4 Key Takeaways From the OCHWW Marketing Summit 2015

Martha CMO Blog2_ED

Behind the scenes look at OCHWW’s Innovation Lab

The OCHWW Marketing Summit took place on September 24, when attendees from all over the world came together to discuss marketing in the age of person-centric healthcare. Throughout the day, speakers from the pharmaceutical and technology industries echoed four main themes surrounding the state of healthcare today: innovation, personalized medicine, social healthcare, and the vast amounts of health data being generated every day.

Innovation must play a larger role in healthcare organizations going forward. According to Chris Halsall of OgilvyRED, it cannot just be a hobby of an organization, it must be the core. As Ryan Olohan from Google Health puts it, “Technology comes at us like a train—you’ve got to innovate or get run over.” Innovation in healthcare comes down to courage, and we must change the culture of healthcare organizations to embrace digital innovation.

Personalized medicine
Personalized medicine is the intersection between biology and technology. With today’s technology, we have the tools to get the full picture of the patient—molecular, clinical, and demographic, according to Niven Narain of Berg Health. With that, we can deliver personalized precision medicine, giving the right patient the right drug at the right time to lead to better health outcomes. Jeff Arnold of Sharecare states that this ultra-personalization of healthcare will empower consumers to take control of their own health.

Social healthcare
Health is the most personal thing there is, but as it stands today, healthcare is the least personal. One of the most significant benefits of technology is facilitating human connection in healthcare. Health is now social, and patients are talking about your pharma brand whether you are part of the conversation or not. Be part of the conversation.

Health data
Vast amounts of health data are being generated every day, and we need a system to parse it to make it useful, according to Bill Evans of IBM Watson Health. David Davenport-Firth of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide states that patients can’t make health decisions if they don’t understand their health data. Cognitive systems like Watson can democratize health insights to better patients’ lives, and responsive and dynamic representations of health data can personalize and humanize patients, leading to better health outcomes.

Healthcare is undergoing a transformation unlike any it’s seen before. Looking to the future, healthcare organizations must be disruptive by embracing innovation and putting patients at the center of everything that they do.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, agency life, Analytics, behavior change, Branding, Creativity, Culture, Data, Design, Digital, Digital Advertising, Global Marketing, Great Ideas, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Wearable Health Technology | Leave a comment

Illuminate the Customer Journey With Data and Analytics

Journey Blog Image_EDSmart integration of data can now help identify and predict customer location and movement along the customer journey continuum. Mapping the customer journey is a vital planning tool.

Mapping out customer journeys is a well-established phase of communications planning. At Ogilvy, this represents the third step in the well-regarded planning platform: FUSION. The customer journey identifies the different phases customers migrate through toward a desired behavioral change destination. The journey phase will differ in each planning effort as the preferred consumer action and marketing objective are all project specific.

Improved understanding of the different stages customers should pass through en route to the ultimate desired location helps planners marshal the right channels, messages, and content to aid the customers along their journey.

The construct around the journey-based plan addresses key questions such as:

• What is our ideal behavioral perception for audiences in a specific stage?
• What are the perceptual challenges that may hinder getting our audience to think in a particular way?
• What are the positive levers that can enhance the likelihood of our audience to respond in a desired manner?
• How do we then move our consumers to the journey’s next phase?
• What channels do we deploy, and at what times, to get our key messages across our audience?

When these are well identified, the output helps make the ubiquitous, overused, but still aspirational goal of “right message, right channel, at the right time, to the right audience,” a possibility.

The customer journey can be complex: recent studies such as McKinsey’s The Consumer Decision Journey have shown that the customer journey has grown more complex. As I have alluded to in my previous article, The Marketing Funnel is Not Dead: A Website Analogy, customers may take several complex detours, but they still have to pass through well-defined phases to proceed with their conversion. The typical phases of this journey start with brand or message awareness and proceed to stimulating interest, trial, usage, commitment, and advocacy. Customers may get caught up in a phase, or proceed rapidly through phases, or even recede at times. However, you generally need to be aware of a product before you can consider using it.

