VapoRub and ferrets and PR

A generous new public relations campaign on behalf of Vicks Vap-O-Rub is bringing lots of attention to the product. We want to do our part. Medical journalist Ivan Oransky describes his surprise encounter (which we present here only in part) :

On Friday, a large box arrived in our office, addressed to a Reuters Health stringer. It contained:

  • A Vicks VapoRub Snuggie; Chicken soupmix; A scented candle; Green tea packets; Tissues; Vicks-branded slippers

There was also:

  • a seven-inch digital photo frame; A Sony ”bloggie Touch”; A $100 SpaFinder gift card; A $100 BestBuy gift card

That’s right. Vicks had sent us something like $400 in gift cards and electronics. Here’s the whole spread [see photo, a more detailed version of which appears on Oransky’s web site]…

If the PR campaign succeeds, it will make you want more, more, more info. Here’s more.

First, a marketing study done in India:

An Analysis of the Marketing Strategy of Vicks Vaporub“, Amit Banerjo and Tarit Jain, Marketing Mastermind, pp. 9-17, April 2005. The authors note that:

“[In India consumers are offered many other] balms and creams which are similar to Vicks in size and application and also serve the same purpose… The reason for their wide prevalence and acceptance in the market, especially in the rural and semi-urban segment is that they are cheap but effective. Also, the prevalence of quacks, local practitioners and road side physicians carry a wide variety of such products which the uneducated man often falls prey too on account of effective presentation and quick affect of these applications…. [A] considerable market share eludes Vicks on account of these indigenous and unbranded ‘rubs’.”

And a medical study in the US:

Vicks VapoRub induces mucin secretion, decreases ciliary beat frequency, and increases tracheal mucus transport in the ferret trachea,” Juan Carlos Abanses, Shinobu Arima and Bruce K. Rubin, Chest, January 2009 vol. 135 no. 1, pp. 143-148. The authors report their conclusion:

“In summary, although VVR can fool the brain into perceiving increased airflow by activation of trigeminal cold receptors, the active ingredients are ciliotoxic and mildly proinflammatory, increasing mucus secretion while decreasing mucus clearance. This may be of little physiologic consequence in older children and adults, but in infants and small children this potentially can lead to respiratory distress.”