Should brands reward consumers for getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

April 7, 2021
4 min read

Will they or won’t they? The news is flooded with coverage about vaccine availability and, in demographics or areas where the vaccine is available, who will opt to get the shot? Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Tracker survey (December 11-18 2020) found that while a majority of US adults said they planned to get the vaccine, they were worried their fellow citizens wouldn’t do the same. Government officials flood the airwaves daily to let Americans know they should take the vaccine as soon as it’s available, but a tense political climate means the influence of this voice may not stretch as far as some would like.

Enter your friendly neighborhood brands

Mintel Comperemedia predicted that in the absence and confusion of government trust, brands would be “more vocal in pushing their beliefs and values over products and services, parlaying those beliefs and values into sales—and, more importantly, loyalty and trust.” Beyond this, 2020 also saw a bevy of incentives motivating consumers to vote, volunteer, and vocalize for social justice.

Unfortunately, in an early example of what not to do, Krispy Kreme snagged the spotlight in late March with a calorie lavish offer of one free glazed doughnut per day through the end of 2021 with proof of completed vaccination.

The groups eligible to receive vaccines in most states when the offer was announced were the eldery, immunocompromised, and obese. Offering these groups 190 calories of indulgence every day for the rest of the year contradicts the urgency of why these groups needed the vaccine in the first place. While most will not go into Krispy Kreme to get a doughnut every day, irresponsibly timed incentives risk negative blowback for the brand. Had Krispy Kreme launched the offer over the summer when most are expected to be vaccinated, or limited it to a single doughnut, public perception of the offer would have received less blowback.

Some brands are incentivizing positive behavior more responsibly than others

This past fall, CVS ran incentives on health and wellness products for those who got their flu shot at a CVS location. Once all groups are eligible to receive the vaccine, we can anticipate CVS will make a similar move for the COVID-19 vaccine, and any necessary booster injections.

Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Tracker found the things people missed most this year were travel, time with friends and family, and dining out. Beyond this, people expressed an understanding that they need to focus more on their health and wellbeing but don’t know where to start.

In the same way that brands provided information and easier access for voting in the 2020 election, we see brands providing information on where to get a vaccine, and offering transportation for those who may not be able to get to their appointment, with Uber and Lyft at the forefront. Financial services brands with tap-to-pay enabled on public transportation could also incentivize free rides to vaccination appointments, or even COVID-19 testing.

Beyond this, venues and small businesses so hurt during the past year have the opportunity to shine brightest when it comes to discounts or special access for vaccinated patrons. Madison Square Garden announced its allowing entry to upcoming Knicks and Rangers games for anyone who can provide proof of vaccination. Vaccine passport apps are moving out of beta into the mainstream, presenting an opportunity for brands to partner with these apps and offer experiential and wellness-based incentives to those who got their shot(s).

What we think

Instead of going for the low-hanging fruit, brands have an opportunity to incentivize positive behavior aligned to wellness and immunity or enable occasions people missed most during the pandemic.

Give the free concerts. Encourage behavior focused on immunity protection. Cater healthy cuisine for family reunions and parties. And if you think your only move is to offer people 280+ doughnuts? Consider a donation to a local charity of their choice. Sponsor vaccination sites. Even if your brand isn’t aligned to health and wellness, consumers expect brands to do their part to keep us healthy as we head into this bright yet uncertain future.

From market assessment to landscape analysis, Mintel Consulting delivers a fresh viewpoint supported by rigorous data on brand, innovation, strategy, and consumer insight. Get in touch now to get your questions answered and speak to a consultant.

Laura Ziemer
Laura Ziemer

Laura Ziemer is Mintel’s Associate Vice President of Marketing Intelligence. Laura uses Mintel’s marketing intelligence data to explore custom questions for clients, and provide concrete recommendations that steer them toward highly incremental growth.

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