The journey currently produces robust and well laid-out plans to engage and usher consumers on the behavioral change voyage. The next step is to map real customers to each phase and deliver plans against these customers to improve the journey. Before consumer-mapping knowledge, marketers have applied satisfactory approaches including contextual marketing, which aligns messages to media content as a proxy for consumer awareness and the journey phase. Sequential messaging is another approach without mapping knowledge. This approach starts with early-phase messaging and shifts to later-stage messaging based on average phrase duration. Lastly, one could always deliver broad messages, with the hope and expectation that the audience will self-select, and engage with the messages most applicable to their journey. However, the utilization of consumer-mapping information and understanding which individuals are in each phase are preferred.

The availability of customer-level data and the ease of pooling previously unconnected data are making customer mapping a reality. Now we can identify when a customer traverses a specific phase of the journey so that we can execute the well laid-out communication plan against these customers. Data can now help us to answer questions such as who are these customers. What is the likelihood that they will try the product? How quickly will they progress along the journey? How likely are they to become a highly valuable customer? Once the customer journey has been identified, planners and analysts can identify the attributes and traceable behavioral markers that correspond to each phase. Analysts then pool together vast available customer-level data, create new variables as needed, recommend new proxy measures, and categorize customers into their corresponding phase. This is the essence of marketing smart: integrating consumer mapping (segmentation) and targeting with planning from the start.

We recently categorized healthcare professionals (HCPs) into key journey phases using combined data including scripting volume (current value), category share (opportunity), and trajectory of prescription change over time (momentum), as well as other behavioral and attitudinal markers (attributes). We identified “the trialists” as customers who have a low volume of recent activities, or have remained static in their usage patterns. “Adopters” are users on an upward momentum who overindex on usage, while “the passionate advocates” have a large volume of usage and are still increasing their volume. The passionate advocates typically index well in terms of the category’s brand share. Since we can put a face to every target HCP within the customer journey’s important stages, allows us to map the communication plan, as well as behavioral change targets, to specific customers.

A journey infused with data makes evaluating and optimizing marketing effectiveness easier. Goals and targets should be set with behavioral outcome objectives for each customer segment, which makes tracking, assessment, and adjustment more feasible. When customers traverse into the journey’s next phase, the speed and momentum can be quantified, and the effect of channels and messages can be realized. A/B testing experiments are also beneficial to identify and amplify drivers (eg, tactics, content, execution) that have proven effective in engaging and moving customers into the next phase.

In conclusion, data, and the attendant analysis, can enhance our understanding of audiences along the customer journey, thereby enhancing more relevant communication, engagement, and desired responses from our customers. Marketers who put the customer-mapping capability to better use will reap the results of increased customer velocity along the journey, better customer experience with the brand, and higher value per customer.

1 http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/the_consumer_decision_journey
2 https://digitaliy.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/the-marketing-funnel-is-not-dead-a-website-analogy/

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, Analytics, behavior change, Data, Design, Digital, Healthcare Communications, Physician Communications, Strategy, Technology | Leave a comment

A Case Study: Unlearning

Blog 6.5.15resized

“Fail, fail again, fail better.” Samuel Beckett

I have this fear of making mistakes.

I find that I’m always second-guessing and triple-checking myself in most things I do because of that fear. When I do end up making a mistake, I find that I spend about 5 minutes scolding myself and wondering how it could have all been avoided. Let me just say that I find about 10 different ways to answer that question.

But isn’t making mistakes a part of life?

Yes. Everyone makes mistakes in life but it is how you bounce back from those mistakes that defines you. I recently listened to a podcast where the focus was on learning and unlearning. To “unlearn” means to let go of what you have already learned or acquired. To unlearn, you have to be open to letting go of what has been pushed on you for so long, pressing the pause button, and relearning all over again—but this time, the right way for you.

After some research, I decided that the time was right for me to start unlearning a few things—therein began my month of renewing my mind. Here is one thing I’ve “unlearned” thus far:

1. All mistakes are bad.

I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review about “The Wisdom of Deliberate Mistakes.” Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Robert E. Gunther, the authors of the article, state that “the resistance to making mistakes runs deep, creating traps in thinking and decision making”—a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. I believe the No. 1 thing that gets in the way of us being our best creatively is fear. I am learning to call my mistakes “experiments.” We live in a world of trial and error, and sometimes the greatest things can come out of simple experiments. As a wise person once told me, “It’s all about where the creative work is taking you and not where you are trying to take it.”

