Marketing Genius is a series created by BuzzFarmers to give virtual high fives to anyone who develops a unique (and brilliant) marketing idea worth talking about.

It’s not often that we shout out major corporate chains, but sometimes we gotta give credit where credit’s due. And since this company is our neighbor and a crucial driver of the economy here in Rhode Island, we feel like it’s especially justified.

CVS has had a busy and interesting 2014 so far. If you’re on their Christmas card list, brace for an epic family update. 

First, in February, they decided that all tobacco sales would cease in their stores by Oct. 1. This alone would have been a big enough shakeup to sustain, but earlier this summer, CVS also announced that the opiate-overdose deterrent Narcan would be available without a prescription.

Oh, right, and they changed the name of their business.

As it turns out, they’re a month ahead of schedule on the tobacco prohibition – I guess they just couldn’t wait to get started on losing that projected $2 billion in annual sales – having leveraged it with the name change that took effect last week. CVS Caremark Corp. is now the more friendly and less Newspeak-sounding CVS Health.

The company said in a statement that the new name reflects “its broader health care commitment and its expertise in driving the innovations needed to shape the future of health,” while CEO Larry Merlo told Forbes, “Changing the name catches up with what we have been doing.”

The response – from investors and in earned media – has been overwhelmingly positive.

So, how are they pulling it off?

First and foremost, CVS is displaying great courage with its business practices, and savvy instincts with its rebranding strategy.

[Tweet “.@CVSHealth’s super-cool #OneGoodReason campaign asks tobacco quitters to share their motivations.”]

Social media users have responded, swarming around the company’s efforts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Its super-cool #OneGoodReason campaign encourages those who have quit smoking or are in the process of quitting to share their motivations. This gives people the chance to participate in a real way. In the meantime, those in pockets of the country where there are no CVSs are clamoring for the opportunity to shop there at some point in the future in order to show their appreciation.

Who knows? Maybe the next hot vacation spot will be destination drug stores.


When "Buttheads Tobacco Emporium" is the only one not singing your praises, you're doing something right.

When “Buttheads Tobacco Emporium” is the only one not singing your praises, you’re doing something right.

Customers ♥ Rewarding Companies Who Do the Right Thing

Sure, CVS has done the math on tobacco sales and found that between smoking trends and revenue estimates, they can absorb the hit and, in time, even recoup any losses with new business opportunities. Cynically speaking, they wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t make financial sense. But that’s missing the point. What’s more, neither Walgreens nor Rite Aid have said they’ll follow suit.

Eliminating cigarettes and their ilk from its shelves represents a radical step forward, even it’s a first step. This offers a nice example of corporate authenticity; CVS is signalling a major shift in its retail operations, from a primarily transactional model to a health service hybrid focused on its customers’ quality of life. And they’re taking action to back up the rebranding strategy – imagine that! In fact, action is the rebranding strategy.

This shift has been under way for a while, with such features as the company’s Minute Clinics, but now the brand is now making choices that are more in harmony with their target identity and audience. In other words, instead of saying “Hey, everybody, we’re a health provider, please start looking us at that way beginning this week,” CVS is leading by example, understanding that even with pharmacies, fortune favors the bold. They’re showing, not telling. Carrying tobacco products would be at odds with the place CVS aspires to occupy in the evolving health care market – and with their new image – so they stopped doing it.

Their transformation is taking place in real time, in front of our eyes. In today’s quick-pivot world, businesses crave immediate gratification just as consumers do, and CVS has put itself in a good position to enjoy sustained validation for the foreseeable future.

They haven’t sat back and waited for people to notice their good deeds – they’ve taken social media by the long tail and given it a good shake.

How do you see CVS’s rebranding strategy playing out? Can they overtake their competition as a prescription retailer and primary care provider? Let us know in the comments!

Published On: September 9th, 2014 / Categories: Marketing Genius / Tags: , , /