Bayer effort educates vets to build brand advocates

Bayer Healthcare, Animal Health division (BAH) was looking for a way to increase sales of its Advantage family of products, which include Advantage and K9 Advantix.

Bayer Healthcare, Animal Health division (BAH) was looking for a way to increase sales of its Advantage family of products, which include Advantage and K9 Advantix.

Working with AOR Fleishman-Hillard, it set out to find a way to influence customers' purchase behavior through a trusted source: veterinarians. "The consumers are a very important part of the decision-making process, but they rely heavily on recommendations from their veterinarian," says Tom Hopper, director of marketing for BAH.

Strategy
Recognizing that vets' recommendations carry so much weight with consumers' use of flea and tick medicine, the PR team had to figure out a way to turn a select group of vets into brand advocates. "The big challenge was to take a product category in which there's a high degree of consumer satisfaction and a ton of competitive noise and develop a network in which we could communicate with veterinarians the important benefits... our product offers and move them from agnostic... to a more advocate position," Hopper says. To do that, the team had to find a third-party opinion leader to educate vets about the brand.

Tactics
The PR team identified 10 markets - Boston, New York, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, and Minneapolis - and held educational dinners that reached 98 vets from more than 40 clinics. "We knew that this model worked on the human health side," says Catherine Hafkins, VP at Fleishman. The team also engaged Dr. Byron Blagburn, a veterinary parasitology expert, to present research supporting the K9 product.
 
Results
Clinics in six markets - Boston, San Diego, Kansas City, San Francisco, Houston, and Miami - showed a total sales increase of 50% across all products.
 
Future
Similar dinners are planned this year for the feline products. The team will use the same approach next year, but may change the venue to sporting events.

PR team: Bayer Healthcare, Animal Health division (Shawnee, KS) and Fleishman-Hillard (Kansas City, MO)Campaign: The Bayer Animal Health Advocacy Network
Duration: June to September 2006
Budget: $304,950, including hard costs

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