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Will brands convince us to get the jab?

Free flights, rides, beer? Across the globe, we’re seeing brands provide incentives and make it easier for citizens to get vaccinated. US-based brands are leading the charge – will Australian brands follow suit?

Image Source: Photo by Brecht Deboosere on Unsplash

As Victoria endured a fourth lockdown, it was observed on ABC’s The Drum last week that vaccination uptakes are still comparatively low in our more isolated states: Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania. [supported by statistics here.] It seems even an outbreak this close to home isn’t enough to get Aussies to a vaccination centre...So, what – or who – will?

Here in Australia, the TGA has amended their rules around vaccine promotion. Now, health professionals, corporate entities and media outlets are able to offer cash or other rewards to those who have been fully vaccinated.

We suspect this may lead to a trend we’ve seen in the US: brands encouraging vaccinations by offering incentives, giveaways – and in some instances, just making it a little easier to get to a vaccine clinic.

Call it ‘self-interest’ or ‘for the greater good’, it may be just what we need to coax Aussies out of their vaccine hesitancy / inaction. Here’s some we’ve noticed:

- Lyft – in the US, rideshare company Lyft has partnered with The White House to fund free rides to and from vaccination appointments. Consumers can also offer rides to others. A similar partnership exists with Uber, who committed to ’10 million rides’.

- Qantas – There’s been talk of QANTAS offering a fair whack of frequent flyer points, as well as a the chance to win a year’s worth of free travel, in an effort to persuade Aussies to get vaccinated (obvious ulterior motive aside). Also, Virgin.

- Budweiser – their recent ‘Reunite with Buds’ campaign, also in the US, offered free beer to the first 10,000 customers who prove they’ve been vaccinated. It’s their latest demonstration of their commitment to supporting vaccine awareness, which started with their announcement that they wouldn't run an ad during the Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years, and would instead redirect the ad spend to public health messaging throughout the year.

Incentives in vaccination programs are nothing new, observes Holly Seale, A committee member of the World Health Organization working group measuring behavioural and social drivers of vaccination. As well as the good communication, a “nudge element” is also necessary. As marketers, we know the value of ‘nudges’ – including the removal of barriers, so it’s easier for people to behave / act in the way you’d like them to.

“It might be entry into a lotto. Maybe it’s about getting a lollipop. Or maybe it’s data to show you’re the number one community or suburb in Australia who’s got their vaccine.”

Overseas, governments are embracing such incentives. The governor of the US state of Ohio created a lottery – ‘Vax-A-Million’ – which offers five cash prizes of US$1 million for anyone who’s vaccinated. The governor also said that the state would also provide five fully-funded four-year scholarships to an Ohio public university. These tactics appear to be working, with vaccination rates reported to have increased to be in line with other states.

Other US states are following suit. “In nearly every state where it’s legal, there are potential monetary incentives for getting vaccinated. Each new day in America looks more and more like a dystopian game show”.

And, what is perhaps a less expected / more sensational strategy, the US state of Washington is offering free cannabis as a vaccine incentive, an effort nicknamed ‘Joints for Jabs’. This is off the back of just-passed legislation; licensed cannabis shops in the US state of Washington can give away a single pre-rolled join to anyone over 21 who gets a shot at an on-site vaccine clinic.

Small businesses are finding ways to incentivise vaccine uptake, too. A restaurant in NYC has created a cocktail in honour of chief medical officer, Anthony Fauci – the Fauci Ouchie – and is offering a free cocktail to those who present four weeks later for their second ‘shot’, mimicking the vaccination process.

So if a free cocktail or a joint gets you more excited than a vaccination that can protect you from a deadly virus you can wait to see what Australian businesses have in store!

Lauren Ellis



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