CVS Pharmacy did a brave thing today: they decided to stop selling cigarettes in their drug stores. The decision according to Forbes will result in $2B fewer sales per year out of a total of $125B in sales for the pharmacy.
The question for you is: what would it take for you to turn away from $2B assuming, of course, that you don’t run SnapChat?
Maybe 2% of sales isn’t that big of a deal for them. More important is the approach CVS is now taking: they are evolving from a pharmacy into a place of wellness. They are shifting from simply selling drugs into a place that helps people feel healthier. Selling cigarettes did not fit into CVS’ new vision or values
Currently CVS offers a Minute Clinic with nurse practitioners and physician assistants on site. As part of this shift away from tobacco, they will now be offering a "robust national smoking cessation program" in their stores.
It’s an impressive to see a brand, the second largest pharmacy in the U.S., attempt a shift like this.
What should your brand to less of, or more of, to align your products and services with your vision and values, assuming you have some?
How would the people with the most to lose from the shift react?
Frito Lay launched a new, biodegradable bag for its SunChips product, opting to combine a green initiative with snack food. Maybe that combination was too improbable. In any case, Frito Lay now announced it was switching back to the original bag since the new one was very noisy. So noisy, in fact, that an entire Facebook group, with over 50,000 people, sprang up to register its discontent. The “Sorry, I can’t hear you over this Sun Chips Bag” group and protests on YouTube and other social media channels evoked this response from Fritos:
"We need to listen to our consumers," Spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said. "We clearly heard their feedback."
From a green, sustainable perspective, this shows the challenge of getting people to do something that’s good for the environment at the expense of habit and convenience. Do people act rationally (they know it helps fight global warming) or emotionally (it feels easy and comfortable)?
I can’t help looking at Sun Chips and thinking that Frito Lays lost a huge opportunity to do good. Surely they knew that the bags sounded loud. I can’t imagine they didn’t do any customer testing around the product; that’s what packaged goods companies do. So if they knew the bags were louder than normal why didn’t they do something to prepare customers for the change? It’s not like they couldn’t have done a few things.
They could have educated customers more. That means going out and telling them that the bags were loud but that they were loud for a good reason. They would have had to repeat that message over and over to make sure it penetrated the market. And they would have had to include that messaging on the bag itself.
Or they could have turned the negative of the noisy bag into a positive. That’s what creative companies do. Imagine that instead of the spoof we’re seeing online, Frito Lays had made noise into a product feature!
Bring your SunChips to a sports event and drown out those air horns
Visiting that pushy mother- (or father)-in-law? Just bring a bag of SunChips and tune out.
Do you hate the program your partner/spouse watches on TV? Start snacking on Sun Chips and soon you’ll have the set to yourself.
I mean these are really easy ideas. Companies have a hard time turning negatives into positives because they have to admit that there’s a negative in the first place! That’s the real lesson here, and Frito Lays gets an F on this test.
It raises a bigger question around green and sustainability marketing. You can’t simply count on someone to do something because it’s “good.” It should be that way, but it isn’t. Robert Cialdini in his book “YES” described the case of hotel towels and the challenge of getting guests to hang up and reuse their towels to lower energy usage. He found that when hotels created materials explaining why guests should hang up their towels (rational approach) they hung up their towels LESS than when they created materials telling guests that most OTHER guests hung up their towels, so they should too (emotional approach).
There are lots of lessons here. This cause really is too important to mess up.
I’ve been watching two customer generated protests unfold over the last two months, one online and one offline; one hugely successful, one not so successful; one driven by consumers and another driven by interest groups.
Motrin and Burton Snowboards both found themselves faced with an angry public. But the cases couldn’t be more different.
Motrin had posted an ad aimed at young moms. Their goal, apparently, was to connect with the challenges of young mom-hood and offer a solution. Motrin’s hip, typestyle driven online ad tried to bond with young moms with the inside scoop that carrying babies in slings or Baby Bjorns might make them feel like good moms, but that it gave them a pain in the back. Motrin to the rescue!
Unfortunately the audience, those young, online, urban moms, felt like Motrin didn’t get it at all. Believe it or not, the moms carried their babies like that because they liked to, it freed up their hands, made their kids feel better, and didn’t really hurt that much. But they didn’t like feeling talked down to. So they Twittered and e-mailed Motrin to death, and won. Motrin took down the ad and apologized.
Lesson 1: When your target customer is upset, you better listen! Lesson 2: If your customer is online, you better move fast!
