Correction: The WebMD chatbot is part of a partnership with Reckitt Beckiser, not solely with Mucinex, and does not feature the brand's mascot Mr. Mucus. The story has been updated to clarify this relationship.
- WebMD, the health information publisher with 75 million users, extended its marketing partnership with RB (Reckitt Beckiser) by rolling out a chatbot featuring queries from cough medicine brand Mucinex, The chatbot will prompt WebMD users who look up cold and flu symptoms to ask questions about ailments, Advertising Age reported.
- The chatbot helps to gather geo-location and geo-incidence data from the questions that can be used to predict the spread of cold and flu strains disease before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports alerts about it.
- That data will also trigger prompts to use the chatbot on WebMD, with sponsored ads on Facebook also used to promote it.
The WebMD chatbot featuring branded Mucinex questions is somewhat limited in that it doesn’t actually engage in conversations with users, and instead provides a menu of suggested queries, such as: “How can I get rid of my nighttime cough?” or “Are cold and flu levels high in my area?” It is also lacking the brand's highly recognizable Mr. Mucus character, the cartoon green blob that's been in TV commercials for the brand since 2004. The chatbot follows WebMD’s addition of artificial-intelligence (AI) features to its publishing platform, such as voice-activated apps for Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers.
WebMD and Facebook are among the media "joint business planning" partners with RB. That means its executives participate in media and retail planning for RB’s brands such as Lysol, Delsym and Airborne supplements. RB’s spending with WebMD has grown, helping to drive "double digit" sales gains with an ROI 52% greater than consumer packaged goods benchmarks, according to IRI analytics data cited by Ad Age.
RB also has used WebMD symptom incidence data to target digital ads on the website and on other mobile media.
Though some brands use chatbots mainly as tools for automating customer service functions, they hold a variety of other uses, including partnerships like RB's and WebMD's, as well as entertaining retail features.
On the health and wellness front, chatbots have the power to become a key part of healthcare delivery by helping to provide more information about symptoms and treatments. While chatbots surely aren’t set to replace trained doctors, they can be useful in helping to educate patients at home or on the go while being careful not to mislead them with erroneous information. Medical chatbots can also help to schedule doctor appointments based on symptoms, monitor the health status of patients and notify doctors of changes and help homecare assistants stay informed, Chatbots magazine reported.