Science Led Us To Vaccines, But It Will Take A Political-Style Campaign To Get Us To Vaccinations
Posted on

January 22, 2021

3 Min. Read


Robert Fronk

Science Led Us To Vaccines, But It Will Take A Political-Style Campaign To Get Us To Vaccinations

There are suddenly glimmers of hope in our fight to contain and ultimately extinguish the COVID-19 pandemic. With two vaccines already approved for emergency use, others nearing the end of clinical trials, shots going into arms, and the number of Americans who say they are going to get the vaccine rising over the past 90 days, there are reasons for tempered optimism.

But like the virus itself, challenges continue to mutate, creating the need (and opportunity) for corporate leaders to adapt and commit to actions, which they are uniquely qualified to take, that put the collective good first, but also ultimately benefit their companies.

In order to move from vaccine development to herd-immunity vaccination coverage, expertise and activation in the areas of logistics coupled with personalized communication to drive product acceptance are required. And there is no group better equipped and suited to deliver these than American businesses.

As our focus shifts rapidly from vaccines to vaccinations, what insights can we extract from our most recent research and what does this mean for corporate leaders?

Among a range of options about what makes the Informed Public* more optimistic post-election versus September, “companies and government working together on the pandemic response” is the top answer among both Democrats and Republicans. While Operation Warp Speed certainly accelerated the development of vaccines and vaccine candidates, distribution might better be executed – and trusted – if handled by organizations used to getting the right products at the right time to the right places to thousands of locations and made available where “customers” want them. Shipping product is not the same as product availability.

But availability is just the start. Vaccination is a personal choice, similar to the choice people have of whether or not to vote, and if they decide to vote, who to vote for. And when it comes to COVID-19, we need to get people to vote with their arms!

So how do we get out the vote and get people to punch the vaccination ballot?

Successful political campaigns employ two critical approaches to persuade voters to choose their candidate:

  • Identify the messengers, channels and messages most appropriate to each potential voter
  • Focus most of the attention on the undecided or persuadable segment of the electorate

How does this campaign approach apply to vaccination? The days of asking Elvis to get inoculated against polio live on the Ed Sullivan Show, driving public acceptance of a vaccine, are over. So too are one-size-fits-all public service campaigns. What is needed is a modern communication effort, based upon the principles of successful political-style campaigns. We need to truly understand who has credibility and sway over unique segments of the public, where and how to reach them, with personally relevant, compelling messages that move them to action.

There has been much made of the vaccine-hesitant and the anti-vaxxers. But these labels won’t help us get to herd immunity. In our research, we have identified two critical, persuadable segments that will determine if we reach the vaccination levels that Dr. Fauci says are essential to creating herd immunity (75% to 80% of the population).

The first of these segments is the “Probably, But” segment, which comprises 35% of the Informed Public. This group, who ultimately expect to get vaccinated but plan to wait and see for many months, is twice the size of those who say they will not get the vaccine. We can get to 75% vaccination without the latter, but we need to motivate the former.

In political terms, the “Probably, Buts” are in essence waiting to see who wins the election before they are prepared to vote. A campaign specifically designed to upend this dynamic is essential – one uses the voices, messages and channels that are shown through research and testing to be best able to impact this segment.

Of equal importance is the segment representing 58% of the Informed Public, the “Cutting Corners Questioners,” who have questions about the safety and efficacy of vaccines brought to market so quickly. This segment wants to know that the “candidates” have the highest character, the election will be fair, and it is safe to vote. There are very specific voices and messages that are needed to alleviate the concerns of this sizeable and critical segment.

Just looking at these two segments, it is clear that no single national campaign to reach them will be effective.

At a national moment when companies are suspending political contributions, there is one candidate they can all support – vaccinations – and the campaign requires their resources and expertise to succeed.


* Surveys of the “informed public” – defined as adults who read the news at least a few times a week and closely follow at least one broad news topic


Purple is actively partnering with companies and industries to navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the future that will come after, bringing deep experience helping the world’s best-known companies navigate the world’s toughest challenges. Please reach out to author Robert Fronk or any member of our Purple team to let us know how we can support you.

By Robert Fronk | Managing Director |


(A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn)