Message Testing

Developing media interventions to reduce household sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

Sugar-sweetened beverages have been identified as a potential key problem by nutritionists. Overweight and obesity is prevalent in the United States, so efforts are being taken to reduce the potential causes of the conditions. In 2010, Philadelphia received funding from the Centers for Disease control and conducted the Philadelphia Healthy Lifestyle Initiative or PHLI. The goal of PHLI was to produce a media campaign that was properly targeted at Philadelphia’s population to reduce family consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. By conducting surveys, creating a demographic framework, and getting an idea of pre-campaign consumption, it gave those conducting the survey a data driven basis of attack. Through their survey results, they identified that intention to eliminate consumption was based on attitudes and as a result, four potential media messages were developed to target behavior change among low-income female caregivers. As a result of their testing, it was found that the weight gain due to beverage belief was received very well by the caregivers, while the doing something good for the family was not. The one issue I had with this survey and surveys like it though are they do not test whether the study itself was effective in reducing obesity. It ignored the real ramification that sugary drinks are substantially cheaper than tasty “healthy” drinks and do not provide significant alternatives. They may believe that sugary drinks could have an impact on weight gain, but now that they hold these beliefs, has the purchases of sugary drinks come down and if so, has that had a real impact on childhood obesity rates? The reason campaigns like those for anti-smoking worked so well is not only did they alter beliefs, but they changed actual actions by citizens. While the study tested intentions, they did not back up the intentions with any sort of study to see if even short-term purchases had changed from the subjects. When lives get busy and they are no longer part of the test cases, people tend to revert to old habits and there is a hole in the study until this follow-up is completed.


Online consumer behavior: Comparing Canadian and Chinese Web Visitors

The influence of a more capitalistic/individualistic society vs. a collectivist society is quite interesting. The study comparing Canadian and Chinese web visitors highlights this fact. Canadian visitors are more pleasure driven and rely on high task relevant cues to form site attitudes. Chinese visitors use low task relevant cues and dominance is the key type of emotions as they focus on long-term alliances and causal reasoning. As this study acknowledges, it had a lot of moving parts. Most respondents were students and they were far more familiar with the internet than most. Also, the “Chinese” students were not surveyed in mainland China, but were rather students in Canada that were of Chinese descent. I don’t think that takes away from this study though. It’s obvious that cultural differences impact buying decisions and if anything this study highlights the potential to interview customers in their home country to highlight emotions impacting buying decisions. How do Russians differ from Americans? How do older citizens from former communist countries differ from younger ones? With companies becoming more globalized, these sort of studies could have large ramifications on the bottom line of large companies in the future. Car companies are at the forefront of analyzing buying decisions based on cultural background as seen here by Automotive Digest. This sort of tracking of web visitors isn’t that much different from the efforts we made in our other classes as web developers. We created different layouts for desktop, tablet, and mobile to adjust for the preferences of the reader. Looking at the attitudes of different cultures is simply an extension of the “bring the information to the audience in the format they want.”



1. What challenges do you think Canadian web developers face compared to U.S. and how do you think they deal with them?

2. What weaknesses do you see in the PHLI study and how do you think they could have been addressed?

3. Have you personally done any targeted messaging and how effective did it prove to be?


2 thoughts on “Message Testing

  1. Chelsea Bundschuh says:

    Really interesting thoughts on whether the campaign was actually successful in changing behaviors. Of course, the stated goal of the campaign was to simply increase awareness of the connection between sugary beverages and obesity, so the they can claim success no matter what. I believe they were going off of research by additional studies that suggest parents with an awareness of the causes of obesity are more likely to avoid those behaviors, but as you said, it would have been interesting to see evidence of that direct connection. I always have to wonder, with studies like these, whether changing awareness is actually enough to change attitudes. The study asked participants whether they are more likely to reduce sugary beverages, but the ways in which the questions were worded, there is a clear answer that they are supposed to give. Anything other than yes, makes them feel like a bad parent, even if in real life they might weigh factors such as convenience or happiness higher than long term potential health issues.

  2. It’s also such a controlled situation where I question whether people really remember in the long-term. The difference between opinions and actions is huge. This can be noted by voter turnout or the difference in answers between a completely randomized survey or a group survey. The circumstances in which something is being answered can really impact the actions that someone takes.

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