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An apt for apps

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK —The ubiquitous universe of social media—comprised of blogs, microblogs, podcasts, social networks, video sharing sites and more—still holds many unanswered questions for some industry marketers. But there’s one thing that is certain: Social media is changing the way consumers behave, and companies and brands must embrace and effectively plug into today’s social world. Those that don’t will be left in the dark.

It was once believed that consumers didn’t want brands invading their (cyber) space, but recent research points to the contrary. “Digital is so pervasive, so we really wanted to see how it was changing the way the consumer engaged with brands. The big takeaway is that, because digital is so pervasive, it has a tremendous amount of sway with consumers,” Garrick Schmitt, group VP experience planning at marketing and technology company Razorfish, and author of the FEED report, told Drug Store News.

The 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Study found that 65% of consumers reported having a digital experience that either positively or negatively changed their opinion about a brand. Of that group, a whopping 97% reported that their digital experience influenced whether or not they eventually purchased a product or service from that brand.

Furthermore, Razorfish found that nearly 40% of consumers have “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace, and 26% have followed a brand on Twitter. But retailers and consumer packaged goods companies need to understand that consumers aren’t “friending” you or following you on Twitter because they want a personal relationship; they want access to exclusive deals or offers.

For example Walgreens, which has more than 354,000 followers on Faceook, is using a special “Holiday 09” tab on its page to promote daily specials in its stores. The interactive “25 Holiday Toys Calendar” interfaces like an electronic Advent calendar—each day a different window opens to reveal the deal of the day, such as three 12-packs of Coke for $10, on Dec. 3. The company has another 5,000 followers on Twitter. As for competitors CVS and Rite Aid, both companies’ Facebook efforts still are in the infancy stages.

Meanwhile, Walmart boasts more than 216,000 Facebook followers, and Target trumps all of them with more than 588,000 Facebook fans. According to The Big Money magazine, Target gained more than 97,000 new fans through its two-week “Bulls-Eye Gives” charity campaign, in which fans could vote on the organization they thought Target should give its money to—St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital was the big winner.

Taking a slightly different approach is ShopRite, which has partnered with MyWebGrocer to roll out an iPhone and iPod Touch application. The application functions as a portable weekly circular so users of Apple mobile devices can access weekly grocery specials. The app can sync and download store specials directly to an iPhone or iPod Touch, and can sync with customers’ shopping lists at ShopRite.com.

Such approaches aren’t just about building awareness, but are more about building loyal consumers. At least that is what appears to be happening. “We were somewhat surprised to see the percentage of people who say these social networking sites and their connections with brands on them are creating a higher level of loyalty to the brand,” said Scott Haiges, president of ROI Research, which conducted an online survey of 3,011 consumers. “We found that 36% say they are more loyal to companies or products that they are a fan of on Facebook, and that number goes higher to 53% with Twitter.”

Haiges believed that the real challenge currently facing companies and brands is figuring out a meaningful way to leverage social media and to better listen to consumers. “Here’s the open-door opportunity for brands: To disseminate something of interest or meaning to people who are in your brand network, and almost one-third are going to repost it. The sphere of influence is pretty significant,” he said.

One such manufacturer that is recognizing the magnitude of influence via such avenues as Twitter is Beiersdorf USA, whose brands include Nivea and Nivea for Men. The company does not have its own Twitter account, but earlier this year it partnered with Kim Kardashian, star of E!’s reality TV series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” to help promote its Nivea Good-bye Cellulite gel cream and patches. During the “Good-bye Cellulite, Hello Bikini Challenge,” Kardashian tweeted on the four-week program and her progress. By December, she had more than 2.6 million followers.

Meanwhile, the Nivea brand launched a Facebook page in May 2009, and in August announced the launch of its online resource for men dubbed “The Groom Room.” The site features exclusive blog posts, articles and grooming tips just for him.

The breadth and depth of social media participation broadly varies by company, and there’s no doubt that many marketers still are trying to figure it all out. “I think what they are getting out of it right now is a connection with an audience they probably didn’t know on a personal level,” Haiges said.

Even pharma companies are jumping aboard the social media bandwagon. For example, Boehringer Ingelheim is on Twitter, and AstraZeneca has its “My Asthma Story” site, which is a standalone Web site accompanied by a YouTube channel around its Symbicort medication. However, in the pharma space there is the issue of adverse event reporting and Internet promotion, and U.S. health regulators are beginning to weigh in on this gray area.

In mid-November, the FDA held a two-day public hearing on FDA-regulated medical products using the Internet and such social media tools as Twitter and blogs. The goal: to see if the agency specifically needs to regulate how drugs and medical devices under its oversight are promoted on the Internet. The FDA already enforces strict advertising rules for such traditional forms of media as TV, newspaper and magazine, but no rule specifically addresses the Internet.

So where is social media heading? “I don’t think that the brands in these high-frequency purchase categories, like CPG and healthcare pharmaceuticals, can really look at this as a ‘Let me just collect fans and do nothing with them’ [approach],” Haiges said. “This is the real chance for them to create brand advocates.”

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Hy-Vee names new president

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A 28-year employee of Hy-Vee has become its new president, according to published reports.

The company appointed Randall Edeker as president of the supermarket chain Thursday at the company’s annual meeting, succeeding Ric Jurgens, who had served as president since 2001 and will maintain his position as chairman and CEO.

Edeker had previously served as EVP and COO.

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Tricare expands vaccination coverage to pharmacies, clinics

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Convenience and value. That’s what community pharmacy and their retail clinic partners deliver to their patients. And that’s what the Department of Defense is counting on in covering immunizations at local pharmacies and identifying convenient care clinics as network providers — two separate pieces of news issued within the past month that really underscore the importance of pharmacies and retail clinics in the delivery of health care today.

Prior to these announcements, military personnel interested in getting their flu shots had to schedule an appointment with their doctor, as Tricare only covered the cost of shots delivered in a doctor’s office.

“As a convenient and accessible healthcare provider, pharmacy is uniquely positioned to offer services for patients, such as vaccinations,” stated Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Anderson noted that as of earlier this year, pharmacists have the ability to immunize patients in all 50 states. “[This] presents an important opportunity for pharmacists to counsel patients during their visit, and an additional healthcare provider from which to obtain these vaccinations.”

It’s also quite a bit of opportunity for pharmacy — Tricare provides healthcare coverage for 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries pick up almost 2.3 million prescriptions every week, and 1.2 million of those at retail pharmacies, according to Tricare .

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