May12

Product Launch Made to Work

Product Launch Blog ImageIntroducing a new product into the highly diluted pharmaceutical market is no easy feat. Our industry spares no time for coming up short of flawless, where the barriers to entry are a proverbial North Korea for the inexperienced and unprepared. The road to success is windy and narrow, but once achieved, the view is unmatched.

In today’s marketplace, suppliers are red-flagged for doing things the way they have in the past, and the competitive edge gained is in the ability to differentiate completely in some cases, and only partially in others.

How can we differentiate ourselves?

For a baseline, any transaction within the pharmaceutical space is a complex sale. The traditional model of selling a product, handling the logistics, and looking forward to a reorder does not cut it. As suppliers, we must adapt to the notion that we are no longer offering or launching a product, but rather have entered the era of solution-based selling. We must come to terms with the reality that being “geared” toward a client or industry is no longer acceptable, and complete customization comes at little or no extra revenue.

Make no mistake: selling a product is still physical, but an in-depth understanding of the customers’ base is now essential to the sale of a creation. The utilization of that understanding is to align our goals to match the customers’ needs. The result of a properly executed alignment is the transformation of the supplier into the partner. By outgrowing the paradigm of being the wholesaler, and embracing a newfound cooperative mantra, trust becomes the foundation of our rapport.

But trust isn’t just a way in, and a share of the market isn’t the only measure of our success. We have to continually push the limits of our capabilities to stimulate fresh ideas, and remain at the forefront of innovation to our clients. The growth driven from market advancement is what will allow us to maintain our business and simultaneously cultivate new opportunities. With trust, our new partners will expect us to act on our promises and will be more critical of our deliverables. We are no longer reacting to a signed Statement of Work (SOW) or Request for Proposal (RFP), we are building a proactive and cooperative plan of action. Suppliers cannot simply provide a product; they must also act as consultants.

The stigma of “Big Pharma” having deep pockets and quick trigger fingers is far from the truth. Pricing is critical and partners will expect us to eat a slice of the risk pie when entering into an agreement (you are a partner now, why wouldn’t you?).

We optimize the product for the consumer experience through the ability to launch a solution directed toward a specific client and their void. This style is undoubtedly the wave of the future, and the relationships formed via this approach will be more personal, more customized, and ultimately, more lucrative.

Differentiation begins with common interest, and results in great success.

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May4

The Digital Health Revolution: Transforming the Patient Journey

The Digital Health Revolution Blog Image 2Around the world, one in every four people is using social media. Whether they are sharing a funny cat video, advice on dating, or their personal experiences living with a chronic illness, there are nearly two billion people connecting with one another through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social platforms, forever transforming the way humans communicate. This social media ecosystem also is ushering in a “digital health revolution.” Whether through their desktops, laptops, or mobile devices, people seeking medical and wellness information first check with their social networks.

Pharmaceutical companies have started entering the social media waters – — most with one toe in first. Given the increasing dependence on the digital world, social media is a natural touch point for companies to connect with the patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) they serve. Becoming truly social has not been an easy proposition for a conservative industry. But we have reached a tipping point, where social interaction is becoming critically important for the industry, and one that is blowing the lid off of the traditional way of communicating with stakeholders.

In the old paradigm, a pharmaceutical brand issues an advertisement that directs patients and HCPs to a website where they are provided one-sided information and an overall static experience. Patients are then directed to “talk to your doctor,” and that is where the interaction ends. Within the new social paradigm, patients, HCPs and pharmaceutical companies can have real conversations about the topics that are important to all of them. Patients also can access information and answers to their questions much faster, thereby making their path to help shorter.

Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to interact with patients and HCPs in a more meaningful way through social media. At Ogilvy, we are helping our pharmaceutical clients navigate this new paradigm and create unbranded social networks that offer patients who have similar life experiences – — whether that is quitting smoking or managing cancer – — a safe and comfortable environment to listen, learn, and share. We believe these networks offer unique value to the industry, allowing companies to provide patients with a support system where such a community may not otherwise exist.

