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Commercial food marketing has considerably shaped consumer food choice behaviour. Meanwhile, public health campaigns for healthier eating have had limited impact to date. Social marketing suggests that successful commercial food marketing campaigns can provide useful lessons for public sector activities. The aim of the present study was to empirically identify food marketing success factors that, using the social marketing approach, could help improve public health campaigns to promote healthy eating.
In this case-study analysis, 27 recent and successful commercial food and beverage marketing cases were purposively sampled from different European countries. The cases involved different consumer target groups, product categories, company sizes and marketing techniques. The analysis focused on cases of relatively healthy food types, and nutrition and health-related aspects in the communication related to the food. Visual as well as written material was gathered, complemented by semi-structured interviews with 12 food market trend experts and 19 representatives of food companies and advertising agencies. Success factors were identified by a group of experts who reached consensus through discussion structured by a card sorting method.
Six clusters of success factors emerged from the analysis and were labelled as "data and knowledge", "emotions", "endorsement", "media", "community" and "why and how". Each cluster subsumes two or three success factors and is illustrated by examples. In total, 16 factors were identified. It is argued that the factors "nutritional evidence", "trend awareness", "vertical endorsement", "simple naturalness" and "common values" are of particular importance in the communication of health with regard to food.
The present study identified critical factors for the success of commercial food marketing campaigns related to the issue of nutrition and health, which are possibly transferable to the public health sector. Whether or not a particular factor contributes to future success depends on the specific context of use, the combination of factors and the environment. Consideration of the specific applicability of the success factors identified in this study during the design of marketing activities could benefit public sector food and health-related campaigns.