Due to COVID-19, One Medical’s marketing approach was forced to shift dramatically. With the onset of the pandemic, primary care doctor visits and standard check-ups declined by more than 50% from year-over-year norms, while the company simultaneously put its focus on large-scale, no-cost coronavirus testing.
Signing agreements with cities from San Francisco to New York to conduct their COVID-19 screenings, One Medical notified its out-of-home, digital and radio partners that it was about to effectively “shut off marketing”—a move that paradoxically earned it heaps of earned media exposure.
More than half a year since the pandemic became severe in the U.S., the country is still regularly topping 50,000 new cases per day—more than it did on any single day in the first three months of the pandemic—and the volume of coronavirus tests One Medical processes has hardly slowed.
The creation and efficacy of a potential coronavirus vaccine became deeply intertwined with politics over the summer, as contradictory claims from the Trump administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and top U.S. scientists fueled public concerns that a COVID-19 shot might be prematurely rushed to market.
Public trust is now divided on the subject, with just 51% of U.S. adults saying they’d probably or definitely get inoculated if such a vaccine was available to them today, versus 49% of respondents who said they probably or definitely would not, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last month.
That is down sharply from earlier Pew polling in May that found 72% of Americans were then in favor of receiving the shot.
Pew’s September study also suggested that 77% of Americans think it’s at least somewhat likely a coronavirus vaccine will be approved before its safety is fully understood—despite nine major U.S. pharmaceutical firms, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, signing a safety pledge to abide by “high ethical standards and sound scientific principles” in the fight against COVID-19.
With this year’s flu season looming, marketers in the health care space are grappling with a host of new challenges brought by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, not the least of which is mounting, largely partisan suspicion of the disease itself.
On Oct. 13, one day after Facebook announced it would finally be removing Holocaust denial content, the social media giant took a stand against anti-vaxxers by banning all advertising that discourages people from getting vaccinated.
In a blog post titled “Supporting Public Health Experts’ Vaccine Efforts,” Facebook announced it would begin prohibiting ads that could harm public health efforts while directing users to information on how to get their seasonal flu shot. That includes utilizing its Preventative Health Tool, which gives users health recommendations and resources.
However, the company added, “Ads that advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines—including a COVID-19 vaccine—are still allowed” on the site as long as they’re accompanied by a “paid for by” label.
“I applaud that they’re addressing the misinformation,” says Sweeny, who believes that it’s important for highly influential companies such as Facebook and Google—names that consumers wouldn’t typically associate with medical care—to use their reach for the good of public health, including for the distribution of flu shots.