Brands of all shapes and sizes are doling out offers to incentivise people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.Image: Shutterstock The customer, David Ogilvy proclaimed in the 1950s, is not a moron. “She's your wife," said the father of advertising, codifying his priceless wisdom in the book ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’, published in 1963. He went on to sound a word of caution: You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. “She wants all the information you can give her,” Ogilvy underlined. Almost six decades later, back in India, marketers have forgotten the lesson, the warning, and the ‘wife.’ In a mad scramble to appear as social evangelists, brands of all shapes and sizes are doling out offers to incentivise people to get vaccinated against Covid-19. To be honest, the incentives do look appealing. Take, for instance, Domino's 'Get vaccinated and get Rs 400 off,” McDonald’s India's 20 percent discount offer, Beer Café’s 10 percent discount on first jab and 20 percent discount on the second jab, IndiGo airline’s discount of up to 10 percent, or Godrej Appliances’ six months free extended warranty. The list is endless as the discount vaccine tail grows with every passing day. So what’s wrong with it? Brand custodians argue that incentives are a great way to induce people to get vaccinated. In short, it will go a long way in protecting people and nation. Right? Wrong. Remember Ogilvy’s word of caution? Don’t insult the intelligence of ‘wife’—read customer—by adding ‘conditions apply.’ Domino’s Rs400 offer is not on one order, but has a cap of Rs100. It means you have to order four times to avail a discount of Rs400. There is another rider: The offer is applicable only if you are ordering from the Domino’s app. Now, poor consumers who are vaccinated but don’t have the app can’t avail ‘ek chota sa thank you’ (small thank you) from the biggest pizza player in India. Ditto for McDonald’s. One needs to place the order from the app and not from online food aggregator platforms like Swiggy to avail the offer. The free warranty by Godrej Appliances comes into play only if one buys new appliances. Kamal Nandi, business head and executive vice president of Godrej Appliances, explained the move in a press release last week. Vaccine hesitancy, he argued, remains a very real barrier. The need is, therefore, to take tangible action. “We have launched [a] thoughtfully crafted 6-month extended warranty free, on purchase of any of our B2C products to customers who have taken at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine,” he underlined. The move, he claimed, was welcomed by trade partners and customers. “It’s a small measure from our end in this fight against Covid-19,” he added. Brand and marketing experts are not amused by the ‘fight’ displayed by a bunch of brands. “It is vaccine vulture-ism,” says Harish Bijoor, who runs an eponymous brand consulting firm. Vaccine-led incentives are a terrible example of ‘moment marketing’, he explains. While acknowledging that vaccination is the biggest talk point across the world, brands need to understand if there are tangible gains to be made or if they are just scoring brownie points. Moreover, brands can’t be overtly pushy in communication and proposition. So, one can’t say offer valid only when the customer buys new items or uses the brand app. Second, do brands really think that discounts will nudge people to get vaccinated, Bijoor asks. “There is a very thin line between smart advertising and promotion, and vaccine opportunism,” he says.
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