DM Campaign Helps Smokers Kick the Habit

Staggered mailings of personalized information to Nicoderm and Nicorette users have increased product refill rates and helped more than 200,000 smokers stop smoking.

Committed Quitters, Cary, NC, which supports the smoking cessation products of SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare, attracts participants through toll-free numbers listed in the packages of Nicorette nicotine gum and nicotine replacement patch NicoDerm CQ. The program, completed in conjunction with targeted marketing agency MicroMass Communications, has resulted in product refill rates that are more than three times higher than those of non-participants. Participants, as well, are 50 percent more likely to stop smoking than non-participants, according to Saul Siffman, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, who conducted a study on the program.

Through the toll-free numbers, supported by Horsham, PA, teleservices provider ICT Group, data is gathered about each smoker's specific situation. Callers are asked questions about their habits and motivations, designed by MicroMass and product experts.

“The first step was to go to the smoking cessation experts at SmithKline and find out what they would do if they could spend 10 to 12 weeks in the consumer's home,” said Dave Bulger, founder and chief technology officer at MicroMass.

The questions include how much they smoke, why they want to quit, what has prevented them from quitting, where the places are that they automatically light up, whether their friends smoke and who will help them quit. The results are then fit into the company's one-on-one marketing technology.

“We take a look at many components to get to know and talk to an individual, then we look at all we want to say about the particular subject,” said Bulger, explaining the technology. “We break that information into different thoughts and devise rules about when it's appropriate to use those thoughts and components.”

The resulting materials that are sent to homes seek to reform behavior that makes it more difficult for smokers to quit.

“Nicoderm and Nicorette get the physical cravings down, but there are other things associated with the habit that you have to get consumers to unleash,” said Bulger. “So, for example, if someone says they always light up as soon as they wake up in the morning and they want to quit for health reasons, we might send them materials encouraging them to take a walk in the morning.”

Other possible types of advice might include suggesting places to go with friends that are not conducive to smoking for people who say they always smoke when they are with their friends.

To align with research that shows it takes 10 weeks to quit smoking while using NicoDerm CQ and 12 weeks while using Nicorette gum, the program's mailings are dropped at intervals throughout those periods. The staggered mailings serve as reminders to smokers that they must buy refills and continue with the medications and address the different stages of the withdrawal process.

“The program has an understanding of what people go through as they try to quit,” Bulger said. “For example, there is a stage where people realize that their house smells like smoke and we may encourage them to get their curtains cleaned.”

Other withdrawal stages include a period where people begin to realize that their nails and teeth are yellow. That stage might be addressed by a letter motivating people to treat themselves to getting their teeth cleaned.

The program, launched in April 1996 for Nicorette and June 1996 for NicoDerm CQ, currently draws thousands of calls a month with NicoDerm averaging 4,000 to 5,000 calls a month and Nicorette receiving 1,800 to 2,000 calls, according to June Portnoy, ICT Group program manager. ICT generally has 30 to 35 representatives trained to work on the program, but increases staff when calls are expected to jump, such as on New Year's Day, when everyone makes their resolutions, and during the Great American Smoke Out, a national stop-smoking promotion created by the American Cancer Society.

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