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Social Media Used by Pharmacy to Respond to Criticism

Last week, I posted about Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix’ latest promotion, where consumers who purchased a certain value of goods at the drugstore would receive a free gift certificate for McDonald’s fast food restaurant.  I have no issue with the individual organizations themselves.  However, in my opinion, it is inappropriate for a healthcare-focused organization to be promoting fast food.

Objective of this follow-up post:  I wanted to see if other Canadian consumers had used social media to voice their opinion about the promotion, and if so, how did Shoppers Drug Mart respond to the online chatter.

It turns out that other people also wrote online criticisms about the Shoppers-McDonald’s promotion, but many more people actually spoke about the giveaway in either a neutral or positive tone.  According to socialmention* (a free online tool that monitors and analyzes social media mentions), the sentiment ratio for mentions that include all keywords “shoppers”, “drugmart” and “mcdonald’s” (from October 10 to October 16 2010) was generally more positive than negative.

The largest clump of negative mentions seemed to be on the Shoppers Drug Mart FaceBook page,.  These were posted as comments to Shoppers Drug Mart’s announcement of the giveaway:

Here is what Shoppers Drug Mart did so far to counteract the negative comments:

Shoppers Drug Mart used their FaceBook page to address the negative feedback.  Their statement suggests that this promotion may not be right for everybody, but at no point do they hint at the fact that they made an error in judgement when they agreed to this fast food promotion.

Shoppers Drug Mart is committed to delivering value through our promotional events, so we’ve partnered with Canada’s top businesses to provide you with a range of offers. Your comments help us better understand what you value. The McDonald’s gift card promotion may not be the right fit for you, but we hope you’ll conti…nue to tell us what you want (or don’t want), so we can give you what you need in the future.

As of October 17th mid afternoon, there were 36 ‘likes’ and 37 comments to the above statement, most of which consisted of followers providing promotional ideas for future campaigns:

It appears as though Shoppers Drug Mart was using their FaceBook page as their main platform to respond to the critiques.  They are even redirecting people within other networks onto their FaceBook fan page.  I noticed this when they responded to my Twitter post about my dislike of their current campaign by redirecting me to their FaceBook page.  Since there is no URL for the post itself, but rather for the entire page, I had to scroll down until I found their statement.  As new posts are added to the wall, this statement will disappear under “older posts’.

Here are a few benefits of using FaceBook as the platform to respond to negative mentions:

1) you can quickly respond to the critiques and existing fans will have access to this information quickly,

2) you can easily engage your followers and get them to provide their insights, and

3) the statement will quickly disappear as it scrolls down, thus will rarely be seen unless somebody looks at older posts.

There is a downside though.  If somebody who critiques the campaign was not a member of FaceBook, they would  have difficulty accessing the organization’s response.  But considering there are over 16 million Canadians on FaceBook, I think this is  a reasonable platform to reach a Canadian audience.  I would suggest that Shoppers Drug Mart also post their statement as a comment below the ‘giveaway announcement’ post which contains all the negative mentions.  That way, everybody who wrote a negative mention would be notified that Shoppers had indeed responded to the issue.

My personal opinion is that this was a very bad marketing idea which got lucky because it did not get the public backlash that I expected it would get.  Considering the fact that the online mood was mostly neutral/positive, I don’t blame the PR folks for writing a ‘light’ response to the issue.  I do give them credit though for addressing the issue, and for asking the public for input for future campaigns.  Now hopefully they will listen to the feedback.

Do you believe that Shoppers Drug Mart did a good job in responding to their upset clients?  Tell us if you would have done anything differently:


Canadian Pharmacy Promotes McDonald’s … This is not a Joke

I was perusing some websites this morning as part of my research for an upcoming blog post on Canadian pharmacies, and I was stunned to see the following on my screen:


Canadian pharmacy promotes eating at a McDonalds restaurant.


That’s right: Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix , Canadian pharmacies that promote healthcare, are holding a McDonald’s restaurant promotion.  Sounds absurd, but it is true.  Shop and buy a certain value of goods in order to receive gift certificates to the fast food restaurant.  Note that Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation is the licensor of full-service retail drug stores operating under the name Shoppers Drug Mart® (Pharmaprix®in Québec).

Details on the promotion are found below:

The promotion also shows up on their ‘Contact us’ page.  Ironically, right underneath the McDonald’s promotion, there is a link to a guide to health and wellness during the cold and flu season as well as the Motherisk program for pregnant women (on the home page) and a promotion for Tree of Life in support of women’s health (on the ‘Contact us’ page).

I have never ranted on my blog before, nor have I ever intentionally pointed out poor marketing tactics.  No marketer is perfect, but this is just too unreal to disregard.  How can reputable drugstores like Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix talk about healthcare on one hand and then help promote eating at a fast food restaurant afterwards.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I eat at fast food restaurants on occasion, so this is not an anti fast food post, although I would certainly not promote it.

What I am upset about is the fact that a trusted Canadian healthcare organization is actively promoting an activity that is clearly not a healthy choice.  There is a substantial disconnect between Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix’  message and their current fast food promotion.  The pharmacy is sending out the wrong message to its consumers, and in my opinion, it risks losing credibility as a result, at least for the short-term.

Tsk tsk Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix!  In your “About us” page, you talk about “accoutability”.  You didn’t live up to this promise with your current McDonald’s promotion.  Please consider cancelling this promotion and stay focused on helping Canadians improve their health. We would all like to live a little longer and a little healthier, and we need healthcare organizations like yours to remind us and motivate us to do the right things to be healthy.

What do you think Pharmaprix should do as their next step?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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