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What Are You Willing to Sacrifice? – February 2015

I recently picked up an issue of Trendwatching that describes a new trend among consumers who are on an epic quest for a new form of consumerism: free from guilt over negative impacts on themselves, society and the planet. They're looking to brands for answers. One consequence? Consumers will increasingly demand that brands make painful SACRIFICES that meaningfully reduce the harm those brands cause. From refusing to sell unhealthy products, to eliminating socially toxic operations, to giving up key assets, there are plenty of SACRIFICES brands can – and will be expected – to make.

What is happening in companies? We see a lot of activity among companies with CSR initiatives and social reports, but consumers remain skeptical. They want to see brands sacrificing to reduce negative effects on consumer well being, and they want brands to be coherent, to do as they say.

What is an example of brand innovation and self-sacrifice? CVS Caremark, the second-largest drugstore chain in the USA, rebranded its name to CVS Health and stopped selling tobacco products in all of its stores as of September 2014, as the sales conflicted with their health care mission. This is going to cost the company $2 billion a year. The company also launched a social media campaign #OneGoodReason so people can share their experience of living a tobacco free life. The #OneGoodReason website has tips for quitting smoking and success stories. In November 2014, the company announced a three year $10 million commitment grant to Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) to fund innovative cancer research. For the whole month of November, customers had a chance to support SU2C at the register in stores nationwide and on-line. A few weeks ago, the company committed $5 million campaign for tobacco-free kids with the support from the CVS Health Foundation.

What is CVS Health telling customers? The message is loud and clear. The company wants to play a bigger role in health care delivery and selling tobacco was becoming a big obstacle. CVS Health is behaving in ways that promote and build trust, and now its actions are consistent with the messages.