Social networks resolve the limitations of both time and geography that are inherent with in-person support groups. They allow people to access information targeted to their concerns and conversations with global peers at any hour from the comfort and privacy of their own couch. Social networks also empower patients to initiate and direct conversations, interacting in a way that is meaningful to them. These networks are already forming, and we believe it is vital for industry to take the lead, to serve as the connector of those conversations, and to interact so that patients are assured they are receiving the best quality and most credible information.

The social media world has clearly shifted communication patterns and habits. Pharmaceutical companies can no longer afford to remain disconnected. Social interaction and sharing will continue whether or not the industry gets more involved. By taking a more active role within these patient communities, a pharmaceutical company allows its own voice and expertise to be heard, provides its stakeholders with real value, and, equally important, ensures that competitors aren’t the only ones creating meaningful interactions and relationships with consumers.

http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Social-Networking-Reaches-Nearly-One-Four-Around-World/1009976
http://www.businessinsider.com/social-media-engagement-statistics-2013-12

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Mar11

Are You Harnessing the Power of Video in Healthcare Yet?

Young woman with gold fish tankDid you realise that the average attention span of a person has dropped to only 8 seconds? That’s one second less than a goldfish!

Video can combat this. It is a fantastic way to hook people in and capture their attention. Online video is growing so quickly that this is an opportunity that’s impossible to ignore:

  • Views on mobile devices have increased 400% in the past 2 years
  • YouTube is now the second most popular search engine behind Google, with 40% of its traffic coming from mobile
  • 80% of online visitors will watch a video all the way through, compared with 20% who will read a webpage

Patients are being diagnosed via video, surgeons are swapping clips on operation techniques, and, as everyone is rapidly becoming more and more mobile-connected, healthcare knowledge sharing will soon have no boundaries.

It’s likely that for whatever purpose, be it for a symposium or for patient education, your video will end up online, where it will receive the majority of its views. But it’s a noisy world out there, and one rule is key: keep it short, smart, and snappy.

What kind of video content should you choose?

The great news is that there are all kinds of exciting options that won’t break the budget. Think about who the audience is and how they’ll be watching. Are they using a small screen? With or without sound? On social media? Or at a live presentation…could Dr Smith at the back please put his mobile down and watch? (Hopefully if he enjoys it he’ll search for it later online, “like” it and share with his colleagues.)

Explore the different ways to cThe Other Sideonnect with your audience. Enriched video content is great for increasing user engagement, and interactive user-defined storytelling can be a totally immersive experience. It lets you get the right messages to each individual user by letting them click on objects in the video to influence what they see. “Choose a Different Ending” is a beautiful example of a great campaign tackling knife crime that drew immediate response. And another of the best ones I’ve seen recently is The Other Side of Honda.”

Or, if you need to get more complex data across in a way that quickly informs and engages, use an animated infographic to make data come alive. These motion graphics pack a huge visual punch, are bursting with information, and are rapidly becoming key tools to promote branded messages. For a truly multi-layered, fast and constantly moving example with beautiful visual transitions, you can’t beat “STUXNET: The Virus That Almost Started WW3.”

Whatever you want to achieve, remember you’re not alone. We recommend that you use a Creative and Motion team to help you get all those questions answered on the way to making great videos.

Video is a super strategy to stand out from the competition and it’s definitely a healthcare trend that’s already here and set to keep on growing.

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Feb26

Twitter and Google Forge Deal That Reintroduces Tweets to Google Search Results

Social Search Blog Image_This article was co-authored by Buddy Scalera from Ogilvy CommonHealth – Parsippany, NJ.

Twitter announced recently that it will be providing Google with access to its microblogging service for search indexing. Although Twitter activity appears in Google’s search results now, the staggering volume, more than 6,000 tweets per minute, makes crawling and organizing the data impractical.

The new partnership between Twitter and Google will grant the market-leading search engine access to Twitter’s “firehose” of data. This data is generated from the stream of 140-character tweets produced by Twitter’s 287 million users. Google’s unique access will enable it to parse, arrange, and develop rank and relevance for the social content in real-time.

It is not clear how Google will present Twitter’s data in search engine results, but the real-time and topical nature of the social network will make it especially relevant for breaking news, cultural subject matter, and rising trends. It will also likely be aligned to searches for individuals and personalities. It seems natural to index a person’s Twitter account, recent posts, and other activity in Google’s Knowledge Graph. It is also likely that user activity provided by Twitter will help determine if Twitter data is shown at all and with what prominence.

Of course, Google and Twitter have both been smart about how to monetize their offerings. We expect them to maximize their shared advantage for advertisers on both platforms.

What does this mean for healthcare brands?

For brands that are participating on Twitter, this continues to extend the reach of those messages into keyword-oriented searches. It also gives added pause to those concerned about the impact of influencers and popular Twitter users who mention brand names and conditions. Although it is not likely that a rogue Twitter handle will appear in a product search return in the first few pages, it will be extremely relevant to the nature of searches surrounding patients, their discussion of their disease, and treatment options.

For brands not active on Twitter, there is still the need to monitor activity on social networks, especially those that are publically searchable. Users who share brand information may be competing with your brand for users’ attention. Those users may also be candidates for influencer engagement, or an opportunity to correct brand misinformation.

The new inclusion of timely social posting would work to tremendous advantage for those brands that seize conventions and meetings for social sharing and engagement. The timely nature of event hashtags and the limited shelf-life for this type of communication create an ideal pairing for topical search and brand engagement.

Brands that have not engaged in social media marketing or listening programs are likely to be surprised by the changes in search results for their brand names, disease state terms, and other organic search results. Brands will now be competing with many more voices and another variable of timeliness. As with many of the changes Google has introduced for marketers in recent years, the changes will come quickly and with little time to react for a process-oriented industry like healthcare.

Many brands participate in social listening to understand the way patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals are discussing the health category and their brand. These brand teams are likely to be better prepared for the deluge of information to come from this announcement, and how to process it.

Both Twitter and Google are companies that are comfortable experimenting in real-time. So while these changes will probably start with search engine results pages, we expect to see a ripple effect across other properties. Google+ and YouTube channels may be the first places where we see different types of experimentation and integration. After all, these properties are all part of Google’s ecosystem of data and advertising.

Although the announcement has been made, both parties have noted that it will be several months before tweets begin appearing in users’ searches in real-time. This announcement should have tremendous impact on the Draft FDA Social Media Guidelines presented to the industry last year.

To learn more about how this announcement and other market changes may affect your brand, please contact our team here at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide.

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Feb20

Idea Is King, Guard It With Your Life

OHW Blog Image 2.20.15“In the dizzying world of moviemaking, we must not be distracted from one fundamental concept: the idea is king.” – Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney Chairman (’84-’94)

This fundamental concept also holds true in healthcare communications. All great work starts with a great idea. But arriving at a great idea is not enough. In our highly scrutinized and regulated world, a great idea is at risk of an untimely death at numerous points in its life. From internal creative reviews and client presentations to market research and medical/regulatory review, a great idea is often pushed aside because it looks and feels different than the status quo. A great idea makes people feel uncomfortable. But that is exactly what it should do: grab our attention and challenge our thinking.

Healthcare advertising is plagued with bad clichés, overused metaphors, and happy slice-of-life imagery. Contrast these campaigns to the quality of the work that many creatives in our industry include in their own portfolios. The difference is amazing. It’s an eye-opening experience to see the original idea that devolved to the happy couple sitting on a park bench with a benign, lackluster headline. We need to come together as a united community—creatives, account, planning, digital, and analytics —to courageously support great ideas, protecting their creative integrity all the way through final execution. Because in healthcare, great ideas can lead to more than awards; they can help save and improve lives.

 

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Jan7

Computational Lexical Analyses and the Modern Era of Wordsmithing

Writing Blog ImageIn a world fast becoming more interested in, impressed by, and capable of producing brilliant digital imagery, I’m the unfortunate one who gets to sit here and try to remind everyone that words still matter. Excited yet? Give me four minutes of your time, this is a brief post.

We work in what is first and foremost an advertising agency. There may be individual groups whose work is not entirely captured by that description (mine is one of them), but it’s the most condensed way of summarizing Ogilvy CommonHealth. Visually and creatively, the work that comes from many of our groups is stunning. It’s often best-in-class, and I’m not here to deter anyone from thinking so.

