As you may have caught on the news on your drive in yesterday morning or throughout the day on Wednesday, it’s a big week for drugstore chain (and Matter client) CVS.
Earlier this year CVS Caremark made a commitment to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at all CVS/pharmacy stores by October 1, 2014 – becoming the first national pharmacy to do so. Yesterday morning CVS officially ended tobacco sales in all CVS/pharmacy locations, one month earlier than expected. Additionally, the company announced it would change its corporate name from CVS Caremark to “CVS Health” – a name that better reflects the overall company’s purpose of helping customers on their path to better health. (The CVS/pharmacy name of its retail stores will remain the same.) As part of their planting a major stake in the ground and renewing their focus as a healthcare company first and foremost, CVS Health rolled out a smoking cessation program to help people kick the habit, with resources and services available at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations nationwide, and also kicked off a social media movement (#OneGoodReason) with an event at Bryant Park in New York City, and a flurry of tweets and posts on Facebook that have captured the attention (and support) of movers and shakers ranging from celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, Senators Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein and Tom Harkin, actresses Rita Wilson and Josie Davis, model and activist Christy Turlington, and even First Lady Michelle Obama.
Naturally, any time one of our clients is in the news for something positive that they are doing, it’s a proud day for Matter. The fact that we are fortunate enough to be a partner of theirs, helping to launch this milestone effort is frankly, a noteworthy milestone for us, as well – to be a part of something this huge in the national news landscape, helping to drive the social media and influencer outreach that is establishing the movement, is exactly the kind of work that we are all so passionate about here. That said, aside from the huge THANK YOU going out to those on our CVS team who have been working hard to make the initiative successful, what struck me most as I was traveling back from NYC last night is that there are so many great take-aways from this launch that really demonstrate why the leadership team at CVS is to be commended – and why they are such a terrific client we continue to learn from. So in a nod to their campaign (and fully recognizing this list could go on much longer), here are three good reasons why other brands and PR agencies should take a close look at what they are doing, and keep these best practices in mind:
- We’re all in this together: collaboration with multiple agencies and partners is key – and should be encouraged. It’s no secret that brands as large as CVS Health (and many much, much smaller) rely on multiple partners for multiple aspects of their business. As one partner who’s been working with the team at CVS for nearly a decade now on various public relations, blogger and social media programs, we have been lucky enough to brainstorm with a number of their other strategic partners – ad agencies, creative firms, branding experts and the like. What’s important to remember is that there’s no room for egos, and one of the things we’ve loved about working with CVS on major campaigns through the years is that we are given opportunities to work side-by-side with these other teams. At the end of the day, they “get it” – the best part of having more than one partner to turn to, is that they can all contribute together to sharing ideas and ultimately working with their internal team to bring fresh perspectives and past experiences to bear, so that as a collective team we can land on the best idea, that will get the best results, and execute it as well as possible.
- Being bold works, as long as you’re willing to stick with it. Whether it’s a serious issue you’re tackling, like CVS Health’s exit from the tobacco category, or a more playful marketing-focused initiative like the ExtraBucks MoneyTrashers campaign from a few years back, it’s important to approach each with an open mind and a willingness to take a very public stand and share the reasons behind why you are doing what you are doing. CVS has not been shy about making big moves and then sharing the reasons behind their decisions, and standing firm in their belief that they’re making the right decision, at the right time, for their brand (and for their business). Other brands should take this to heart. Accept that you might get criticism along with the praise, and that’s OK as long as you believe in what you are doing and have reasons to back up your choices. Because trust me – the world will hold you accountable, and reporters will ask tough questions! Of course, it’s icing on the cake when your reasons and decisions can be tied to a real, meaningful cause like this one is – these types of corporate action make it even a prouder moment for us to be partnered with a company that is doing good for the world while also doing good for their own business.
- The power of social media cannot be denied – but must be harnessed delicately. For about eight years now, PR professionals and marketers have been faced with the realization that social media has become an invaluable, tricky and powerful piece of the communications puzzle. But no matter how often we try, we cannot push a “Go viral!” button or guarantee that something will take off the way we want it to – or conversely, stay quiet if we wish it would be ignored. That’s why it is truly awe-inspiring to witness the power of social media in action and really understand how critical it is to approach this channel the right way. In this case, in launching #OneGoodReason it was important that, as a team, we tapped into the possibilities of social media in a way that was authentic and not self-aggrandizing. CVS (and we) wanted to encourage consumer participation in spreading the word and showing support for quitting smoking – not just patting ourselves on the back or making it all about what a smart move CVS is making. This issue is one that is very personal to people, and so part of the reason the launch has been so instantly successful and has inspired such a diverse group of people from all walks of life to take part is that we’re asking them to share those personal connections and stories, and using social media as a platform to elevate all of their individual voices. The heart of CVS’ campaign is to join together as a greater community with the greater goal of saying farewell to tobacco. And that’s something that many people want to be a part of.
Not every brand will face a decision as momentous as the one CVS Health made this year. But every day, we are faced with opportunities to counsel our clients on how to approach their business decisions strategically and with a creative lens. I know I’ve learned a lot through our work with CVS – and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn from the bold moves and smart thinking from them, and from other brands, as well. The trick is taking those lessons learned, and applying them to future work…because ultimately, that’s what our clients expect from us.