CVS: how will you tie “no retouching” into your purpose of better health?

by Jan 25, 2018

Last week, CVS made another bold move. Here’s the gist from their website: “We will not digitally alter or change a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color or enhance or alter lines, wrinkles or other individual characteristics … we want our beauty aisle to be a place where our customers can always come to feel good, while representing and celebrating the authenticity and diversity of the communities we serve.”

I’m a huge fan of this move for all kinds of reasons. But as a marketer who has devoted my career (and most waking hours) to helping companies leverage their environmental and social purpose commitments to gain a market advantage, I see a marketing challenge with it: it doesn’t immediately tie to the purpose CVS has committed to around better health.

Connecting the dots

Now, in the press release announcing this commitment, Helena Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy and Executive Vice President of CVS Health, worked to tie the two together by noting:

“The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established. As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”

I buy it. I totally see how emotional health is inextricably intertwined with better health overall. But I’m not sure it’s obvious to everyone. CVS will need to work hard to tie this new, meaningful, high-impact commitment to its overall commitment via its messaging and marketing. Otherwise, their overall message – the purpose they want to be known and loved for – will get diluted.

Consumers want to see the link

 

We’ve done a lot of probing on this type of thing in our Pulse research. In the early days of sustainability, we saw a lot of companies committing to lots of different causes. We wondered … do those translate to the end consumer? Are those commitments building company brands – and driving product sales?

The answer, as trended over time, is clear. While Americans want all companies, regardless of sector, to do three basic things (use renewable energy, don’t generate waste in your manufacturing process and pay people a living wage), they also overwhelmingly want companies to commit to solving a problem directly related to their category or business itself. For instance, if your company is known for making sugary soft drinks, they want you to solve obesity. If your company makes plumbing products, they want you to focus on water conservation.

We haven’t tested CVS’ position specifically, but my experience tells me their commitment to better health – their wholesale re-imagining of CVS as a health care company – likely makes perfect sense to the average American. And it likely drives preference for CVS. (I was so proud of them for walking away from billions of dollars in cigarette sales that I haven’t been in a Walgreen’s since.)

The trick for their marketing team now will be to ensure that their commitment to eliminating a source of emotional stress for women and girls ties back to their overall commitment to better health. Otherwise, the average consumer won’t know exactly what to love them for. And in the face of fuzziness and doubt, our brains are wired to do something very specific: nothing.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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