When we were asked to develop a campaign to encourage the use of smoke detectors, less than 5% of households in Germany had such protection, despite expensive classical advertising campaigns with large media budgets. We faced a daunting challenge. And there was an additional hurdle: our campaign would have no budget for media.
Our initial research into German consumer attitudes indicated an array of dangerous misconceptions about fire safety that were deeply ingrained. It became clear that our campaign needed to be about changing attitudes and behaviors. For people to respond to our message, they first needed to become aware that the greatest danger in a fire is smoke and that smoke detectors provide the most reliable protection against that danger.
Germany has 1.2 million firefighters, who all have our same goal of improving fire safety. With their help, we would have a veritable army that could help promote our campaign at the ground level.
We developed a two-pronged strategy. First we focused on activating Germany's firefighters by supporting local promotions and supplying materials. Simultaneously we developed a national online communication platform as a vehicle for direct public relations activities, directly targeting renters, homeowners and landlords.
Just a few years after beginning this campaign, about 30% of homeowners had installed smoke detectors, and a political environment was created where laws mandating smoke detectors could be introduced. As of summer 2016, smoke detectors are required in all German states. In the process we established Forum Brandrauchprävention, and our online platform ranks number one among firefighters, journalists and consumers for all issues surrounding smoke detectors.
Read more about the life-saving effects smoke detectors have had in Germany in this article from Wirtschaftswoche (in German):