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Although smoking in the UK has declined in the last decade, the prevalence of smoking remains above public health targets, and is higher in Greater Manchester than other regions in England. Smoking’s impact on lives and on health services remains dramatic and, during the COVID pandemic, the numbers claiming to smoke were rising. Greater Manchester Combined Authorities needed to review their approach to promoting smoking cessation services – at the time, marketed under the ‘You Can’ brand.


Every smoker has a complex, personal relationship with their habit, and most recognise they have some level of addiction. They are well aware of the risks of continuing and the benefits of quitting, and are adept at disengaging from attempts to encourage them to stop.

Whilst almost two thirds of smokers claim they want to quit, telling them ‘You Can’ do it is at odds with their own experience. Almost 70% of smokers in Greater Manchester have tried and failed to quit before, and less than 1 in 5 quit attempts work. Some studies suggest it takes on average 30 attempts before someone quits successfully. This poor success rate is partly due to the fact that when people do try, they tend to try the least effective method – cold turkey.

So the brand had to encourage reappraisal, increase the frequency with which smokers try to quit, and to encourage them to try more effective methods when they do.

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Smokers see quitting as a test of themselves, one that you either pass or fail – a view compounded by focussing on positive stories of success from ex-smokers. Consequently, many smokers who’ve tried to quit before think they don’t have sufficient willpower to succeed and put off trying again through fear or lack of self-esteem.

But when quitting is understood as something that you get better at with practice, it lessens that fear of failure and makes trying different methods simply part of becoming a better quitter.


The brand celebrates the determination of quitters, rather than the achievement of becoming an ex-smoker.

Rebranding the offer as Make Smoking History, the brand is positioned more like a personal coach than a public service. Always honest about the challenges of quitting, able to tailor support and advice to improve performance, and not afraid to deliver the occasional home-truth.

The brand identity takes cues from sports brands in its use of challenging messages, bold type and vibrant colour, and the marque features a strikethrough in an echo of ‘no smoking’ signs.

The launch campaign – Never Quit Quitting – publicly praises the efforts of all kinds of quitters across Greater Manchester, and introduces the offer of free local support that can make them three times more likely to succeed.

Collaborating with Doodledo Motion across TV, social media, radio, poster sites and partner channels, executions motivate smokers to think differently about quitting, and encourage quitters to keep going.


The Never Quit Quitting campaign delivered significant increases in quitting and has directly contributed to long-term behavioural change:

74% of smokers in Greater Manchester took some action to quit after seeing the campaign (82% amongst 30-40 year olds), well ahead of previous stop smoking campaign benchmarks of 50%.

43% of smokers were found to have quit or be in the process of a quit attempt after seeing the campaign.

Following the campaign, the proportion of smokers in Greater Manchester currently quitting has doubled. The proportion of smokers putting a timeframe on their next quit attempt and the number claiming they want to stop have also doubled.

There have also been significant changes in attitudes towards how to quit, with 30% of those quitting now accessing support or help to do so, and a steep reduction in those claiming that willpower is the only way to quit. This is hugely important as using support and aids is proven to make each quit attempt up to three times more likely to succeed.

And there is also evidence of positive behavioural change amongst those still smoking, attributable to exposure to the campaign. Dependency on cigarettes amongst smokers in the region decreased significantly (using the Fagestrom scale), with those showing signs of low dependency increasing from 33% pre-campaign to 40% post-campaign.

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“We’ve created a campaign that aims to be very true to Greater Manchester, featuring a range of locations and the diversity and determination of its people. It’s direct and powerful in conveying the message. Quitting isn’t easy, but every quitter wins eventually.”
Steve Royle, Creative Director
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“True North really immersed themselves in the challenge, developing a well-articulated strategy and brand proposition, and going above and beyond to share insight and research with wider stakeholders. They're a very hands-on team, great to work with and very engaged throughout the whole project.”
Samantha Neville, Communications & Engagement Manager, Greater Manchester Combined Authorities
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