I have come to believe that in our line of work, especially in the creative department, we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Embrace it because some of the greatest innovations have come from just the simplest mistakes. Don’t believe me? Take some time and research how one of the antibiotics widely used today—penicillin—was created.

I’m still on my journey of unlearning, and if you would like to learn a little bit more, feel free to reach out!

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, behavior change, Creativity, Education, Experiment, Great Ideas, Innovate, leadership, Learning, Mistakes, Personal Reflections, Self-monitoring, Unlearning | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, Branding, Digital, Digital Advertising, Direct-to-Consumer, Healthcare Communications, Media, Pharmaceutical, Public Relations, Social Media, Strategy, Technology | Leave a comment

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.


Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Branding, Creativity, Culture, Design, Great Ideas, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Media | 1 Response

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.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in agency life, Branding, Creativity, Culture, Design, Great Ideas, Networking, Partnerships, positioning, Strategy | Tagged | Leave a comment

Exploring the Programmatic Opportunity in Healthcare Professional Media

JS Blog2You don’t have to be an expert in the intricacies of programmatic media buying to understand the rapid adoption of this latest innovation in the online advertising space. According to a recent AOL survey, 76% of advertisers buy display banners via programmatic across all industries and an estimated 9.5% of the total online media investment is being bought programmatically (WFA Survey, Aug 2014). Quite simply, large-scale advertisers have realized many benefits. Recognizing the potential, Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Media first started offering the option to our medical advertising clients back in 2012 via our in-house Demand Side Platform (DSP) technology. Four years later, we review the fundamentals of the technology and the potential benefits to professional medical advertisers, while discussing the unique market conditions our industry faces that have hindered adoption. Ultimately, we ask, “Is programmatic buying right for advertisers looking to reach busy medical professionals?”

What Is Programmatic Buying?

Making banner buys programmatic simply means automating the process via a “machine” called a Demand Side Platform (DSP). Banner buys can be programmatic with or without the element of bidding (real-time bidding, or RTB), in which case two or more advertisers compete simultaneously for the same impression, with the win going to the highest bidder. The “machine” or technology not only automates the buying process, it analyzes first- and third-party data feeds to define custom audiences and then finds these targets as they move throughout the web via banner impressions available through ad exchanges. The DSP is a comprehensive solution that assists buyers by managing data, inventory and bids.

What Is the Opportunity?

The immediate opportunity for industry is to exponentially increase brand exposure and reduce costs by targeting healthcare professionals as they move across the web, beyond pure play medical sites such as Medscape and MedPageToday. The professional medical media sector continues to rely primarily on the direct 1:1, agency: publisher buying model. Given that most medical sites have a limited supply of inventory, banner CPMs are high, often averaging over $100.00 ($250.00-$350.00 for targeted banners) and premium publishers sell out of annual inventory very quickly. The DSP model solves the inventory supply problem and simultaneously yields cost-efficiency gains. With the ability to serve banners across the web to a qualified audience, we have realized CPMs downward of $20.00.

What Are the Challenges?

In the highly regulated pharma sector, we can expect to encounter challenges with the prospect of reaching a physician on ESPN.com or other nonclinical environment. Privacy concerns have been paramount but not insurmountable. Many leading pharma and medical publishers have revisited registration and opt-in language on their websites in order to broaden the use of captured data. Even when site categories are tightly constricted to news, weather and travel sites, control over ad placement and content adjacency may be compromised, which can lead to concerns for brand safety. Additionally, regulatory teams remain apprehensive around serving HCP-targeted creative on consumer-centric, nonmedical sites.

If the DSP only tapped into medical inventory, these challenges could be better addressed. However, the fundamentals of programmatic buying would be turned upside down, negating many of the benefits:

  • Scale: Inventory on medical sites is limited and finite.
  • Quality: As the stewards of physician member/user data, premium healthcare publishers such as medical societies will not relinquish inventory to an exchange.
  • Efficiency: CPMs could easily surge to over $400.00 to reach the most productive physicians.
  • Demand: There is a definite cap on what professional media buyers are willing to pay for banners as a tactic—regardless of who could potentially see the ad.

