Do Vaccine Perks Pay Off For Brands?

Big brands are piling on America’s effort to reach a 70% vaccination rate by July 4, including Budweiser, CVS, Target, Krispy Kreme, Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Match.

While 12 states are already there, it seems increasingly likely that the country won’t achieve that goal. Currently, 65% of Americans have received at least one shot, and brands have piled on the effort.

To find out if these brands are helping -- and what’s in it for them -- Marketing Daily asked Cyrus Massoumi, founder and CEO of Dr. B, which matches vaccine providers to consumers, to weigh in via email interview.

Marketing Daily: You are probably best known as the co-founder of Zocdoc, and your work in public health. Can you explain why you started Dr. B?

Cyrus Massoumi: When the vaccination effort began early this year, too many shots were going to waste. We all heard the stories about vaccine providers having to scramble to find people to take shots when patients would cancel appointments at the last minute. This often meant that people who could wait in line for a shot would be the first to get it, whether or not they were high on the government’s priority list.

Dr. B was created to solve this problem with a standby system that prioritized individuals based on local government priority criteria. The most vulnerable populations could get vaccinated faster, and no doses were wasted.

We came up with the name Dr. B as a nod to my grandfather, who was a doctor during the 1918 flu pandemic. People called him Dr. Bubba. He spent his life dedicated to bridging gaps in care.

We created Dr. B to reflect that same spirit, and we’re proud to say we’ve already sent out more than 1.1 million notifications for available shots.

Marketing Daily: What’s the evidence so far that perks are working? And do they ever change the mind of decidedly anti-vaccination people -- or just fence-sitters?

Massoumi: There have been a few instances where perks are proven to have worked. For example, after announcing its plans for a cash lottery system, Ohio saw a significant increase in vaccinations. There was also a recent study out of UCLA that showed many people would be more likely to get vaccinated if they were offered cash.

People are motivated by different things, so having a wide variety of perks and incentives available makes it more likely to encourage someone who was on the fence.

Marketing Daily: What does a brand get out of offering a perk, besides benefiting from a healthier public?

Massoumi: Offering a perk helps generate buzz and drives more customers to their business. For example, Krispy Kreme has seen a huge uptick in interest, having given away more than 1.5 million doughnuts since announcing its offer for free donuts in March.

I also believe it helps make already vaccinated people look at a brand more favorably. It plays into a brand’s narrative that they put their customer first and care for their well-being. This puts a brand in a positive light and can lead to a customer choosing it in the future over their competitors, potentially leading to long-term customer loyalty.

Marketing Daily: In public health, do carrots typically work better than sticks?

Massoumi: Yes. It’s natural for humans to be motivated by a reward. Public health experts have long used carrots to incentivize people to change their behavior, whether losing weight or quitting smoking, and that’s why we’ve seen perks working with vaccines.

Marketing Daily: What will happen to Dr. B after this COVID crisis has passed?

Massoumi: We launched Dr. B in the U.S. at the height of the COVID crisis to save lives by getting vaccines into as many arms as possible. We’re continuing to work with some partners, community organizations and healthcare providers to remove the barriers that are still preventing people from getting vaccinated, with a particular focus on underserved communities.

In the long term, we hope to build a platform that providers across the board can use to make healthcare more efficient and equitable. COVID-19 is also likely going to stick around for a long time, as we’ve seen with the flu, so we’re preparing for future needs, including booster shots for variants of the virus.

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