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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:


Big Canadian Pharma Hoping to Make Video go ‘Viral’

Many Canadian companies donate to charitable organizations.  They write a cheque, have a press release with a photo of key people from both organizations holding a mega-sized cheque, and oftentimes the promotion fizzles from that point on.

Pfizer Canada Inc. is taking a unique approach in ensuring that its sponsorship of Canada’s Paralympics Team gets noticed by Canadians, all while promoting their MoreThanMedication.ca website.  Last week, Pfizer Canada posted a video honouring Canada’s Paralympics Team on their MoreThanMedication.ca website, which features the strength and passion of Team Canada sledge hockey player Todd Nicholson.

The objective is to make the video go ‘viral’ and get viewed by as many Canadians as possible in order to raise awareness about the Paralympics taking place in Vancouver, and the determination and passion of the Paralympics athletes.  Viewers of the video are encouraged to share it with their friends and networks either via FaceBook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, or even by e-mail.  Everytime they do so, Pfizer donates $5.00 (Cdn) to the Canadian Paralympics Team, up to a maximum of $50,000 (Cdn).

Here is the statement that automatically appeared on my Twitter and FaceBook accounts when I clicked on the share button.  Notice that there is no mention of Pfizer or of the $5 donation.  Personally, I believe a mention of the donation by Pfizer would have peaked more people’s interest and would have increased the number of views;

I also saved the video on Delicious and gave it the thumbs up on Digg, but so far it appears that only two people have done so on these particular networks.

In order to reach its goal of $50,000, the video needs to be shared 10,000 times.   By early Monday morning, March 14th, approximately an entire week after having launched the video, the digital counter on the MoreThanMedication.ca website showed that Pfizer had raised a total of $20,400 via the sharing of the video so far, which equates to 4,080 views.

Note that this is the number of views, not the number of unique viewers.  For example, I shared the video via all 5 methods that were made available (Twitter, FaceBook, Delicious, Digg and e-mail), which counts as 5 views.  But one also needs to consider that it is possible that more people viewed the video and shared it and that these ‘shares’ did not get counted for the donation. For example, if somebody shared the video by retweeting or copying and pasting the statement into their profiles without going directly through the MoreThanMedication.ca website, these ‘shares’ would not be counted.  This is because Pfizer is monitoring the number of ‘shares’ via their internal web analytics.

Although the campaign is meant to raise awareness within the Canadian population, viewers from other countries are not prevented from sharing the video and contributing to the donation per view.

After the campaign is completed, it would be interesting to get a breakdown of the percentage of viewers who shared the video link via e-mail, FaceBook, Twitter, Digg and Delicious.  My guess is that e-mail and FaceBook will be the two predominant methods of sharing of the video.  Here are some statistics to support my rationale;

1) Despite the fact that the share of Canadian Internet visits surpassed e-mail in April 2009 (HitWise, May 2009, chart below), e-mail is still ranked in 4th position.

2) The most popular social network with Canadians is FaceBook.  Canadians have low awareness of Digg and Delicious, and appear to minimally use these social bookmarking networks (CNW Group and Leger Marketing, Social Media Reality Check, April 2009, chart below).

What about YouTube?

So far, I have been unsuccessful in finding the Paralympics video by Pfizer on YouTube.  It would have been interesting to see how many views the video could have had via YouTube, especially considering that YouTube is the 2nd most used social network by Canadians according to the CNW Group and Leger Marketing study.  My gut tells me that this medium was intentionally not included because Pfizer Canada wants Canadians to visit the MoreThanMedication.ca website, and posting the video on YouTube may have diluted this particular objective.  However, I do believe that the video would have more viral ability if it were made available on a Pfizer Canada channel on YouTube.  What are your thoughts on this?

A purely Canadian initiative:

Pfizer Canada’s MoreThanMedication.ca website is a purely Canadian campaign, as is the video honouring Canada’s Paralympics Team.

Canadian regulatory guidelines:

The campaign appears to be fully within the Canadian regulatory guidelines as there do not appear to be any product mentions on either the website or the videos.

Pfizer Canada has tested social media before:

Some of you may recall that Pfizer tested the social media environment last year with their “Be Brave” campaign.  This was another campaign devised to raise funds for another charitable organization, Starlight Children’s Foundation.  The only sharing option at the time appears to have been e-mail. According to the information that I found on their MoreThanMedication.ca website, it appears as though they reached their objective of raising $50,000 via the sharing of this particular video.

Search “Be Brave Pfizer” in YouTube, and you will find that the “Be Brave” video that was posted on the CNW Group channel garned 22,230 views over the past year, which ranks it as the 2nd most watched YouTube video on the CNW Group channel.


Many thanks to Veronica Piacek, Director Consumer Communications & Relations at Pfizer Canada, for taking the time to share her insights with me regarding this Pfizer social media campaign.

Congratulations to the Pfizer Canada team, and their suppliers who have assisted them with the video in honour of the Canadian Paralympics Team;  Klick Communications (morethanmedication.ca website), Zig Toronto (video creation) and Strategic Objectives (PR agency).  And most of all, best wishes in making the Canada’s Paralympics Team video a viral success and raising $50,000.


What do you think of this Canadian pharma social media example?  What would you do the same, what would you do differently?  There is no judgement here, it is just a discussion so that we can learn from one another.

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