Cold-FX: A Fun Canadian Healthcare Social Media Campaign

More and more Canadian healthcare companies see the benefit of leveraging social media for their businesses.  Here is a really interesting example that caught my attention because it encompasses what is critical for a successful social media campaign:  lots of interaction and viral effectiveness.  It also appears to follow the Canadian regulatory guidelines.  Learn more about the Cold-FX social media campaign here.

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Afexa Life Sciences, a medium-sized Canadian company with a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) products, has launched a fun social media campaign in November 2009 to leverage their sponsorship of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, BC (“Cold-FX: Official cold and flu remedy of the 2010 Winter Games”).  Cold-FX is the brand that is sponsoring the Olympics and is the backbone of this fun social media campaign.

There are 3 components to this campaign;

1)      a FaceBook fan page with over 800 fans within 3 months and most importantly a high level of engagement by the fans,

2)      a Twitter account which has grown in popularity since their existence on Twitter as of September 2009, and

3)      a very popular  ‘Athlete of the Year’ video which can be customized with your name, or that of a friend.  The video was launched on November 19th and as of December 4, has already been viewed over 28,000 times (Source:  Data on file, Afexa Life Sciences).

If you look through the FaceBook and Twitter posts by Afexa, you will notice that there is no mention of the brand Cold-FX.  All of the posts by Afexa are related to their Olympics Trivia game.

Moreover, the ‘Athlete of the Year’ video has only a minimal amount of branding as well, as shown in the photo below.

Cold-FX 'Athlete of the Year' viral video

(… and for the record, the only way that I could be recognized for any athletic skills whatsoever would be if running after a 2-year old while talking on the phone with a client and taking notes of our discussion were a sport … thank goodness I have the most understanding and wonderful clients in the world  …)

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On Friday December 4th, I had an opportunity to speak with Justin Jones (Director Digital Strategy) and Hardeep Gosal (Online Community Manager) of Afexa Life Sciences to discuss their Cold-FX social media campaign.  Here are a few highlights of our discussion:

  • New to social media:  The Cold-FX campaign is the first social media campaign for the company.
  • Taking small steps at a time:  They started by monitoring to find out where their consumers were online, what they were saying about the brand, the sentiments of their comments and the reach of forwarded messages.
  • Deliberately being conservative: The main objective of the campaign is to build relationships with the consumers, therefore messages are kept neutral and non-branded to give the consumers an opportunity to get to know the company and feel comfortable to communicate with them.

The snapshot below was taken of the Cold-FX Twitter profile at the end of the day on December 7 2009.  It demonstrates the neutral, non-branded messages being posted by the company.  As for the design of the Twitter profile, the only branding consists of the “Cold-FX” name found on the left and the right side of the screens.

Cold-FX Twitter profile

  • Selling the idea to senior management:  1) Showed them the analysis of a full year’s worth of social media monitoring, and 2) presented a variety of real cases.
  • Building up a follower-base is a long process but well worth the time and effort.
  • Company wide initiative:
    • Approximately 16 months prior to the launch of the social media campaign, all employees had an opportunity to discuss their feelings, knowledge and comfort level with social media.  Justin captured the corporation’s learning culture by stating that:  “The more we educate our employees about visual technologies, internet, mobile technology, social media, the more internal support we are likely to gain in the months ahead for our social media campaign.”
    • Training then took place to educate our employees on the use of social media.
    • Firewalls do not block employees from logging onto social media networks at work, although there is a social media policy in place to avoid abuse.
    • As part of their social media policy, Afexa Life Sciences’ employees are encouraged to not talk about product or anything financial.
    • Followers’ engagement with the company via social networks is creating a lot of positive energy and excitement in the organization, and employees are motivated by this.
  • Biggest challenge in managing a social media campaign:  Being new to social media, the organization expects to make mistakes and learn from them.  However, the social networks frequently change the landscape, rules and regulations.  To work through these changes, the organization is partnering with suppliers who maintain a close pulse on upcoming changes within the various social networks in order to help predict and manage upcoming changes.

The FaceBook fan page “wall” snapshot below describes the quick change that the Afexa Life Sciences team needed to implement to stay within FaceBook’s revised contest policy:

Afexa reacted quickly by launching a FaceBook application on December 9 2009, which now allows them to continue their trivia contest on FaceBook while staying within the FaceBook policies.  Just check out the ‘Trivia Contest’ tab on their FaceBook page and you will be brought to the new application.

  • Measuring ROI:  Be clear on your objective for implementing a social media tactic and determine ROI measurements based on that information.  Afexa’s main objective for the Cold-FX social media campaign is not financial.  Instead, the main objective is to build relationships with consumers.  Some of the measurements for this campaign consist of;
    • Number of followers
    • Frequency of engagement
    • Sentiments of consumer communications online
    • Click-through to the Cold-FX website
  • 5 Key Learnings from Afexa Life Sciences:
  1. Leverage monitoring tools to see what people are saying about your brand and the general sentiment of their communications, as well as identify demographics of the consumers who are talking about your brand online and what platforms they are using.
  2. Stay focused on 1 or 2 social media platforms rather than all of them.  Go through the experience with the selected platforms, learn from it, and then scale onto other platforms if your objectives direct you that way.
  3. Leverage partners who are dealing with some of the social networks that your brand is involved with.  Dealing with a company that has an idea of upcoming policies will save you a lot of time and a lot of money.
  4. From an internal organizational perspective, take the time to carefully draft a social media policy and respect everybody’s level of comfort with social media when presenting internally.
  5. Embrace social media.  Social media is here whether we like it or agree with it.  Google Sidewiki is a perfect example; people can comment on your brands or organization whether you give them the platform to do so or not.

