Marketing Challenges with Vaccine Campaigns

Marketing Challenges with Vaccine Campaigns

What are the Challenges with Vaccine Marketing Campaigns? 

Despite what a lot of people had hoped for, vaccine rollouts are moving at a far slower pace than anticipated. According to the Financial Times, only 153,877,062 vaccinations have been given at the time of writing. In other words, this is only just the beginning.  

The obstacles are only just becoming evident. The first and perhaps biggest obstacle that governments across the globe are going to have to deal with is the civilian resistance. Some citizens do not trust their politicians, and as a result and their mistrust extends to the vaccination efforts as well. 

The Lancet published a study claiming that declining confidence in vaccines has caused outbreaks of vaccine—preventable diseases such as measles. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed vaccine hesitance as one of the top ten threats to global health.  

“In order for vaccines to be successful in ending the pandemic, we will need to get vaccination rates into the mid-70% range at a minimum. In a climate where we have seen a decline in the public’s belief in science and erosion of fact in favour of social and public opinion, studies suggest only 60% of people are currently willing to get a vaccine. We clearly need to drive trust to get to herd immunity and end the pandemic “, explained Lee Fraser, chief medical officer at Digitas Health. 

The problem is that the vaccines are only effective as remedies if enough people take them. But how do you convince people to take the vaccines? This is one of the biggest marketing challenges pharmaceutical companies, medical providers, and healthcare agencies ever had to deal with. There are just too many things that they must take into account, from general vaccine hesitancy about vaccine ingredients to religious concerns regarding immunization. 

What are the challenges? 

One of the biggest challenges that will complicate vaccine rollout campaigns is the public’s aggression towards pharmaceutical companies. At the end of the day, companies like Moderna or Pfizer aren’t popular for having purely altruistic motives. It is difficult for people to separate the power and profit-driven pharmaceutical corporations from the pharmaceutical corporations that create life-saving medication. 

What have we seen so far? 

This is probably the biggest global communication effort we have ever seen. Ever since last year, thousands of influencers, from global celebrities to micro-influencers, have been mobilized to deliver the message. Which message? Applying distance, hygiene, and masks. 

Can these same influencers convey messages about vaccines? In theory, yes. However, that brings about practical marketing challenges. Firstly, many influencers are hesitant about the vaccines themselves. Secondly, the public might not oppose a nudge to follow better hygiene, but they are very likely to resist any influence in trusting pharmaceutical companies. And in today’s cancel culture, you can’t blame the celebrities and influencers for not daring to take that step.  

Still, efforts are made. The Guardian published an article saying that the UK plans to enlist ‘sensible’ celebrities to persuade people to take the vaccine. The list included the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford. 

How do governments plan to market vaccines? 

“The focus has been on the collaborative efforts with universities and governments – and, for the first time, each other. It’s been an impressive and herculean effort to find a solution – and this has been done without the usual commercial drivers and constraints associated with drug production. Without a doubt, any success in this Covid-19 race will be and has already been accompanied by huge stock market rises. But when it is done this way round – public health first and profits later – who can complain?” commented Claire Gillis, the international chief executive officer of WPP Health Practice. 

Now that the vaccines have been rolled out, it has never been more important for the health industry to carefully listen to their audience.  

One of the most crucial lessons of vaccine campaigns that the governments learned early is that people don’t want to hear about the vaccines from politicians, ministers, and marketers. They will only accept information (which is contrary to what they already believe) from people they trust. And who do the people trust? According to an Ipsos Mori poll, they tend to trust doctors, nurses, and scientists. 

Other studies have shown that people were far more likely to believe other people, as opposed to statistics and charts. It is far more relatable and genuine when a person shares their own, personal, and perhaps tragic story than when someone in a suit spouts seemingly meaningless numbers that you are expected to believe at face value.  

Taking all that into account, it is safe to assume that the vaccine campaigns will aim to warn about the danger associated with COVID-19 and tackle misinformation while highlighting that it is a choice and an altruistic endeavour. But most importantly, this message must be conveyed by someone whom the populace trusts. 

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