Research shows nearly 5 million multicultural youth are open to smoking or already experimenting with cigarettes. It is also estimated that youth who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd are 50% more likely to use tobacco than mainstream youth. While Hip Hop culture encourages positive values such as working hard to be successful and overcoming personal struggles, it can also promote imagery and messages portraying tobacco use as a desirable behavior. After rigorous research, Rescue created "Fresh Empire," which is the FDA's campaign to prevent and reduce tobacco use among at-risk multicultural youth ages 12–17 who identify with the Hip Hop peer crowd.
To achieve the campaign objective and shift cultural norms around tobacco use in Hip Hop, Fresh Empire (FE) uses a variety of integrated marketing tactics including digital experiences, social and digital media, traditional media, and experiential efforts.
The campaign has several smaller objectives that ladder up to the overall campaign tobacco prevention objective: facilitate critical thinking about tobacco messaging, increase engagement with our audience, and drive traffic to the Fresh Empire website hub. To help achieve these goals, we created the Fresh Look web experience in which users hear tobacco messages while customizing an avatar of themselves in Hip Hop fashions. The experience lived on the Fresh Empire site and encouraged sharing to users' social channels.
Fresh Empire's overall campaign strategy focuses on associating tobacco-free attitudes and values with authentic, culturally relevant identities to change the target audience's tobacco-related behaviors and intentions. The campaign's experiential efforts (including Fresh Look) aim to engage the audience and encourage critical thought and integration of the tobacco message.
Before launch, FE conducted an extensive literature review, subject matter expert review, and focus groups with our target audience (n=311). Fresh Empire developed key insights about our target audience, which were leveraged into strategy and messaging. They included:
● Hip Hop youth want to appear "fresh" (fashionable, confident, trendsetting)
● Hip Hop youth want to uphold Hip Hop ideals, such as being authentic, in control, creative, and a leader.
User-generated content allows Fresh Empire users to engage with the brand in an active way. Active engagement can build affinity for our brand and establish ties between the behavioral benefits of living tobacco-free and Hip Hop cultural values. The strategy for Fresh Look was to create an engaging UGC web experience that generated traffic to the larger Fresh Empire site, spread a tobacco-free message, and encouraged sharing content.
We planned an interactive UGC experience that leans into our audience's desire to appear 'fresh,' creative, and authentic. Hip Hop youth value being fashionable and trendsetting, so this experience allows them to show off their skills. The experience was unique because it seamlessly integrated health messaging into an authentic, style-based Hip Hop activity.
From the Fresh Empire home page, users see, "A Fresh Look Speaks for Itself: What does your style say about you?" Users are invited to choose a stylized Male or Female avatar to get started. The experience itself is an interactive tool where users select illustrated clothing: accessories, tops, bottoms, and shoes. Each possible garment comes with copy, some including facts about tobacco. For example, when jeans are selected, a text box reads, "Holes in your jeans? FRESH. Holes in your smile from smoking cigarettes? NOT FRESH."
Once complete, users are taken to a new page that assigns them a style type (Fashion Forward, Throwback, etc.), summarizes the tobacco message, and encourages users to share their avatar on social. Because the tobacco messaging is integrated into the web experience, users are taking in the health message whether they share their final avatar or not.
Live event activations are also an important part of how we interact with Hip Hop youth. Fresh Empire has had 200+ events since Fresh Look went live. Our brand ambassadors have used those activations to push users to the campaign site. Users are also directed to Fresh Look through web click paid social ads and digital banners.
Along the user journey, youth receive culturally authentic messaging from the brand about how living tobacco-free can contribute to their success. This digital experience capitalizes on the campaign's key insights about the target audience, such as the importance of staying fresh, staying in control of your life, and never letting tobacco hold you back from reaching your dreams.
Fresh Look fulfilled its goal of increasing traffic to the site, which has seen 900K+ visits since the experience launched. The experience is filling the section of the site that used to be a non-UGC flagship video. Compared to that content, 98% more users have initiated the Fresh Look experience—and 71% of those users finish it. Hip Hop youth are engaging with the experience, which so far has seen 11.4K+ visitors.
Tobacco-free messaging is woven into the UGC generation tool, so our audience is interacting with tobacco facts throughout. Fresh Look has produced 120K+ tobacco fact displays, and all of them were couched in Hip Hop culture.
Interacting with the experience could increase the likelihood of users engaging in other ways. The video completion rate for the flagship video on the site was 66% generally, but among users who already completed Fresh Look, that rate jumped to 79%.
Shareability is important because it allows us to expand our reach and amplify our brand voice. Even though the strategic purpose of Fresh Look was to drive traffic to the site and disseminate the tobacco-free message, a bonus is that users shared UGC into their own channels and demonstrated connection to the brand. Hundreds of users downloaded / shared their avatars.
Fresh Look was a successful UGC experience that wove tobacco messaging with Hip Hop imagery and values (like staying fresh and being authentic) to engage this hard-to-reach audience, drive traffic, and aim to change their perceptions of tobacco use.
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