Our Viewpoint

In order to realize the efficiencies of programmatic buying against a professional medical audience, advertisers must work with a partner that can tap into large-scale general market ad exchanges while validating targets on the physician level. This would provide the inventory scale needed to drive CPMs down but ensure a professional message is delivered to an appropriate audience.

Despite ongoing buzz around the launch of an industry-specific programmatic buying platform whereby HCP publishers would exclusively place inventory they are willing to sell via automation with a single media buying agency, the concept has not yet been realized. Full-service media agencies have programmatic capabilities, and given that quality, transparency and neutrality would be compromised in such a scenario, there seems little incentive for media buyers at large to work through a third-party media buying agency. The key questions:  How would advertisers be assured they had a fair bid for the most premium inventory, and how would optimizations across multiple campaigns be neutrally managed, given the size of the audience?

As discussed, retargeting professionals strictly on medical sites has some challenges. Even so, medical publishers willing to try programmatic selling on their sites should continue to work directly with all media agencies, but offer programmatic direct deals. This type of transaction closely mirrors a direct 1:1 digital sale since the inventory and pricing are negotiated and guaranteed. However, elements of the buy are automated from the RFP through campaign management. Neutrality, quality, control and transparency would remain intact, as media buyers would not be required to buy via a third-party agency and the publishers could maintain control over ad messaging, placement and user data on their sites.

There is certainly room in the medical media sector to innovate. But given the unique characteristics of our market, going programmatic may not translate into greater banner revenue for medical publishers if demand is weak and advertisers are not willing to participate due to inflated CPMs. Specialized medical publishers would be better served to innovate offerings beyond banner advertising—lead generation, native advertising, and real-time dynamic content opportunities are just a few that are long overdue.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, Design, Digital, Digital Advertising, Healthcare Communications, Media, Media Placement | Tagged | Leave a comment

FDA Social Media Draft Guidance Released June 2014

fdaLeading up to its final guidance to be released in July 2014, the FDA has released draft guidance on how pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers should interact with social media platforms with regard to fair balance and brand messaging. The first part of the recently released recommendations is focused on how companies post advertising and promotional messages to Internet and social media platforms with character space  limitations, such as Twitter and Google Sitelinks. The second part of the recommendations addresses how pharmaceutical and medical device companies may correct independent third-party misinformation about their brands online. While this guidance is recommended and not required, it will be beneficial for pharmaceutical companies to adopt the FDA recommendations going forward.

A brief review of the FDA recommendations is listed below, along with suggestions for practical implementation.

Internet and social media platforms with character space limitations

In its draft guidance Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations—Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices, the FDA outlines its recommendations for promotion of brand and product information using Twitter and other character-space-limited communications, such as Google Sitelinks. The recommendations are direct and seek to include fair balance in each individual communication.

The most salient points are as follows:

  • Reminder communications, which call attention to the name of a product but do not make claims, are exempt from this guidance
  • The full indication must be used when making claims in a communication
  • Benefit information should be accompanied by risk information within each individual communication
  • The content of risk information presented should, at a minimum, include the most serious risks associated with the product
  • A direct link to a more complete discussion of risk information about the product must be included in the communication

While a link to the ISI is adequate in such communications, the FDA further recommends that companies develop landing pages devoted exclusively to the communication of risk information about their products (e.g., www.product.com/risk). The format for the URL and landing page should clearly communicate that the destination will explain the risks associated with the product.

Many social media tools automatically use link shorteners to keep within the character space limitations of the communications. While the FDA does not directly oppose the use of shorteners, it recommends that the resulting URL denote to the user that the landing page contains risk information. (For example, prod.uct/risk clearly communicates that the destination is about risk.) Another solution to character space limitations is for the company to register shorter domain names that can then redirect to its product sites for use in social media.

One challenge that brands with black box warnings will face following this guidance, especially on Twitter, is in fully communicating risk information within a single tweet. For such brands it will be impossible to communicate all risks in the platform-restricted space; therefore, we recommend against using Twitter as a channel to communicate those products’ indications, benefits, and risks.