But this brings me back to what this post is about. Words, or language. Awe-inspiring as the visual work may be, our clients still often struggle with questions like, “What do we actually call this drug? How do we define and describe its therapeutic effect? How do we communicate that to clinicians? To patients?” Basic as these questions may seem, they are fundamental to the immediate and sustained success of the product. A drug needs a consistent, precise, ownable and differentiating lexicon in addition to a strong marketing campaign.

Easier said than done. Language is organic, a living, breathing document that evolves over time. Let’s look at the word good as an example. Once universally and unambiguously having meant desirable or of high quality, a recent article titled “The Art of the Amateur Online Review” in the New York Times describes why that’s no longer the case (the article is a good, quick read for anyone in advertising). Analyses of users’ product reviews show that good is starting to mean ambivalent. Reviewers say things like “it’s good, but….” In other words, good no longer means desirable, but simply good enough.

The same issues present themselves in a medical and scientific context. Clients wonder if they should say their drug is targeted or selective or honing. Perhaps others have created a drug with a new mechanism of action and they want to describe it in not just a differentiating way but also in a meaningful and exciting one. In medical language, the same words can have unique meanings across different categories.

Tools are available to help guide these decisions. In a computational lexical analysis, we can generate a database of language relevant to whatever subject area it is that we’re interested in. That can help us to know how the words in the category are used, and to see what opportunities there may be to create new language. It’s grounded in data, but this is a strategic exercise that seeks to provide guidance around what language is most appropriate for a given molecule/condition/category. Have a client with problems like this? Send them our way, we may be able to help.

 

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Dec11

Now That’s a Vision

visionary_governanceIn our business, we often help our clients to develop and navigate their corporate vision. If done well, the vision of the company is aspirational, achievable, and distinctively ownable. Far too often when reading a company’s vision statement, you feel that you could simply replace Pharma Company A with Pharma Company B, and might at times even question their ability to achieve that vision. So it is with fascination and awe this holiday season that I reflect on one corporate leader’s amazing vision for his company and his unwavering commitment to delivering on that vision. In 1994, when Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, he articulated:

“Our vision is to be the earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

He has clearly redefined online retailing, and Amazon is the world’s top Internet retailing company.  While there are arguably many out there who may not agree with me, I applaud the customer experience that Amazon has created, and I have often tested the theory of whether they truly have “anything” I might want to buy online and my “cart” has yet to be disappointed, even for the most obscure or uncommon searches. So this month as I cross off items on my holiday shopping list and avoid carrying a heavy coat and shopping bags around a crowded shopping mall with annoying people, I thank you, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, for having an aspirational, achievable and distinctively ownable vision.

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Dec3

Stories to Tell: Facebook for Health Care Brands

Stories to Tell Facebook for Health Care Brands BLOG Image2We all know Facebook is a powerful storytelling platform for brands. But in health care, FDA regulation and privacy rules often leave us watching our counterparts in consumer marketing with jealousy. A recent example of our work with Hackensack University Medical Center demonstrates not only that health care brands can carry out effective content strategies on social media platforms, it can even be simple to accomplish.

HackensackUMC is consistently rated as the top hospital in New Jersey by US News & World Reports. One particular area of excellence is its nursing program. The hospital is one of just two in the nation to earn the prestigious Magnet nursing designation five consecutive times, representing 20 years of distinction.

Last May, during National Nurses Week, we proposed creating a series of Facebook posts where each day would feature a short story and photo of a HackensackUMC nurse.

The work was minimal: we conducted a 20 minute phone interview with each nurse and asked him or her to provide us with a photo. The response was tremendous: The stories we posted about each nurse quickly became the most engaging content the hospital has ever posted on its Facebook page.

Of particular note, on Wednesday of National Nurses Week, the story of about Dennis Leenig Jr., a pediatric oncology nurse, received over 450 likes, 50 comments and 25 shares. Here’s the post:

It’s not unusual to find Dennis Leenig, Jr. sitting and talking with a patient a half hour after his shift has finished for the day. “Working with leukemia patients, I like that I get to see people through all stages of their care. You get to establish a rapport,” he says. It’s a relationship that continues even after a patient has gone home. Dennis always conducts follow up calls to patients after they’re discharged to see how they’re feeling and to make sure they’re not having trouble getting any medications. “Patients have told me I’m like a son to them and that means the world to me.” Dennis remembers when his own father was a cancer patient at HackensackUMC. A nursing student at the time, it was while visiting his father that he realized his calling was in oncology.

