Daily Insights

Advil: Rebuild Customer Trust With Digital Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

By: Jerry Tarn | Apr 22, 2020

Unlike brands in other industries that have used the news of the COVID-19 pandemic to promote good health and brand image, pharma companies have largely remained silent. However, GSK’s Advil recently became one of the first over-the-counter (OTC) brands to break its silence. In efforts to address the on-going spread of misinformation regarding its products, Advil took to social media to refute any suspected “worse outcomes in patients suffering from COVID-19 infection with the use of ibuprofen…” Prior to addressing the speculated risks, mentions of Advil on Instagram rose 10 times higher than the brand’s cumulative mentions in 2020, just within the week after initial reports started circulating. Advil’s response came a few days after the WHO backtracked on their statements, which originally “recommended using paracetamol, and not ibuprofen as a self-medication.” 

Although slower in response relative to other consumer-facing brands (possibly due to internal regulatory processes), Advil’s statements not only demonstrated the brand’s concerns towards the public’s health and safety, but also served as an example as to how brands can use social channels to mitigate potential damage to brand image. The brand further fortified its clarification efforts by building out FAQ sections on its site that specifically answered questions about using Advil to treat COVID-19 symptoms. 

Tylenol, on the other hand, seemed to benefit from the WHO’s initial preference for paracetamol/acetaminophen (Tylenol’s active ingredient) and saw a 232% increase in Google searches within the same week of the announcement. Following the rise in attention, the brand posted statements across social media, encouraging its audiences and assuring commitment to its customers. Ultimately, the public’s preference shown towards Tylenol as a result of initial reports led to extraordinary surges in demand and subsequent shortages in production supply. 

Brands in the midst of the current health crisis should not only remain vigilant (via social listening) to stave off any potential negative associations online, but also develop contingency plans to adapt digital assets (e.g. social media messaging, brand site content) to address consumer questions and concerns.