Better Ingredients: The Pizza Analogy

Frequency of message equals success in advertising--and in safety incentive programs.

Do employees think about workplace safety as much as they think about hot, delicious pizza? It's probably fair to say, no. After years of experience, I am convinced that one key to effective safety communication is to use marketing-based tactics

Advertisers learned they must stand out from the crowd. Simply saying your pizza is good will not get the job done. Likewise, simply giving employees an incentive to work safely does not get the job done. Here are some practical marketing strategies to make certain your safety incentive program hits the mark.

'Top of Mind' Presence
Cut through "clutter" and get "top of the mind" presence. Advertising managers strive for "top of the mind" awareness. What the advertising manager battles in the marketplace is "clutter." Safety managers must understand their message competes for "top of the mind" awareness in the workplace, just as the Papa John's "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" message competes for top of the mind awareness in the marketplace.

Advertisers learned they must stand out from the crowd. Simply giving employees an incentive to work safely does not get the job done.

Advertisers fight the "clutter" of messages from competing brands and companies. Safety managers fight "clutter," too. They compete with messages from production managers pushing employees for higher production, quality managers demanding better quality, and co-workers distracting one another in a number of different ways. All of this, plus the safety managers must battle messages employees bring from home, such as money issues, family problems, child care, and more.

Marketing safety is a proactive strategy for the safety manager to cut through workplace "clutter" and position the safety message in the "top of the mind" of employees.

Key advertising tactics to consider for marketing safety are branding, multiple media placement, and (incentive) promotions. The glue that holds these tactics together and is essential for successful advertising is frequency (of the message). Just as the frequency of message equals success in the advertising campaign, so it is with a safety awareness strategy. Many safety incentive programs fall short when it comes to frequency of message. If the safety incentive program does not include an aggressive effort at a daily message targeted to employees to cut through the daily "clutter," the battle for "top of the mind" awareness is lost.

Remember, They're Promotions
You say program, I say promotion. Incentive programs should be treated as promotions. Promotions actively engage employees with positive appeal to focus their attention to your safety initiatives.

Unlike any other tool, incentive promotion programs provide positive appeal, excitement, and give greater frequency value to marketing safety in the workplace. Just as advertising managers use promotions to increase awareness, involve customers, and support brand awareness in the marketplace, so, too, safety managers should use incentive promotions for the same results.

A point to remember is, don't focus on the incentive; rather, focus on what the incentive does to cut through the clutter and bring top of the mind awareness to your safety initiatives.

Follow the golden arches. Advertisers such as McDonald's know most people do not participate in their incentive promotions, ones like the Million-Dollar Monopoly game, because they will win a million dollars. People know they are more than likely to win a free drink, fries, or hamburgers. Likewise, I don't think employees work safely for an incentive. No employee wants to be injured.

Here, then, is a lesson for safety managers using incentives to promote safety performance. Advertisers know the incentive promotion first and foremost cuts through the clutter, engages the customer in a positive and fun experience with the product (brand), and subsequently increases sales. The success of the promotion, then, relies on utilizing all available media to increase frequency and awareness to the promotion and the brand.

Incentive promotion programs help brand safety. Build the safety brand image with a theme and/or graphic to convey the safety initiative at a glance. Explore and use all media available in the workplace to get the safety brand message to the target audience.

Incentive programs are one of the most widely used strategies for keeping safety awareness high.

Think about advertising media and try to parallel those in the workplace. For example, there are billboards along the highway. You use posters or banners placed in high-traffic areas throughout the facility. Advertisers use TV. Many companies have video communication systems throughout the facility that are ideal to support the safety brand initiative. Direct mail is another medium for advertisers. The employee paycheck is a direct mail equivalent. Don't forget computers. Find ways to link the safety incentive promotion program to your company's Web site. All of these media must be used to market safety and increase awareness of the brand.

Focus on frequency of message. Marketing safety incentive programs with advertising tactics will get results. When developing a safety incentive program, make sure to include aggressive weekly or daily messages to keep exposure and frequency high. Place the brand image and messages on company newsletters, stationery, notepads, pens, imprinted promotional products, posters, banners, the Web site, and video systems throughout the facility. At least 25 to 35 percent of the overall safety incentive budget should be set aside to "market" the incentive program. The success of the safety incentive program and your overall safety performance initiative rest squarely on how well you market and promote the safety incentive program, more than how well you choose the right incentive.

Better ingredients make better pizza. However, if you don't say it (over and over), no one knows it and they won't buy it! Remember this with your next safety incentive promotion program. Use the promotion to brand your safety performance initiatives. Apply all available media to tell the employees over and over again about the safety incentive program. More importantly, use it to engage and remind employees how to work safely.

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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