Even more powerful than what we wrote about Dennis, were the testimonials that former patients posted in the comments section. Some excerpts:

Hey Dennis, I remember you well. I felt like I was in expert hands and it was clear to me that your concern for my wellbeing was sincere and genuine. Thank you for making a stressful event a little less so.

We love Dennis and know him well after having many visits to 8PW over the past 4 years with our son. His love and dedication to all patients goes above and beyond. Thank you, Dennis, for all that you do. You have become like family to us.

Dennis, when my uncle was in your care I felt reassured knowing that he had an all-around great guy to help him. He really liked you and spoke highly of you. He fought a good fight but the cancer was too aggressive. I have the utmost respect for what you do on a daily basis and I wanted to thank you again (and the rest of the doctors, nurses, and staff) for everything you did to make his life more comfortable when he was in your care.

The marketing and PR value of these posts is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place with such compassionate, attentive care? And Dennis was just one of seven nurses we featured that week.

But another benefit of sharing these stories on Facebook is easy to overlook: Facebook as an internal communications tool. The nurses were honored that we thought to interview them for the Facebook page and proud to receive public recognition for their work. And their colleagues enjoyed reading the stories and having a public place to record their praise. It was a morale boost all around.

We are constantly uncovering great stories like Dennis’s. But in this regard, HackensackUMC is not unique. All of our clients’ organizations are brimming with stories.

Maybe it’s easier to find them in a hospital, where nurses are touching lives every hour of every day. But great stories are everywhere–even in corporate settings. What motivated a pharmaceutical company executive to enter the health care industry? Why did a research scientist decide to focus on this particular disease state?

The answers to these questions are personal stories. Telling them brings out the human side of a corporation and pulls employees closer together. New media tools like Facebook make it easy to bring them to the public. And the public is hungry hear these stories from your brand. Especially in health care.

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Nov6

Are You Listening?

8370148From predictive sentiment analysis and word association to audience profiling and message personalization, social listening techniques are helping healthcare marketers translate everyday conversations into brand positioning strategies, outreach programs, and relevant online content.

With the exponential growth in social sharing and social media, we posed the question, “Are You Listening” to the healthcare industry during a recent panel discussion on social listening at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide’s 3rd Annual Marketing Analytics & Consulting Summit. The reaction to the discussion during the summit was incredible, as attendees bombarded our panelists with questions, which made for a lively discussion.

Joining our expert panel discussion were several contributors: Ryan Alovis, InTouchMD, Karen Auteri, IMS Health, Michele Baer, Feinstein Kean Healthcare, Kim-Fredrick Schneider, Sermo, and our very own Angelo Campano, Ogilvy Healthworld.

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Attendees learned multiple perspectives from our expert panelists. First, social listening provides marketers with a reality check for what patients and physicians are discussing in terms of disease states, available drugs, and lifestyle considerations. Second, attendees learned that many of the techniques employed have been shown to help marketers manage and respond to adverse events and reposition web content to deliver more meaningful messages to audiences they are trying to reach and educate.

Our Approach

Making sense of social conversations as related to branded and unbranded messages, and disease states, is central to capturing emerging patient and physician trends around sentiment, preference, and message personalization. In the Analytics department at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, we believe social listening needs to be a dynamic discipline that is “always on” and can be configured to leverage our sophisticated network of algorithms to aggregate unstructured conversations, and glean meaningful insights related to the way patients and physicians are talking about our clients’ products.

Natural Language Processing (NPL) and text mining machine learning algorithms are used to extract dominant concepts across posts, tweets, text messages, and call center conversations. We create a dictionary of terms with the highest frequency across messages, which is also known as a term document matrix. Correlation analyses are run across the document matrix to isolate the top 100 concepts and messages. This concept investigation is done through splitting the data into a training dataset and a test dataset (usually a 70/30 split, respectively). We then apply decision trees and neural networks to learn from our sample training data on how the text in each comment is configured to help derive classification rules on sentiment (positive or negative). Once classification rules are set, our rules are then deployed for overall monthly scoring of brand sentiment.

