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People like me are active and smoke-free: Audience segmentation for adolescent health messages

Amanda S. Birnbaum, PhD, MPH, Department of Public Health, Division of Prevention & Health Behavior, Weill Cornell Medical College, 411 East 69th Street, KB-209, New York, NY 10021, 212-746-1270, asb2006@med.cornell.edu and Tracy R. Nichols, PhD, Public Health, Cornell Weill Medical College, 411 E 69 St., New York, NY 10021.

Adolescents are barraged with sophisticated consumer marketing campaigns, and the steady flow of resources into youth marketing indicates the success of this approach. In part, this has inspired public health professionals to apply social marketing techniques for risk behavior prevention and health promotion in this highly marketed-to age group. Audience segmentation is a social marketing tool that divides a general audience into smaller, more homogeneous categories to facilitate more effective and efficient communications. Health messages are constructed, framed, and delivered differently to different segments, using strategies most likely to be salient and appealing to each group. Social marketing with adults often segments along race/ethnicity, age, gender, or stage of change, however segmentation by social grouping may be a more relevant strategy for youth. This presentation describes an approach to identify youth audience segments for two health-related messages: increasing physical activity and avoiding smoking among urban multi-ethnic young adolescents. The use of a card-sort activity conducted within focus groups will be presented to illuminate how adolescents can identify which social groupings are relevant and suggest appropriate messages, channels, and sources/spokespeople for marketing to each segment. Examples will highlight how this approach can yield distinct health promotion messages targeted to identified social groups (e.g. promoting physical activity as an independent activity for 'rebel' youth or contrasting the benefits of physical activity versus smoking as a weight control strategy for 'popular' girls), and how visual and language cues used in promotional materials can be varied to attract the attention of different segments.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Audience Segmentation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Focus on the Adolescent/Young Adult in Health Communication Research

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA