Stoptober: The Marketers Smoking Gun?

There are many campaigns that come around year after year to raise awareness of various causes; Stoptober, Movember, Sober for October, Decembeard, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dry January etc. But just how strong do these moments remain in terms of targeting and effectiveness for search each year?

Many brands, try and tap into these moments if there is a suitable connection with the products or services they offer – but is the effort worth pursuing such opportunities and what are brands currently doing to tap into the moment?


Since October is in full swing let’s take a look at Stoptober as an example.

The Stoptober campaign was launched in 2012 by the NHS, it was created and funded in England by Public Health England and aims to encourage people to stop smoking in the month of October whilst raising money for charity. Participants receive a support pack, access to a mobile app and motivational texts.

Stoptober mobile app screenshot

Google trends shows that interest in ’Stoptober’ has dwindled over the years but there is still a clear focus from various brands and channels promoting the campaign:

Stoptober search trends graph

There is still a drive behind this however as more general stop smoking related searches continue to provide opportunities, search volumes remain high even for ‘Stoptober’ with almost 10k searches a month at peak times.

What about the content?

So we know that whilst the search-ability of buzzwords such as Stoptober might be eroded over time there is still potential to tap into the moments, so what are brands and services doing online for Stoptober?

Interestingly the majority of content appearing organically is from government and NHS sites, this makes sense since they fund the official campaign and have a very high search authority in general. From a paid search perspective only one brand is tapping into the buzz – Nicorette:

Stoptober PPC ad by Nicorette

This may however be due to restrictions on advertising surrounding nicotine based products. There is a much broader range of activity happening on social channels, amongst the expected array of awareness groups, health practices and local authorities, this is where we start to see more activity from less directly associated brands trying to tap into the moment.

This ranges from shopping centres to lifestyle magazines, but more prominent is the range of e-cigarette brands:

Eastgate Shopping tweet about Stoptober

VIP Premium Vaping tweet about Stoptober

These examples try and tap into the fabric of the moments meaning and where people are trying to make change, however others are simply using it as a mechanism to promote their brand where the content utilised has no relation to the campaign or what it’s trying to achieve and might alienate users rather than improve brand awareness:

Jac Vapour Stoptober tweet

Interestingly Jac Vapours don’t push Stoptober on their site despite them releasing social content on the subject which might suggest a lack of cross channel strategy, other brands such as Vapouriz promote across multiple channels for a more cohesive content strategy:

Vapouriz on-site Stoptober screenshot

Vapouriz tweet about Stoptober

The majority of Instagram activity is focussed around e-cigarette brands, there’s very little in the way of any official presence on the platform, which could be a missed opportunity to spread the word to a younger audience.

Advancements in technology have also enhanced the way people can become engaged with the campaign. Bots have been rolled out over time on platforms such as Skype and Facebook Messenger and Stoptober now has an official chat bot on Facebook. In the same way they try and provide text message based support, with the chat bot you will receive encouragement on your journey to quit smoking:

Stoptober official Facebook chat bot screenshot

So is it really worth tapping into these moments? The simple answer is yes, however use caution and best judgement on whether your brand really has a valid connection and reason to be part of the movement and be sure to think about the cross channel approach to really prove value for your audience rather than alienate them.

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