Retailers are putting the squeeze on hospitals and health systems when it comes to leading the charge in wellness, prevention and education.
Walgreens is launching Walk With Walgreens, a program that will sponsor 5,000 community walking events around the country.
Program participants can earn prizes from national brands like Unilever, Coke, Johnson & Johnson, Lifetime Fitness and Famous Footwear through logging their steps on a dedicated website that offers a host of digital tools. Those who walk in live events will also get a pedometer and logbook.
The program also includes forums, videos and social-networking opportunities. In addition, Walgreens is investing in a major media blitz with outlets like Dr. Oz, the “Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” And, they have Biggest Loser host Ali Sweeney pounding the pavement as an ambassador.
“Walgreens’ brand purpose is to inspire wellness… we’re not just saying we stand for wellness in an ad, we’re getting out into local communities and proving it,” said Leslie Meredith of the marketing services firm that created the program.
This sounds like a good program, so why am I concerned? I think it’s a real wake-up call for traditional cardiovascular marketers. Wellness education and prevention have long been important ways to engage patients and prospective patients. “Inspiring wellness” has been part of our brand purposes. We’ve been the ones “getting out into local communities” and proving that we care about people’s health. In fact, more than one of my clients has sponsored a walking program over the years to “prove it.”
Clearly, Walgreens and other retailers are recognizing that these strategies work in gaining share of mind (and share of wallet) with consumers.
Walgreens says five million people shop in its stores every day. In addition to the walking program, Walgreens, both through its pharmacies and its Take Care Clinics, has been intensifying its wellness commitment in recent months, including free screenings, $35 sports checkups for kids, and a $100 million commitment to testing and preventative health care in its communities. If these are successful, it’s a sure bet they’ll expand the screenings to include more in the area of cardiovascular health.
And Walgreens certainly has a hefty marketing budget to raise awareness of these services. Sounds a little like it’s trying to sneak in on our territory – both from a patient relationship and revenue standpoint.
What do you think? How are you dealing with increased retailer involvement? Are you fighting them or partnering with them? What about referrals? Some of the people who receive screenings in a retail environment will certainly need referrals. What are you doing to make sure those referrals go to your physicians? Thoughts please.