The FDA guidance also extends to paid search communications, such as Google Sitelinks. The Sitelinks feature displays up to 6 additional destination URLs for users to choose from when a paid search ad is displayed. In complying with the FDA’s draft guidance, most of the additional destination URLs provided by the brand would link to risk information in an attempt at fair balance, which might portray the product as riskier than it actually is. This might deter some companies from using Sitelinks to promote their products.

Correcting third-party misinformation

The second round of draft guidance from the FDA, Internet/Social Media Platforms: Correcting Independent Third-Party Misinformation About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices, seeks to improve the quality of public health information by allowing companies to correct third-party misinformation that they find online about their products. Again, these are recommendations; it is not required that a company respond to such misinformation, regardless of whether it appears on a company’s own forum or on an independent third-party forum or website.

The FDA defines misinformation as positive or negative representations or implications about a company’s product by an independent third party. There are two types of misinformation: a misrepresentation of the label, which a brand will typically want to correct, and an exaggeration of outcomes, which a brand may be tempted to leave uncorrected. The FDA recommends that companies respond to both types of misinformation.

If a company decides to correct misinformation on a third-party site, it should:

  • Provide corrective information and a link to corrective information
  • Post corrective information alongside the misinformation or refer to the misinformation in its response
  • Limit the scope of the corrective information to be specific to the misinformation, and keep it non-promotional
  • Correct positive misinformation as well as negative misinformation
  • Keep records of corrective interactions

The FDA clearly states that it will not hold a company accountable for an independent third party’s subsequent actions or lack thereof after corrective information has been supplied. Further, companies do not have to continue to monitor the third-party site after information has been corrected.

Going forward

While it is not feasible for a company to monitor all third-party sites for misinformation about its products, creating Google alerts (or similar) will help ensure that it is notified when user-generated content (UGC) about its products is trending. A company can then respond appropriately if they desire. However, consideration must be given to the level of time and effort that legal and regulatory teams must spend reviewing and filing the corrections versus the impact smaller third-party sites and individual bloggers can have on public health information.

Alternately, a company can and should focus its attention to more prominent third-party sites, such as WebMD, Wikipedia, and brand-specific hubs, in their quest to correct misinformation. This will maximize the intention of correcting the message while appropriately weighting the effort.

Overall, the draft guidance marks a significant milestone in the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to keep pace with other industries in the social media space where consumers are increasingly seeking out health information. This guidance has been a long time coming, and now pharmaceutical companies can jump into social media knowing they will be FDA compliant when the final guidance is released.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, content marketing, Digital Advertising, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Milk a Horse

milkIt’s not very often I find myself marveling at a brand’s attempt to “co-opt” an opportunity or marketing “tie-in” to generate awareness and grow their brand. But I’ve really got to give it to GSK and their brilliant tie-in to California Chrome and the Belmont Stakes.

They did not horse around and brilliantly seized the moment for their Breathe Right brand. June is prime allergy season, so for nasal sufferers and excessive snorers, it was a perfect time to raise brand awareness.

The Belmont Stakes, the annual thoroughbred race in New York, was expected to draw in a larger-than-normal crowd due to the media frenzy around California Chrome’s bid to win the Triple Crown. Stir in a little controversy over whether to allow the nasal strips that California Chrome wears, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful opportunity to jump in and make some noise.


Enter GSK. They signed on as an official sponsor of both the Belmont Stakes and California Chrome.  They launched a huge PR effort, including publicity shots of the horse’s owners posing with Breathe Right strips, a new TV ad “Bed Time Stakes” featuring a jockey getting a good night’s sleep thanks to his strips, a social media campaign with tons of online chatter, and distribution of 50,000 samples at the actual event.

