Healthcare Marketing: Social Media or Traditional Media? The Answer is “YES”

Pepsi committed to a heavy investment in social media and they not only lost ground to Coke, they fell to third place behind Diet Coke.

Coke or Pepsi?  That is an age-old question.  The battle between the two soft drinks has been the longest running and, at times, the most competitive marketing battle in the history of branding.  And last year the battle took an interesting turn.

Pepsi announced that after 10 years they were dropping their investment in the Super Bowl and were putting half their budget into social media.   The strategy was their Pepsi Refresh Project.   They committed to Facebook, Twitter, live Ustream video and iPhone apps and encouraged consumers to suggest social causes that would “refresh the world”.  Using social media, consumers could vote for their favorite causes and Pepsi would donate millions to the ones chosen and use social media to promote the positive impact of those donations.  Traditional media was used to promote the social media effort.

Mark Ritson recorded the results for Marketing Week  and they were impressive.

Eighty million votes were cast; Pepsi accumulated 60,000 followers on Twitter and 4 million “likes” on Facebook.  In contrast Coke stayed with traditional media and advertised in the Super Bowl and on American Idol.

Great success right?  Well after all the conversation about Pepsi’s revolutionary marketing approach, Pepsi’s sales began to decline.  And Coke’s didn’t.  Pepsi lost 5% market share which translated into a decline of a half billion dollars in sales.  And perhaps for the first time in history, Pepsi gave up the number two position and fell behind Diet Coke. 

So what does this mean for healthcare marketers?  Does it mean social media is worthless?  No.  There are far too many social media successes to make such a conclusion.  But I think it does mean the advantages of social media have been significantly exaggerated.  And it also means traditional media is not dead.

Social media is a tool, a very useful one – in a brand’s integrated marketing mix. It should be considered, and in many instances, part of the marketing mix.  But social media is not the ONLY real thing.


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