The other example is the brouhaha up in Vermont about the Burton Love Snowboards. Burton released a couple of boards with old Playboy centerfolds on them. One board had cartoon drawings on top of the picture.
That caused a group in Burlington to hold protests outside of Burton’s headquarters. It called Burton “pornographers.” And it forced members of the city council to pass a resolution calling on Burton to “talk with” the protesters (counselors voted down a more adamant resolution). The group wanted Burton to withdraw the boards from the market.
In Burton’s case, the people protesting were not the people buying the boards. The Love boards were for a younger, male demographic, and after the protest, they're apparently selling out in light speed. And Burton, always a big supporter of youth programs and women’s program, was put on the defensive, enough so that both Jake Burton Carpenter and his wife Donna responded in not-so-nice tones in this week’s local rag.
The Burton protesters were all offline – a search on Twitter reveals almost nothing. They weren’t customers and they weren’t able to generate any of the parodies you see on YouTube about the Motrin campaign.
Maybe they were too serious in their protests. Maybe they were too extreme in calling Burton “pornographers.” Or maybe, they just didn’t matter and couldn’t master the technology.
Lesson 3: You don’t need to listen to anyone and everyone.
I just heard an interview today on NPR’s Day to Day with Romi Mahajan, chief marketing officer for the digital ad agency Ascentium. He was asked a number of direct questions, none of which he really answered. But anyway. The most interesting exchange came when he was asked how to convince people to buy in a down economy, and he answered “Make your Web site authentic.”
Or, as they say in Swedish “Good day, axe handle” (Goddag yxskaft).
I think Romi’s making a good point; he just made it in an odd context. For any brand, authenticity is crucial. Yet, authenticity is really, really hard for most companies. The fact that it’s so hard offline means that most companies don’t get it right on their sites.
I’m seeing this in two current clients I work with.
One has an amazing product, according to all of its customers. A real winner. Yet it’s online presence looks like it’s selling schlock. And I mean, really cheap schlock. The shlockiness is spread throughout the Web; every mention of this company covers it in dreck. And yet, the company provides a top of the line product.
The other is a completely people-oriented company. It’s a company people rave about and it grows primarily through customers word-of-mouth marketing. It provides a service focuses on personal fulfillment. Yet it’s Web site looks like a scary dentist’s office. When you go there, you’re expecting to hear the words “This won’t hurt a bit…”
I’ve always thought the Web should be the easiest place for authenticity. Think about it, you don’t have to teach someone how to talk, you don’t have to monitor dress codes, and you don’t have to do a lot of training. From a digital strategy standpoint, companies have a lot of control online, it’s surprising they don’t exercise it there, of all places.
Of course, some companies are great at being authentic online. Apple.com feels like an Apple product in presentation, it’s support forums feel like a Mac in ease of use. JonesSoda.com is about as authentic as it gets. Ikea.com just keeps getting better and better.
Maybe the problem isn’t making the Web site authentic. Maybe the problem is for companies to agree on what makes them authentic.
I’ve been a blood donor since college. As I’ve become busier over the years, the challenge of finding a good time to give gets harder. The Red Cross calls me a lot, trying to remind me and book appointments. Given that the U.S. blood banks keep declining, and that critical need keeps increasing, you’d think that the Red Cross would be doing everything possible to attract new donors and make it easy to give.
Would you be surprised if I told you the opposite was true? If ever there was brand in need of a complete makeover, it’s the Red Cross Blood centers.
Today I walked in as the center opened. There was no other blood donor in sight. I waited 10 minutes while I watched the personnel mill around talking to each other (nothing wrong with that, but it was clear that my time was not that important). I then did the usual: I gave my name, birthday and social and did the normal screening tests. After I filled out long questionnaire, another person came in, asked my name and birthday, and asked other questions. Then she (I’m not kidding) asked my name and birthday again, and asked me more questions.
Then she took me to the actual donation chair and, once again, asked me my name and birthday. Now, she didn’t look like she had a bad memory. When I protested, she said simply “Those are the rules.”
The rules also include that no one who has lived in Europe, or is gay, can give blood (maybe those are the same to some people).
Now, it’s not like I’m making any money on the deal (like they do in Sweden, or so I hear). I’m really not into needles either. I’m trying to do the right thing for something that should be easy and important.
Instead it was more difficult than it should be. It would have been a lot better if I could have done most of the paperwork online, gone in quickly for the tests and donations, and then received something simple like a free song at iTunes for my time. It’s too bad they don’t put some strategy and marketing towards this; we could solve the blood problem in no time.