmission is a serious public health issue for universities. This case study describes a coordinated social marketing campaign that incorporated health messages and products. It was designed to motivate behavior change to prevent the spread of colds and influenza on a university campus. Methods: The aims of this multi-component intervention were to raise awareness of the importance of individual behavior in preventing the spread of colds and flu and to encourage staff and students to adopt three simple habits: hand washing, cough or sneeze in sleeve, and stay at home if sick. A repeated, cross-sectional survey design assessed the following pre- and post-campaign: salience of colds and flu; perceived severity of, and susceptibility to, colds and flu; beliefs about effective prevention strategies; and engagement in preventative behaviors. Campaign message and product recall were assessed post-campaign. Results: Campaign message recall was high (over 80% of staff and 70% of students); fewer staff (one-third) or students (one-quarter) recalled campaign products. Few pretest-posttest differences were observed in perceived susceptibility or severity. Recognition of "cough or sneeze into your sleeve" as an effective prevention strategy increased pre- to post-campaign (a percentage increase of 39.6% for staff and 25.1% for students); campaign exposed respondents were significantly more likely than unexposed to rate this strategy as effective post-campaign. Substantial pretest-posttest percentage increases in the top ranked prevention strategies were found for the three core messages: "hand washing" (51% for students); "cough in sleeve" (59.2%, staff; 71.1%, students); and "stay at home if sick" (120%, staff). Conclusions: This setting-based intervention clearly reached staff and students with the primary messages. Success can be attributed to using consumer insight to develop multiple marketing messages and strategies, rather than a single- strategy communication campaign.