Hardeep summed it up nicely with the following comment:

“The conversation is already happening with your product, so why not get involved.  Companies are often afraid of negative feedback, but we have found that brand advocates balance the conversation with positive comments.  Brand advocates -see who they are and develop relationships with them.”

Regulatory considerations for the Cold-FX social media campaign: Cold-FX is approved in Canada as a Natural Health Product, therefore it has more flexibility than a prescription product in terms of regulatory guidelines in its promotions.  I asked Ray Chepesiuk, the PAAB Commissioner, for his regulatory insights with regards to this campaign.  Here was his response;

“The Cold-FX social media campaign is brilliant and appears to be well within the regulatory guidelines.  You can do a lot more with consumers with an NPN product from a regulatory perspective because you can actually advertise with claims.  You can talk about your drug, but the only caution is to make sure that fair balance is included and indications stated correctly in accordance with the product’s license.  It appears that Afexa Life Sciences have respected the linkage policies of Health Canada in this campaign.  If there is promotion, they must follow section 9(1) of the Health Canada’s Food and Drugs Act.”

Kudos to Afexa Life Sciences for taking on this initiative with passion and enthusiasm, and for giving a chance to their consumers to have so much fun with the campaign.

GIVEAWAY: Afexa Life Sciences has kindly offered to give away 5 COLD-FX Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Hockey 3-Pin Sets to those who write comments about this post.  For those who decide to write a comment, I will be in touch with you to gather your shipping information (so please do not include that information as part of the comment).  If more than 5 people write comments, then we’ll have to make it a draw in which case everybody who writes a comment will be given a number (ie. the 1st to write a post is assigned the number ‘1’, and so on) and then will be randomly selected with the use of the random number generator Random.orgDeadline is Wednesday December 16th, 11:59 pm.  Draw (if required depending on number of comments) will take place on Thursday December 17th (to give us enough time to ship you the pin-sets in time for the holidays if you plan on giving as a gift).

DISCLOSURE: Afexa Life Sciences has not paid me to write this article, is not a client and has not requested a business pitch from me.

Stay in touch,
Natalie

Connect with me on the following networks:
FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn

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19 Responses

  1. Very well planned and executed. I know we won’t get the answer to this big questions, but, it’s the one that really measures success. What was spent to develop and execute and what will that spend contribute to increased sales and revenues?

    As an OTC product this is an easy one for PAAB to comment on. I really look forward to reaction to a prescription product social media campaign from PAAB

    • Great question Lawrence. When I spoke with Justin and Hardeep about ROI, they were very clear that their ROI measurements were non-financial. But as a well-known brand name, they might be able to benefit more from non-branded activities such as this one (or at least with minimal branding).

      • Interesting, yet still puzzling. This is an OTC cold product. I can’t imagine that the owners want to do anything more than sell more Cold FX. But if what their real objective is, is to perhaps create a foundation for development of a new customer base, I can understand soft (non-financial) objectives. But otherwise…I am still struggling with why they are doing this. Love your ongoing commentary Ms. Bourre.

  2. Great coverage of the campaign Nat. It’s clear that Alexa gets the long tail benefits of investing in Social Media- namely brand advocacy. The also have other products which are in the NPN space so when they wish to engage with new channel opportunities, launch new products etc. they will benefit from these investments.

    Cross channel conversations are easily directed vs. a traditional media advertising launch. The reduction in ad spend and the uptick in brand advocacy are the immediate ROI. The ColdFx produt has had little promotion in the US- these campaigns spill over nicely with no additional cost.

    Well done indeed.

    Craig

    • Thanks so much Craig. You make some excellent points regarding their potential long-term benefits of their current campaign.

  3. Nat, thank you for bringing my attention to this campaign. I particularly love the viral video. I saw a similar “Mother of the Year” video earlier this year.

    I’m doing some work for a non-profit that would love to do something viral. Something like this would be entirely appropriate. Can you share information about who produced the video and how much it cost to produce?

  4. good job Nat. very interesting.

  5. It is refreshing to see a life-science company like Afexa pursuing a social media campaign. The Pharma world is still timid and unclear on how to react to this space.

    Thanks for the note Nat. I took the time to tweet your blog post.

    • Thanks for the feedback and for tweeting the article. In speaking with Justin and Hardeep at Afexa, you could tell that they were really passionate about their Cold-FX social media campaign and I think this is showing through in the interactions with their consumers.

  6. Thanks for this case study nat. Any idea what Health Canada guidelines are for pharma companies looking to do the same thing as Afexa with non-natural health products?

  7. a very nice article !
    Hope that I can reprint at my blog after your permission…

  8. I just sent a note to all 6 commentators who wrote their comments prior to the Afexa deadline for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Winter Games Hockey 3 pin-set. Rather than just give away the 5 pin-sets, Afexa has agreed to give away 6 pin-sets. If you have not received an e-mail from me, hopefully you will see this comment and will contact me to send me your shipping coordinates. Happy holidays everybody!

  9. Well done Natalie. I actually received a personalized version of this from the company, somehow being on their mailing list. I think it is great. A company can probably do something similar to this for an Rx product because the COLD-FX example stayed within “name, price, quantity” provisions of C.01.044 of the F&D Act. Using the Viagra and Cialis television ads as an example, and we assume Health Canada has approved of them because they have been on the air for a while, you could do this as long as you don’t link the drug and the therapeutic use in any way. Ethically, I might question “Athlete of the Year” brought to you by Eprex or Aranesp because of the social disapproval related to drug doping. Perhaps someone can do a “Commissioner of the Year” campaign and stay within the guidelines. The challenge is there for you, Lawrence Binding.

  10. […] Cold-FX: A Fun Canadian Healthcare Social Media Campaign […]

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