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Boosting vaccination drive or opportunistic marketing? Brands offer freebies and discounts to vaccinated people

While some feel brands can help stimulate demand and urge hesitant people to get vaccinated, others say such communication is more to make the brand look good and caring, rather than actually move the needle on vaccination. Is it effective public health advocacy or opportunistic marketing? BestMediaInfo finds out

From offering small discounts to bigger savings to freebies, brands across categories are trying to woo vaccinated customers.

In an effort to encourage and support the vaccination drive against Covid-19, McDonald’s India, North and East, is running a discount offer of 20% up to Rs 250 for a minimum purchase of Rs 500.

Dish TV India has announced that it would thank its subscribers who get vaccinated by crediting a day’s worth of entertainment to every customer of DishTV and D2H who uploads his or her vaccination details on the respective websites.

Godrej & Boyce’s Godrej Security Solutions (GSS) launched special offers for customers who have taken the first dose of the Covid-9 vaccine on their range of CSIR certified UV cases and Home Lockers. Vaccinated customers are entitled to a 10% discount on these products just by connecting with the company’s sales team on their WhatsApp no- 9820247847.

Brands such as Oyo Rooms, Domino’s Pizza and Durex are also actively promoting the vaccination drive on social media to instil confidence in the masses.

As brands jump on the national effort to vaccinate people by offering freebies, loyalty points, discounts, etc., many industry experts believe such initiatives can help strengthen brand equity and loyalty.

There are two key challenges to vaccination. One is the supply side, which means not enough vaccines are available to meet the demand for vaccine awareness. The second is the demand side, which is that a fair proportion of the population is hesitating to get vaccinated.

Brands probably can’t do much to tackle the supply side until vaccine procurement opens up commercially as it is still within governmental control.

Pranesh Misra

However, brands can help stimulate demand through powerful communication and attractive offers, said Pranesh Misra, Chairman and Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide.

“There is fair headroom for this initiative. The US has seen companies such as Budweiser offering free beer to those who get vaccinated. These kinds of promotions can convince fence-sitters to go get the shot. More needs to be done in this space. Imagine railways and airlines giving a 5-10% discount to vaccinated travellers. Or food delivery aggregators offering an extra something to customers who have vaccination certificates,” he said.

Misra is not sure, though, to what extent this will lead to brand growth. “But credible and effective communication and promotion can help strengthen brand equity and loyalty,” he said.

Mehernosh Pithawalla, Vice-President, Godrej Security Solutions, said, “Mass vaccination is the need of the hour to protect ourselves and our families from this deadly virus. At Godrej Security Solutions, the security of our customers be it physical health or peace of mind, has been our foremost priority and hence we urge the citizens to take the vaccine and avoid being hesitant towards it.”

Anil Dua

Anil Dua, Executive Director and Group CEO, Dish TV India, seconded that one of the big ways to fight the Covid-19 battle successfully is to get vaccinated. And that is why it plans to encourage subscribers to get vaccinated by offering them an extra day of entertainment.

Jagdeep Kapoor

Brands that are rewarding consumers who have been vaccinated are doing a wonderful motivational job, said Brand Guru Jagdeep Kapoor, Founder, Chairman and MD, Samsika Marketing Consultants. They are helping people with ‘courage and encouragement’ to help overcome vaccine hesitation.

He said brands doing this will grow not only in image but also gain goodwill, credibility and sales. He advised companies to use ‘motivation for vaccination’ to help build their brands in the minds and hearts of consumers.

Why these efforts are only ‘feel-good’

Brands are always prone to scrutiny, especially when it comes to communication in these difficult times. Companies that are rewarding vaccinated customers are luring them into their businesses in one way or another, and experts term this vaccine marketing.

Misra said brands should try not to be opportunistic, but stay at the level of being committed to increasing demand for vaccination — whether or not it sells your brand.

“This authentic approach would strengthen equity. Being blatantly opportunistic would have the reverse effect,” he said.

Sandeep Goyal

Sandeep Goyal, Managing Director, Rediffusion, said a lot of such communication actually makes the brand look good and caring, rather than move the needle on vaccination.

There are many issues with vaccination, the first and foremost being non-availability. Then there is the inability of many to register digitally. There is also the issue of affordability. And none of the campaigns addresses these key issues, he said.

“They are mostly creative that ‘feel good’,” he added.

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