How marketing could convince some people to buy into COVID-19 vaccine

Josh Chapin Image
Thursday, January 28, 2021
How marketing could convince some people to buy into COVID-19 vaccine
A marketing expert at NC State says marketing may be the key to getting the American public vaccinated for COVID-19.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Not everyone has bought into the idea of taking a COVID-19 vaccine just yet. In fact, a recent Pew Research Poll said 2 in 10 people were 'pretty certain' they wouldn't get one even when more information is available.

A marketing expert at NC State said there's a better way to convince the American public to get vaccinated and it all has to do with marketing.

"A lot of people are hesitant for different reasons," said Dr. Stacy Wood, the Langdon Distinguished University Professor of Marketing at NC State University. "It's something that seems normal for marketers: design target marketing, aim at specific segments of the population."

Her paper entitled "Beyond Politics: Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination in the United States" looks at how her field can help those in medicine better advertise the way to get out of the pandemic.

It was published in a January edition of the New England Journal of Medicine with Stanford University's Dr. Kevin Schulman.

"What I'm arguing is we take a marketing lens then to go to our vaccine promotion efforts," she said.

First off, Dr. Wood said words matter. She suggests doctors use analogies or layman's terms instead of complicated, technical terms. For example, say "a vaccination works like a martial arts instructor who is injected into your body to teach your body to fight off those germs if they ever come into your house."

Dr. Wood said it's not the best idea to deal with vaccine hesitancy in the same way we've addressed masking. Her suggestion is to promote compromise. For example, consider coffee shops that offer three serving sizes and typically sell more of the middle option. She said our brain considers the middle size the least risky or the place we can compromise.

She suggests doctors frame the vaccine this way: Don't make it an either-or decision.

"Maybe a doctor says you can get vaccinated, you can get vaccinated in a little while or you can get vaccinated right now or you can get vaccinated right now AND donate plasma," she said.

Another concept is called 'Increased Observability.' Take the white earbuds Apple put out. Dr. Wood said they become so synonymous with the iPod that you just had to have them.

She said giving people a token, something similar to a Livestrong bracelet or an 'I Voted' sticker to allow people walking past you to think it's the thing you need to do.

"It's just a way to make more clear to people that vaccination is a good, common safe choice," she said.