This article has been written in jest.
Ryan Holiday has famously said that growth hacking is the future of marketing, but I can safely assume he wasn’t talking about the pharmaceutical industry at that point.
He very well could have been, though. We have recently seen a classic example of growth hacking from the pharma industry – the launch of Omicron to sell more vaccines.
In fact, it would be unjust to call Omicron a growth hack; it’s a full-blown marketing campaign. And an extremely well-executed one at that. In my humble opinion, it’s the kind of campaign that’s guaranteed to break more than one glass ceiling.
Naturally then, there are so many things that startups and brands can learn from the Omicron campaign to sell more vaccines. Here are 7 such marketing lessons.
Articulate clear goals
The purpose of your marketing campaign should be well-defined. You can’t score goals if the goalpost is not in sight. Duh!
Omicron was launched to sell more vaccines. Vaccines are said to be the only way out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccinations will keep the virus’s severity down and won’t overburden healthcare systems.
But vaccination drives have not gone as well as initially expected. While vaccine hesitancy has continued to increase, vaccine apathy has also been on the rise. A large number of people around the world who have received the first dose, haven’t gone back for the second shot.
On top of that, numerous countries have found it difficult to administer vaccines and have asked manufacturers to stop supply. The manufacturing companies, of course, need to sell the vaccines that have been produced and produce more vaccines to eradicate the virus and laugh all the way to the bank while they do that.
Hence, there was a need for a strong marketing campaign to sell more vaccines. Which is why: Omicron.
Timing is everything
Great marketing campaigns are executed at the most opportune times. So is Omicron.
Vaccination started around the world in the beginning of 2021. Towards the end of the year is when most fully vaccinated people would become eligible for a booster shot.
This period also coincides with lowering vaccination rates and heightened hesitancy, as well as apathy. If Omicron was launched in October, November or earlier, it wouldn’t have delivered the same results.
This made December the perfect time to launch Omicron – to not only address slowing vaccination rates but also allow a higher number of fully vaccinated people to get boosters.
Make your campaign 10x stronger
The Delta variant has 9 mutations. Omicron has 50. Omicron, as a campaign, is at least 5x stronger than its predecessor.
This is how every marketing campaign has to be better than the last one. Your target audience will lose interest in one campaign, as is the case with Delta. No one is bothered about it anymore.
No one would have batted an eyelid at Omicron either if it had the same number of mutations. Hence, it was launched with not only more mutations but also more mutations in the spike protein. A stronger, more potent campaign, for sure.
Nothing sells like fear
Fear is the only human emotion that makes us act quickly. Neha Dhupia was partially right when she said that only sex and Shah Rukh Khan sell. What she missed was fear – it sells a lot more.
With more mutations, higher transmissibility and immunity-evading qualities, Omicron has been built to ignite the emotion of fear within us. This was required because the earlier strains didn’t scare enough of us to get fully vaccinated. On top of that, only fear can make the fully vaccinated go for booster shots.
Omicron was first launched in Africa towards the end of November. Since then, we don’t have adequate data to analyse the actual severity of Omicron. Yet, there has been no slowing down.
Omicron has been launched around the world by now. Even without data, restrictions and bans have been put into place. The media reports every new Omicron case.
Scientists have said that they can’t say for sure that existing vaccines won’t work against Omicron. But a booster shot is recommended anyway.
CEOs of vaccine manufacturers have gone on to declare that existing vaccines might not be enough to tackle Omicron. It’s not in their interest if they do, after all.
This is how moving fast has allowed Omicron to become the talk of the town in every country, city and town. Would the campaign have been this effective at a slower pace? Probably not.
Scale with influencer marketing
When you want your campaign to not only reach your target audience, but instill trust in them as well, there’s no better way than influencer marketing to lead the way.
We wouldn’t have paid attention to Omicron if it was just the press telling us about it. We’re paying attention because doctors, scientists, epidemiologists, etc tweeting and writing about it.
They are the influencers in the world of medicine and what they say has far more weight than the regular media.
Omicron is a marketing campaign worthy of MBA textbooks. The strategy and execution are nearly flawless. Only time will tell how effective it turns out to be. But in the meantime, startups and brands can get insights and take tips from Omicron for their own campaigns. It’s marketing done so well, after all.
Bonus lesson: Use the name to build user generated content
How does one pronounce Omicron? If you don’t know how, check out the NYT article on it.
Omicron is a brilliant campaign name because it is easy to remember but not as easy to spell or pronounce. It is also ripe fodder for memes on the internet.
A boring name, like Delta, will not get you the top-of-the-mind recall as Omicron does. And with a name like that, your target audience can do the marketing for you. Brilliant, no?
Disclaimer: This article is a work of satire. Nothing written here is supposed to be taken seriously. I’m not a doctor, medical professional, healthcare worker or vaccine scientist. In fact, I flunked science a few times in school. I’m just a fully vaccinated writer who is eagerly waiting to get a booster shot.