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We can help our clients understand questions such as:

  • What are HCP and patient sentiments about the brand?
  • What are the terms and attributes HCPs and patients are using to refer to our ailment state or specific brand?
  • What are HCPs and patients saying about competitor brands?
  • How can we proactively manage adverse events reporting?

Notable Applications

With limited social buzz, a cancer drug maker found that their brand’s category was mostly associated with terms like LDK-378, crizotinib and maintenance terms. The brand itself was strongly associated with terms like Tarceva and ALK, but social listening allowed the brand to identify opportunities within the category to purchase tertiary or long-tail terms to optimize search.

In addition to finding ways to optimize search, we were able to identify three different types of back pain sufferers through social listening. From over 115,000 local EU market conversations, we were able to identify pre-concerned, seekers, and diagnosed back pain sufferers. This learning enabled our marketing plan to amplify key brand messages at the right moment, in the right space, and at the right time that was most relevant to when each audience was most likely to respond.

Offering Many Benefits

Through understanding and evaluating the reality of how patients and physicians are talking about disease states, branded or unbranded products, we’ve reshaped website content, fine-tuned campaign messages, optimized SEO, and considered new targeting pathways. Our processes will continue to evolve to help drug manufacturers become more relevant in meeting physician information and patient care needs.

If you’re not listening, our Analytics group at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide can help get you started.

 

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Oct22

Epic Tales of Marketing Storytelling

Story Telling BLOGStorytelling in marketing isn’t new. In fact, brand stories have anchored some of the best marketing, advertising, and public relations campaigns since the invention of, well, brands.

Marketers love stories, and not just because stories position their brand in a positive scenario. Us marketing types are creative and want to express ideas and touch emotions. We want to motivate and inspire and engage on a level that transcends a sale. We want to be storytellers.

There’s that, and then there’s what we actually end up doing.

Look, we love our brands. Really and truly. We spend hours thinking about how to get other people to love them the way we do. We get mugs and t-shirts printed that feature our logos.

So why do we end up telling such lame marketing stories? Maybe it’s because we’re not thinking about what makes a great story.

Let’s consider two important points about storytelling, one about marketing stories, and analyze them all through the lens of a blockbuster movie.

  1. Stories are about people, not events, or objects.
  2. Stories are about people’s problems and how those problems get resolved.
  3. Marketing stories should be about solving people’s problems.

Let’s unpack these three simple points and talk about what they mean for us as healthcare communicators.

 

Stories Are About People

You can tell a story about an unsinkable ship that sinks, and it’s very interesting and ironic. Or you can tell a story about Rose and Jack and their tragic love affair, and you have Titanic.

The first one is an interesting historical story, but the second one is about storytelling. Titanic took an epic event (with an ending we already knew) and made it about people. There were 2,223 passengers on the Titanic, but in the end, we cared about two people. Two.

Titanic worked because it established the main characters as people. You cared about them deeply. And when the inevitable end approached, you hoped for their safety, since you knew that at least some people survived the Titanic.

Highly simplified? Sure, but you know that a story about a ship that sinks is only as interesting as the people who survived and those who perished. It’s a people story, not a boat story.

 

Stories Are About People’s Problems

Jack and Rose clearly have a few problems, which is important. Without conflict, there’s really no story. Conflict raises the stakes and makes a story interesting.

Once we’re invested in the characters, we’re rooting for their survival. We care about the people and want them to survive, fall in love, and share this epic story. For a while there, we think they might just make it.

We know what happens to the ship, which is historically significant. We care about the people on the ship, but not the wealthy investors who made it.

The only stories that matter are about the people trying to survive. Once the characters are established, then the conflicts and resolution matter. If you set up a character, establish what they want, and create conflict, you have the basic building blocks of a story. Your reader or viewer will want to know how they resolve the conflicts. This creates tension and interest.

 

Marketing Stories Should Be About Solving People’s Problems

Titanic could have been a fictional film about an epic rescue. A modern Hollywood version might have featured a dramatic, climactic scene where Jack and Rose escape just as the Titanic sinks to a watery grave. With explosions, a smart-aleck kid, and a dog. And more explosions.

