Opinion: Hitting 90% is ‘a big hairy audacious goal’ – can NZ do it?

Covid-19 NZ Herald

Comment by Ben Goodale, CEO, Quantum Jump

As a marketer who has helped create some of the country’s most popular loyalty programmes, I’ve been watching the challenge of hitting the 90 per cent vaccination target with great interest.

As is the case with all marketing, a good starting point is to interrogate the brief to really understand what we’re dealing with.

The objectives look ambitious

The target of 90 per cent is a BHAG (business speak for a ‘big hairy audacious goal’). There are so many stats to indicate this. Pre Delta, Ministry of Health research in July indicated 79 per cent consumer intention to be vaccinated. Norway has just dispensed with all Covid restrictions with just 83 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated. Australian states suffering from Delta are seeking 80 per cent levels to relax restrictions. Britain, vaccinating since January – initially with incredible pace – has reached 82 per cent and is now returning to a new normal.

I’m an optimistic marketer, but 90 per cent is a huge target – even in the context of a global pandemic.

So can we do this?

Who makes up the core audience to reach 90 per cent?

Large proportions of the population – as the data shows – are getting vaccinated without too much encouragement now we have wide availability. Mixed messages about needing to make appointments, then being able to just turn up, and so on, are delaying pace on this.

We have two Johns to thank for flagging up the audience bullseyes we need to reach 90 per cent.

Sir John Key weighed in over the weekend and was very clear – incentivise the young – 12-29 – and our more vulnerable, and often harder to reach, notably Māori and Pasifika.

John Tamihire, such a great advocate for Māori, rightly calls out the need for Whānau Ora providers to have better access to government data so they can target Māori for vaccinations. “What we need is access to Māori mega data so our providers can go out and invite our people to come and get their vaccine shots with the indomitable style Māori have in dealing with other Māori,” he says.

Having gone to the Trusts Arena in Henderson, operated by Tamihere’s Te Whānau o Waipareira, on Friday to get my second jab, I can testify it was quiet, I just walked straight in. The staff were friendly and amazing – but it’s clear we’re not getting to 90 per cent anytime soon if we aren’t engaging these audiences correctly. No wonder Tamihere is frustrated.

NZ Herald has launched it’s own 90% Project

The ultimate incentive

What we know from loyalty marketing is that getting mass participation is very hard, unless it is hugely incentivised. Death, or social exclusion, are a new and potentially powerful, dystopian addition to any loyalty programmme.

You would think that would motivate anyone, right? Be offered money, save your life or that of your family, or not be able to do stuff because now you are a pariah to society.

What these stats don’t take account of, as the overseas numbers indicate, is people’s innate ability to find reasons not to do stuff, let alone anti-vaxxers. As I’ve stated before in this newspaper, there’s a reason retailers like Briscoes and Farmers advertise every week. It’s to create a sense of urgency, want, and a scarcity as in “don’t miss out, this weekend only”. To drive foot traffic.

How do we connect with the bullseye?

One size won’t fit all. This is possibly the biggest marketing challenge the country has ever faced. Government cred here in reaching highly segmented audiences and motivating them isn’t great; 2018 Census anyone?

Tamihere again identifies an issue around the approach to marketing, “Our people are strong on social media but they are not turned on by messages crafted by some bald heads in Wellington. It just does not work for us.”

Similarly, Sir John Key’s timely suggestions are classic carrot and stick – including financially incentivising youth (12-29), and a more community minded financial incentive to Māori and Pacific health providers. The stick being exclude those not vaccinated from places they want to go such as bars, nightclubs, R&V etc.

Within our hard-to-reach groups, we’ve got the ‘digitally disconnected’ which particularly impacts Pasifika and Māori (estimated as 30per cent for Pasifika), and then there are seniors living alone, the disabled and those without transport, and as has been highlighted recently, those in very rural areas. We’ll need more than a few buses with cute names to reach all of them.

Chris Hipkins’ response to Sir John was “many things that John Key’s arguing are already happening”. Maybe they are, maybe not that well. Another Knight, Sir Ian Taylor, and perhaps future Knight, Rob Fyfe, have both called out the challenges of trying to get government ministries to move fast, think strategically, engage better with businesses who have good ideas. This government too often in the last year has been driven by events rather than planned effectively for next steps.

What would I recommend?

In line with the Prime Minister’s much-favoured line, ‘go hard go early’, we aren’t now early so we need to go bloody hard, harder than ever.

We need to mobilise big time, with carrot and stick:

• Give those who best connect with our ethnic minorities access to all the resources and facilities they need to get into their communities – data, call centres, transport, incentives. This is a mass community marketing programme.

• Similarly, we need to mobilise the army to get to rural communities, the old, disabled and infirm. This is being where the audience is.

• We’d need to research the best incentive, but everyone 16-29 should be offered something like a choice of $25 voucher for getting vaccinated in the next 4 weeks. A smart digital campaign can get this message across. Do we add in fun like spinning the wheel? Can corporates get involved to support?

• Communicate hard, loud and clearly across all segments – we still need the presence of a mass but nuanced campaign to keep up big noise and urgency, and perhaps until Christmas all vaccinations get a free Lotto lucky dip?

• And the stick? Create a national vaccine ID card that can be used in NZ and overseas proving you are vaccinated. And implement a no-entry or no-service rule in bars, restaurants, on public transport, at shop entries, at schools and universities, at summer music events and sports games.

• And what can the Prime Minister do to cut through the treacle in Wellington so that business can help make things happen now. Next year is too late.

We can’t as a society say we haven’t tried, we have to try really hard, especially for those who need help. There’s a certain point the nation won’t be held hostage by the lazy and the deniers. Is that at 80 per cent? 85 per cent? Certainly, I don’t fancy the government’s electoral chances if they hold out for 90 per cent, however optimistic a marketer I am.

– Ben Goodale is CEO of Quantum Jump, an independent marketing and advertising company.