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Advertising Age reflects back on the CVS decision two years ago to stop selling all tobacco products "in order to promote better health and ensure fitness," a decision that eliminated $2 billion in sales from its bottom line.

Norman de Greve, CVS's senior VP/chief marketing officer, recently gave a speech to the Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing conference in which he said that this move was consistent with CVS's belief that it had to have a purpose-driven brand and be a purpose-driven company, and "ours is helping people on their path to better health." And, he said, ""Broadcasting our purpose is changing how we work."

And perform, apparently. in his speech, de Greve said that "the rebranding drove results. CVS found that 40% more influencers saw it as a leader in helping to improve overall health in 2015 compared with 2014. The company was listed as one of the most innovative and one of the most admired in various business publications. In addition, more than 500,000 people visited CVS's smoking cessation hub and 260,000 smokers sought advice from its pharmacy on quitting. CVS spent $82.9 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Ad Age's Datacenter."

"Being purpose-driven is much more than a marketing strategy," de Greve said. "It drives our operations, our acquisitions, our budget -- we have embedded it in everything we do."
KC's View:
Retailers always would remind me that it is important to remember that tobacco has become a high-maintenance, low-margin category ... and so it wasn't the worst two billion dollars to drop off the balance sheet. (I can't quite believe I wrote that last sentence.)

Still, there is a lot to be said for the notion of purpose-driven marketing ... and by that I mean a purpose beyond the bottom line. Making money is important, but to have a message that resonates with consumers, it helps if there is something more.