A Multisite Randomized Trial of Social Norms Marketing Campaigns to Reduce College Student Drinking: A Replication Failure

DeJong, W., Schneider, S., Towvim, L., Murphy, M., Doerr, E., Simonsen, N., et al. (2009). A multisite randomized trial of social norms marketing campaigns to reduce college student drinking: A replication failure. Substance Abuse, 30(2), 127-140. doi:10.1080/08897070902802059.

A 14-site randomized trial tested the effectiveness of social norms marketing (SNM) campaigns, which present accurate student survey data in order to correct misperceptions of subjective drinking norms and thereby drive down alcohol use. Cross-sectional student surveys were conducted by mail at baseline and at posttest 3 years later. Hierarchical linear modeling was applied to examine multiple drinking outcomes, taking into account the nonindependence of students grouped in the same college. Controlling for other predictors, having a SNM campaign was not significantly associated with lower perceptions of student drinking levels or lower self-reported alcohol consumption. This study failed to replicate a previous multisite randomized trial of SNM campaigns, which showed that students attending institutions with a SNM campaign had a lower relative risk of alcohol consumption than students attending control group institutions (W. DeJong et al. J Stud Alcohol. 2006;67:868-879). Additional research is needed to explore whether SNM campaigns are less effective in campus communities with relatively high alcohol retail outlet density.

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