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
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.
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).
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.