CVS pulls a Don Draper and drops cigarettes: PR genius?

CVS has made headlines after announcing its plans to quit— quit smoking that is. CVS said that by 2015 all tobacco products would be off their shelves, putting $2 billion of potential revenue at risk. This left many people wondering: “Did CVS make the right call?” I think the answer is yes.

For fans of ABC’s Mad Men, CVS’s move recalls Don Draper’s decision to “quit tobacco.” After Draper’s advertising company loses Lucky Strike as a client, he takes out an ad in the New York Times, making it clear that although his business may suffer a financial hit, he would be able to sleep at night, knowing that, “What I’m selling doesn’t kill my customers.”

What would Don Draper do?

Decades later, the cigarette industry is still going strong, though there is reason to think a shift toward smoke-free products is underway. This move was an opportunity for CVS to come out as a leader in making America healthier.

It was also a great branding decision for a company that essentially sells health and well-being. In a statement that the drugstore giant released, the company’s President-CEO Larry Merlo said doing away with tobacco products means CVS “will better serve patients, clients and healthcare providers, while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a healthcare company.”

This is a clear example of a great PR move and likely an even better business move. As more and more companies around the nation quit smoking too, CVS will be remembered as the one who set the trend in motion.