A recent TCA blog post discussed the CEO as a brand asset, describing the way business owners, founders and leaders infuse their company brands with their own personal brands. With the CVS Pharmacy announcement this week, we saw an entire board of company leaders take the risky, but values-driven step to cut off $2 billion in cigarette sales revenue in order to stay consistent with their brand as a healthcare provider.
“We have about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners helping patients manage chronic problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which are linked to smoking,” said CVS CEO Larry J. Merlo to the New York Times. “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.”
The move has earned them accolades, massive PR and social media exposure and congratulations from the likes of Bill Gates who tweeted, “You’ve made a bold move and set a great example.”
We might be tempted to see such a decision as somehow naïve or impulsive from a revenue perspective. But judging by the smart marketing under the brilliant tagline, CVS Quits for Good, it’s clear they thought things through very carefully, and planned well in advance.
What made this move a savvy one is that CVS is the first major drugstore chain to go this route. Walgreens and others will be perceived as followers, not leaders if they pursue a similar course.
But going first is what great leaders and great brands do. It’s what makes them great and what gets them noticed.