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June 25, 2014

CVS, Will It’s Bet on The Good Consumer Pay Off?

Filed under: Life Is Media — admin @ 10:07 pm


Brands have value.  People have values.  However, as brands and companies stand up for their positions as demonstrated via phenomenon made apparent via manifestations such as the now infamous “Citizens United” case, could it be that consumers are becoming more laissez fair when it comes to their purported values when it comes to their support of brands who are doing the “right” things relative to social responsibility and justice?

 CVS, in its recent strategically socially responsible, brilliantly branded move, recently discontinued its sale of cigarettes.  To that I say, “Bravo.”  However, the question remains as to whether or not in the short term this gesture/move will affect the purchase patterns of the average consumer and return a positive return on investment.

 Among other things, I have taught branding to both graduate and undergraduate students.  For the most part, my students are socially aware, altruistic and not at all like the self-absorbed portraits many of us would paint.  However, when I posed the question: “Did CVS do the right thing?”  The response was a unanimous yes.  When I asked,” Would you walk thirty extra feet to go to a CVS versus a Walgreens, the answer was: “I would probably go to the closest one.”  In this instance, “doing good” was not worth walking thirty extra feet. 

 Needless to say, as an advocate of the “good” brand, my heart sinks.  It was a repeat of the purchase patterns observed by many retailers when it comes to the pricing of green vs. non-green brands across the board.  If the green brand is better than the non-green brand and the price is such that the purchase elasticity of the item will tolerate a slight up-charge, the green product may, with a heavy emphasis on the word may, be chosen over the non-green product.  However, all things equal, most consumers will not pay a penny extra for a green product.  Of course there are exceptions – particularly those that involve conspicuous consumption.  However, I am forced to conclude, until proven otherwise, that the notion of the good company vs. the bad company becomes a dance of hypocrisy when viewed alongside the untapped power and lack of responsibility of most consumers.

 I don’t hate consumers.  I love consumers.  I merely want to remind them that actions speak louder than words.  In the case of brands, this action is their willingness to support socially responsible brands.  And, in more base terms, to put their money where their mouths are – or, well, to just shut up.



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