Will COVID vaccine promos take retail sales higher or just provide a short sugar rush?

Discussion
Photo: Krispy Kreme
Mar 24, 2021
George Anderson

Retailers and other companies are very keen to get employees and customers on the COVID-19 vaccine bandwagon with the hope of bringing their businesses back to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. That has led to a variety of incentives designed to get the numbers of the vaccinated up and perhaps drive trial and repeat purchases along the way.

A wide variety of retailers and brands, including Aldi, Chobani, Darden Restaurants, Dollar General, Kroger, McDonald’s, Publix Target, Trader Joe’s and Tyson’s, have stepped up with offers of paid time off to encourage employees to get vaccinated against the virus.

A growing list of others, including Krispy Kreme and The Greenhouse of Walled Lake, a medical marijuana dispensary in Michigan, are now running promotions to reward customers who get vaccinated.

Krispy Kreme is giving away a free glazed doughnut to anyone who shows up at its shops with a COVID-19 vaccination card.  Customers carrying proof of being vaccinated are eligible to receive a free doughnut “anytime, any day, even every day — through the remainder of 2021,” according to the company.

“We all want to get COVID-19 behind us as fast as possible and we want to support everyone doing their part to make the country safe by getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to them,” Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

The doughnut chain said it would continue to support healthcare workers and those volunteering to administer vaccines by delivering free doughnuts to select vaccination centers around the country in the weeks to come.

Will COVID vaccine promos take retail sales higher or just provide a short sugar rush?
Photo: Greenhouse of Walled Lake

Krispy Kreme lovers in Oakland County, MI, may find The Greenhouse of Walled Lake a logical destination after being vaccinated. The cannabis dispensary is offering one free pre-rolled UBaked joint to adults 21 or older who have a valid medical marijuana identification card and proof they received the COVID-19 vaccine. The program, Pot for Shots, runs through the end of the month.

“We’re all hoping that the COVID vaccine is the beginning of the end for this pandemic that has taken such a toll on our neighbors, our communities and our nation,” said a Greenhouse statement. “If you choose to get the COVID vaccine (we always support the freedom of choice) this is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for helping end this pandemic and getting us back to normal.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect to see large numbers of promotional offers from retailers and brands around COVID-19 vaccinations? Will these be any more or less effective than typical promos, and are there any you have seen so far that stand out?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Promos (like a free donut!) are a celebration of collective positivity as we continue the journey to a post-pandemic life. "
"Supermarkets could jump into the promo-vaccination opportunity. They could give a piece of fruit or a protein bar to customers who show a card saying they are vaccinated."
"These promos may have some impact on sales, but also serve as a defacto PSA reminding people to get vaccinated."

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17 Comments on "Will COVID vaccine promos take retail sales higher or just provide a short sugar rush?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Full points for creativity, but I doubt promotional offers around vaccinations will become a meaningful trend. Anything that encourages people to get vaccinated is good, and while some shoppers may find these incentives compelling, I suspect most people will seek out vaccinations from health-/medical-related businesses like pharmacies, for example. I do think offering incentives to front-line retailer workers is a useful approach to getting people vaccinated.

Christine Russo
BrainTrust

Hmmm — well, I don’t think these promos are meant to take sales higher. Assuming politics stays out of it, I see these promos as novelty programs tapping into the Zeitgeist. Promos (like a free donut!) are a celebration of collective positivity as we continue the journey to a post-pandemic life. From a business perspective, the brick-and-mortar stores engaging in these programs are marketing to drive foot traffic to their physical stores. So many customers migrated to essential brick-and-mortar stores – if you were non essential, your job is to get those people back!

DeAnn Campbell
Guest

I don’t think any business has the illusion that this is going to substantially grow their business in a meaningful way. Let’s appreciate it for what it is — a fun, lighthearted way to celebrate the light at the end of the tunnel after a long tough year, with the benefit of some media content. Right now consumers want a reason to smile – and I will be smiling in line as I wait for my free donut.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I applaud retailers for encouraging the take up of vaccines. However I view these initiatives more as marketing and brand advertising than a serious way to drive sales. Of course, there may be some benefit to revenue but I think it will be limited.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I think the promotions noted are fun and certainly one way to get people in to the stores. If I had a Krispy Kreme nearby, I’d take my vaccination card and go get a donut. If I was near the pot dispensery, well maybe.

But something deep inside of me says the vaccination process we are going through as a country is something very serious. And I do bristle a bit that essentially these promos make a joke out of it.

George Anderson
Staff

I don’t think it’s the companies not taking the situation seriously. It’s just the products highlighted in this article are not associated with deep and serious thinking. I see these as businesses trying to offer rewards to customers who are taking active steps to get us all back to some semblance of what passed as normal before the term COVID-19 became universally known.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

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Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

These promos may have some impact on sales, but also serve as a defacto PSA reminding people to get vaccinated.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

We have always encouraged retailers to look for opportunities to create events and promotions based on positive happenings. Only tenacious consumers will visit Krispy Kreme every day for a free donut but that’s not the point of this promo. It’s great PR, it’s engages customers, and it’s fun.

George Anderson
Staff

I remember hearing Robert Plant saying, “Does anyone remember laughter,” at a Led Zeppelin concert I attended way back when. That phrase from Zep’s live performance of “Stairway to Heaven” was in my mind as I began writing this article. These are serious times and the tragedy of this pandemic has negatively affected millions of Americans and countless others outside the U.S. Still, now and again, light is nice.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

George, given the Led Zeppelin reference, I think we know where you’re going to get your vaccination … Greenhouse “Pot for Shots” and then probably Krispy Kreme after … but only for a donut (or two) 😉

George Anderson
Staff

LOL. While I will admit that there was once a time when that may have been in the plan, those days are way behind me. My pandemic health kick has only left me with dreams of Krispy Kreme nights gone by. ;o)

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Good points, George. I think we can all use a little light right now, obviously some of us more than others. Sometimes a little thing like a free donut is enough to make someone smile. We need to remember laughter.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

If I’d had a donut a day earlier I probably would have qualified for my vaccination sooner … I think it’s a nice touch. Kudos.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Supermarkets could jump into the promo-vaccination opportunity. They could give a piece of fruit or a protein bar to customers who show a card saying they are vaccinated. The focus would be on good health, and bravo for grocers who do that. But sadly, given the choice between a donut and a banana, we all know which one would be more popular.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

No, I don’t. Safety or even the hope of it is a far, far bigger reward, and I expect the number of people who will get vaccinated in order to get a doughnut — even a Krispy Creme! — is small. As I’ve said a number of times, not everything in life should give rise to a marketing attempt.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

I think it is to bring the brand back to top of mind. By tying the reward to vaccination, it is also a reminder to the shopper that it is safer to go out again, and for Krispy Creme, a free donut when you visit a store is nominal. Plus they are counting on you buying a cup of coffee and buy some donuts for the family.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Promos (like a free donut!) are a celebration of collective positivity as we continue the journey to a post-pandemic life. "
"Supermarkets could jump into the promo-vaccination opportunity. They could give a piece of fruit or a protein bar to customers who show a card saying they are vaccinated."
"These promos may have some impact on sales, but also serve as a defacto PSA reminding people to get vaccinated."

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