Audiences are wired for happy endings. We want the hero to survive. We want to see the villain get proper comeuppance. We want all of the loose ends to be tied up. We like to release endorphins.

In an ultramodern version, the hero might save the day in a Dodge Hellcat. We’d be okay with that and would even forgive the product placement if it worked for the story.

 

What It Means for Pharma Marketers

If Titanic teaches us anything, it’s that you can find a compelling, relatable story almost anywhere. Great writing, acting, and directing made you care about the people and their problems. You knew exactly what happened with the Titanic voyage, and yet you stuck around for 194 minutes to see how the STORY ended.

In pharma, we are dealing with life and death and health and conflict and resolution and hope and everything else that makes a great story. It’s all right there. From the scientist who toiled in a lab to create a new molecule to the patient with an untreatable disease. The clinical trials and the brave patients with nothing to lose. It’s the doctor willing to try a new drug on a desperate patient. Every step of the process has a dramatic story about people who overcome challenges to reach a goal.

It makes that little pill sitting in the palm of your hand more than just a brand. It highlights will, determination, and effort to bring this pill to market—something of a modern miracle.

Pharma marketers who want to tell a compelling marketing story are often skipping over the really interesting parts of storytelling. We spend so much time talking about the facts that we forget sometimes to talk about what it means to people. Behind every treatment, there are hundreds of amazing human stories that will never be told.

We are fortunate to be in a business where we actually get to help people. The products and solutions that we represent can change lives or even save lives. You are part of a chain of important people who are aligned to get the right treatments in the hands of someone very important. Every patient matters to someone, and we’re part of a treatment that matters deeply to them personally.

We have a responsibility to accurately explain how our drugs work, how they are dosed, and what kinds of side effects patients can expect. We’re very good at fact-based communications. There’s always a need for clear articulation of features and benefits, and we’ll never stop doing that.

But we are in the health-behavior business. We’re in an industry where early diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. We can tell stories that will help motivate people to talk to a healthcare professional, learn about their treatments, and be compliant with their doctors’ recommendations. Facts and figures may work for some patients, but for others, not so much. If straight ol’ facts motivated people, we’d have 100% compliance.

Storytelling is the bridge from understanding to motivation. It’s the missing link between feeling a lump and seeing a doctor. It’s the difference between taking medication as prescribed and taking a drug holiday.

We know great stories and can learn how to be more effective storytellers. But we need to go beyond the label…to dig deeper to show how real people with real problems are being helped by our brands. We don’t even need to create fictional characters. We have patients, caregivers, doctors, researchers right in front of us, ready to tell their story.

Not too long ago, our team had the opportunity to interview the scientists who have dedicated their careers to cure cancer. These are top researchers with multiple degrees, and they could work anywhere in the world. Yet, they have devoted their considerable brain power to looking for a cure to cancer. It was amazing to sit with them and hear their personal stories. These scientists could do almost anything with their careers, yet something deeply personal brought them to the research bench in an attempt to cure cancer.

Every one of those scientists has a fascinating personal story that fuels their professional passion. As readers and viewers, we love stories about dedication, focus, and vision. We devour these “genius who changed the world” stories, yet we rarely articulate them as part of the brand story. These behind-the-scenes stories should be part of the unique brand narrative.

If you love your brand, and you know that you do, find the stories that matter. There are amazing, true stories on both sides of the exam table. Introduce the world to these people and help them tell their stories. If they are alive today because of your brand, let them tell their own story. We will care, we will be motivated, and we will take action.

Great stories have started revolutions and toppled governments. Stories have inspired people to take action, to pursue their dreams, or to just improve their own lives. Storytelling is at the root of our human experience.

Behavior is not static. It can be changed, but we need to give people motivation. Great storytellers know how to create characters, articulate their motivation, and put them into a conflict where they must make a decision.

Health behavior is not static either. We can find the stories that will touch people on an emotional level, engage them, and get them to take action. And that may be something as simple as taking your prescription every day.

It’s time to start telling better stories. Lives depend on it.

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Also posted in behavior change, content marketing, Content Strategy, Creativity, Culture, Healthcare Communications | Tagged | 2 Responses