GSK took advantage of the 3Ms—Media, Momentum and Multichannel—so frankly whether California Chrome won the Triple Crown or not, they turned up a winner. Seriously, how often would anyone be talking this much about nasal strips? That’s how to milk a horse.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in advertising, Brand Awareness, Branding, Partnerships, Personal Reflections, Public Relations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Patient is a Virtue

sales reps and docsIn the age of WebMD, Everyday Health, and Facebook, consumers are more informed and involved in their health than ever before.  And with social media infiltrating every aspect of their lives, they are now more vocal than ever.  Patients can – and in most cases are willing to – tell you what you want to know about your brand.  Just ask…and listen.  So why is it that some brands fail to take full advantage of tapping into their own customers for insight, ideas, and even inspiration?

We’ve all heard the phrase “typical pharma ad” and as an industry we are guilty of producing far too much of it.  Sometimes it’s driven by regulatory conservatism.  Often it’s a stubborn client who is afraid to push the envelope, while at other times there just isn’t enough budget to upset the status quo.  So we’re forced to pick up some stock photography, reach into our bag of preapproved claims, slap the all-important “pharma swoosh” on the piece, and call it a day.

But is the work resonating with patients?  Is it even being noticed by patients?  In order to make a connection with patients, the marketing needs to tap into what drives them, what worries them, and what will help them take the desired action.  Put simply, they need to see themselves in the marketing.

Market research and reports can obviously give you broad-stroke generalizations about your audience.  But how can you dive deeper into the psyche of your patients?  There are numerous ways you can do this and they don’t require significant investments:

·         Develop and leverage a standing Patient Advisory Board – Recruit patients to participate in an advisory board…and use it!  This is a great channel for bouncing ideas off patients and hearing first-hand about the challenges they face with their condition every day.  These boards can be conducted virtually (although at least one face-to-face meeting a year helps build camaraderie).  Also, be sure to refresh the participants so that you continually get the latest perspectives.

·         Seek input from stakeholders outside of the Brand Team – The Brand Team can sometimes be the furthest removed from the patient base, as they can get bogged down with sales reports and budget meetings; so try to engage those on the front line.  Sales reps often can provide direct feedback from HCPs and office staff on what they see in patients.  Is there an 800 number for you brand?  If so, speak with the customer service reps who field those calls.  What issues do they hear about most often and what questions are they asked most frequently?

·         Establish a patient eCRM program – A CRM program can be simple or complex – but in order to be useful, it must be trackable.  From that you can see firsthand what content is looked at most often and therefore assumed to be of most relevance.  You can also conduct quick surveys or online polls to get insight about your target.

·         Attend events and conferences – Again, this is another opportunity to hear from those on the front line: sales reps, patients, and HCPs.  You can also see, in one fell swoop, what the competition is doing to market themselves.

Nothing I’ve suggested is earth-shattering or groundbreaking, but I do find that these often get overlooked in favor of more complicated (and costly) research.  I happen to work on a well-established drug that was first-to-market in a category that is now undergoing seismic changes.  We needed to defend our turf from new therapies, new dosing formulations, and new administration devices, and we needed to do it with a limited budget.  “Gaining new patients was going to be increasingly difficult,” we thought, “so let’s at least be sure to hold on to the ones we have.”

So we set out last year to develop a campaign unlike anything this brand has seen in its 20+ years of existence.  We needed to reinvent ourselves while remaining true to our heritage and what kept us successful all these years.  We employed all of the tactics I mentioned above to help us paint a clear and vibrant picture of who our patients – our very lifeline – were.  What we learned was that our old marketing reflected misconceptions about what people with this condition were “supposed” to be like.  In no way did we reflect their vibrancy, defiance, and zest for living.  And because of that, our patients felt like the brand was letting them down.  How could we expect them to be advocates for the brand if we weren’t living up to our end of the deal?

The new campaign has just recently launched, so I can’t tell you yet how successful we’ve been at defending our turf.  But what I can say is that the feedback from patients, sales reps and HCPs alike has been overwhelmingly positive.  It is bold and defiant, and goes beyond the standard “talk to your doctor about…” with a rallying cry that conveys our patients’ inner strength.  In other words, it is a clear reflection of them.

So if your brand feels like it’s stagnating or worse yet, losing relevance, don’t panic.  Put your ear to the ground and listen for the voice of the patient – and then make sure it comes through in the work.

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Branding, Creativity, CRM, Data, Efficacy, Great Ideas, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Learning, Pharmaceutical, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment