As the largest healthcare company in the U.S., CVS Health is on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic every day. Norman de Greve, CMO of CVS Health and a member of the CMO Leadership Coalition on COVID-19, spoke with the ANA about the company’s response to COVID-19.
1. What is the most pressing issue to you and your organization right now?
There are many priorities right now. The demands are constant; every day requires agility and rapid action.
• We need to ensure that we, as a leadership team, are supporting our employees as much as possible by addressing their needs in a timely manner. This has included providing protective equipment, promoting social distancing in stores, helping with childcare, and generally making them feel cared for. My role is to help provide the voice of our employees.
• We need to ensure consumers are aware of the services we have available to keep them safe. For instance, we have instituted free deliveries of prescriptions, free access to telehealth from Aetna, and free support for caregivers. FREE matters because it can keep more people safe during this crisis. Our advertising is more of a public service announcement.
• We are working to encourage young people to take social distancing more seriously. We are pushing social networks to use their influencers to help persuade this segment.
• We are also dealing with changing consumer behaviors that include pantry-loading. This includes extra work to be in stock and trying to forecast changes in consumer demand based on learnings from other countries and our unique circumstances.
• We are working through how the economic environment should affect our budgets. Should we spend less because of elasticity of demand? Or do we spend more because there is greater competition? Is it more efficient to keep spending or be off-and-on over the long term?
• On top of this, our environment requires unprecedented turnaround times to respond to the changing situation. We adapt daily.
2. What is the role of marketing today vs. pre-coronavirus, both within your organization and externally?
Everything has changed. All our previous messages have been pulled and a few new messages have been created and deployed in record time. In general, marketers should be focused on saying and doing things are that are immediately useful to their customers. In a crisis, you connect by helping in a meaningful way.
As we progress through the year the crisis may abate, but the consumer impact will last for some time. All marketers need to reconsider what they emphasize and how they say it. Clearly value and delivery are going to be more important, but, I suspect, the consumer will also re-prioritize what’s important. Hopefully, we emerge more human and more connected.
3. What data points are proving useful to you in your effort to demonstrate value?
We actively monitor how other countries are emerging, how the virus is progressing in the U.S, consumer confidence trends, consumer spending, and many other areas. We have created a central knowledge bank that feeds our planning efforts.
4. How have your consumer needs, behaviors, and attitudes changed? How are you adapting?
Aside from the spending changes and economic contraction, we are focused on how culture will change. Are we entering an economic period like the 1970s? Will it be a period of authenticity? It would be helpful to have more in-depth analysis of the cultural effects from leading thinkers.
Some research suggests that it takes 21 days for behaviors to become habits. We have already experienced more than 21 days of working from home. What impact will that have on consumer spending habits? What if the coronavirus returns? All of this will have a significant impact.
5. What does recovery look like?
• We are in a new normal that is not likely to change until a treatment and/or vaccine is widely available, and that will take some time.
• We are in a consumer recession. While things will improve after this initial wave of the crisis, it’s hard to imagine many categories returning to the same level of demand in the near term.
• Imagine if someone is identified in September with the coronavirus. What will the impacts be on schools, travel, gyms, and sporting events? I think we are in for a prolonged effect on our social activities.