The Indicator from Planet Money - What Elvis Can Teach Us About Vaccine Marketing

Development of a coronavirus continues apace. But as many as two-thirds of Americans say they likely won't take it. Which means a successful vaccine will need an effective marketing campaign.

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Content Keywords: Elvis Presley
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the year was 1956 polio with running rampant people were terrified. This disease was coming for kids kids were getting paralyzed somewhere dying. The weird thing was there was a vaccine but there were some problems around the polio vaccine and that was one of the big barriers to two people adopting a scared Graham is a marketer. New York City. He said there was this one specific group that was really stubborn would not get vaccinated teenagers. So an expert was brought in to help sell the back seat.

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Elvis Presley

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Hey kids. Could I talk to you for about 30 seconds? This is Elvis Presley. If you believe polios beating I asked you to listen, that's me, Carlos Garcia. Welcome back Sally herships.

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The election is over. Well, the voting at least voting is over. Yes. In the meantime, we can try to turn our attention to the other piece of big business that has enormous implications for our economy the coronavirus in more specifically how you Market a product that you really really need your customer to buy the vaccine and it's especially important right now more than 9 million people in the US have gotten covid-19 230,000 have died. This fandemic is also just cratered the economy and a vaccine of course would stop all this and give us a chance to rebuild. But if when we get a vaccine, we still have to persuade Americans to take it and that could be really challenging there be different pulls out there USA Today Pew research. They say that anywhere from about half to two-thirds of Americans say they are unlikely to take a back seat for reasons. Like they don't trust a president or because

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They don't trust vaccines. And so on Today Show we look at how you Market a vaccine. And also we look at Elvis again king of rock and roll was brought in to help sell the vaccine vaccine for polio in why that strategy War.

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First of all, we should explain what happened in 1955 Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio Seltzer polio vaccine was safe. It was effective felt like a mirror but there had been a critical mix up a mistake at 1 Lab somehow batches of the vaccine with the live virus released in a handful of States. 40,000 kid got sick some died. So people were scared. They were not taking the back seat the Goodwin the safe one the situation feels a little similar today. Well this fear and uncertainty in the air. So the next year 1956 Elvis Presley was set to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show and he was asked would he agree to take the vaccine in front of the press? He said yeah, I'll do it at a doctor from the New York City Health Department gave him the shot backstage before the show and you might say and I am going to say Sally that getting Elvis was a major.

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Shot in the arm for the health department. Yeah, I think I think it's like getting Beyonce to post on Instagram today. But Elvis was part of a much bigger strategy. There was a huge campaign called the March of Dimes for with people donated small amounts of money and teenagers were involved. They did public education to help persuade other teams to take the vaccine. It was a lot of work and ultimately that work paid off in 1979 pelea was eradicated in the United States vaccine for polio save thousands of Lies. It prevented kids from getting paralyzed and it saved an estimated 180 billion dollars in healthcare costs taking care of people who would have gotten sick Billy Graham says when it comes to marketing a back seen a lot of times it isn't government figures that makes the best sales people. That's why I'm bringing an Elvis with such a smart move.

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That are going to be seen as the best messenger, you know Elvis was sort of a trusted figure that people could buy into an and trying to pull a fast one over on me using these are the stations accept, you know, just doing probably what's right by the way Elvis history before a vaccine history, but it was also one of the first heads of marketing for the truth Campaign which in case you don't remember was an iconic ad campaign that was launched back in 2000. There was aimed at convincing teenagers not to smoke.

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The campaign was considered a major success it got about half a million teenagers not to smoke it save billions of dollars in healthcare costs and a reason were talking about it on a show about marketing. The coronavirus vaccine is because ultimately convincing teenagers to do something they don't want to do is a lot like persuading for luck adults to take a vaccine. These are both situations where we need stubborn reluctant Americans to change their behavior. And when it comes to marketing a coronavirus vaccine Phil says marketers can learn a lot of lessons from the truth campaign. What is am I know sometimes carrots work better than sticks, especially when it comes to Public Health messaging is available to everyone will have lived with it for about a year. So Fear Factor messaging isn't going to work because we've hopefully, you know touchwood seen the worst of us and one of the things we learned on truth is you one

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Message isn't going to get you there. You're going to need to have multiple messages for multiple audiences, which means that even Elvis if he was still around might not be enough. But Katherine Van Tassel is around. She's a law professor at Case Western University. And she's also co-author of the book Food and Drug Administration about FDA practices. She says when it comes to marketing persuading people to take vaccines, it is not enough to have a celebrity you have to have a trusted messenger. So for example, perhaps we could do is you know, like what they did with polio have the American Red Cross do the messaging. The Red Cross is often seen is neutral. It's not associated with one political party or the other but again, that won't do the trick for everyone. She says over the past decade we had very low enrollment in particular of minority groups in vaccine trials like black Americans Hispanic Americans Native Americans and also all women

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Looking at Lessons Learned moving forward. I do think that the Food and Drug Administration should carefully consider ensuring having a regulation that ensures that vaccine trials in the future really do reflect the demographics of of the country. So that way if you belong to one of those groups and you're considering taking the vaccine you would know that it's been tested in your particular group and it works but there is yet another vaccine barrier cost when the polio vaccine came out back in the 1950s. You needed three doses they cost up to $5 each which we have sound like a lot but when you factor in inflation that is about $150 in today's money, and again, we don't have a proven vaccine yet. We don't know how much it will cost or how it would be paid for but what is clear is it if and hopefully when we do get this elusive vaccine persuading the Americans who now say they are reluctant to take it and by the way.

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About one-third to half of Americans who say they are reluctant could be really expensive bill says for example, the marketing budget for the truth campaign was more than a hundred million dollars a year. So Curtis, you know, what would help save the economy prevent actually millions of Americans from getting sick. If you went on the indicator just like Elvis and take the vaccine. What do you think? I would be happy to do that. I am I is trusted by the broad public as Elvis was I don't know. I don't know, but I'll do my part.

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Is episode of the indicator was produced by Brittany Cronin? In fact check by Shawn saldania indicators editor is Patty Hearst and the indicator is a production of NPR.
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