Latest News

January 20, 2015 Kelly Startzel

Increasingly, patients have become a critical link in the prescribing process. Individuals are taking more responsibility for their own healthcare choices, proactively seeking disease and drug information online and initiating dialogues with their doctors – and it’s having a significant effect on the treatment they receive. A 2014 study published in the Medical Care journal found that “activated” patient requests for drugs had a strong effect on doctors’ treatment decisions; requesting a specific drug doubled (at minimum, depending on the drug) the likelihood that it would be prescribed to the patient. This means that delivering an effective DTC campaign can have a significant impact on the overall understanding and appropriate utilization of a product in market.

While many pharma companies appreciate the importance of connecting with consumers, it can still be difficult to develop a breakthrough message that cuts through the clutter in the market. So how do you identify an idea or execution that will make people sit up and listen?

For starters, the five recommendations below can help you approach the problem differently and begin to drive more successful DTC campaigns. They can also help bolster your business case for launching or refreshing a DTC campaign.

 1.  Explore a wide range of ideas efficiently.

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them,” Thomas Edison famously quipped. Unfortunately, traditional market research – qualitative interviews and the “test-tweak-retest” process – makes exploring a wide range of ideas costly, time-consuming and practically impossible. Therefore, companies are inclined to play it safe, and the chances of identifying a truly breakthrough idea remain low. (While regulation does place restrictions on what can be said, there are still opportunities to develop breakthrough DTC campaigns within the given parameters). New research technologies, such as those which rely on evolutionary algorithms (guided by real-time consumer feedback) to sift through large idea spaces efficiently, are allowing marketers to explore a wider range of ideas without incurring any additional risk, cost or time delays. Because they’re able to test many more ideas, they’re more likely to identify standout ideas that will deliver superior performance.

 2.  Let consumers decide, really.

Even when companies conduct consumer research, decisions are often made arbitrarily, guided by internal politics or “best guess” assumptions. Research solutions that can explore lots of ideas quantitatively, and which can point to the exact messaging or imagery that resonates well with consumers, remove the guesswork and increase stakeholders’ confidence in the idea.

3.  Measure the right things.

Traditional “ask and tell” research methods often don’t reflect how people will actually behave in the marketplace; much of consumer decision-making is guided by unconscious heuristics or biases, especially as relates to an emotionally charged topic like personal health. So how do you find out how consumers will really respond in the moment of truth?

  • Mirror a real-life scenario by asking the consumer to choose between different alternatives, rather than asking her to react to stimuli in isolation (e.g., which message would make the patient most likely to inquire about the drug, rather than how likely is this message to make the patient inquire about the drug).
  •  Have consumers react to the stimulus holistically, not to separate elements of the stimulus. In reality, we launch campaigns comprised of different elements that work in concert to deliver key information and motivate action. Therefore, it’s critical to present ideas holistically in the testing phase to capture realistic feedback and, ultimately, gain the most accurate insight into what will perform best in the market.

 4.  Deliver actionable insights.

Focus on value-based outcomes by understanding how your campaign is actually likely to perform. In other words, how does stated interest translate to actual patient utilization? How does the campaign benchmark against industry norms? Forecasting is a powerful tool for predicting success. That said, in order to develop a robust business case for funding, make sure to base your forecast on the idea that is truly your best opportunity to succeed.

5.  Optimize the message for the medium.

A review of pharma’s recent ad spend suggests that many companies may be significantly underleveraging digital channels in favor of more traditional media such as television and radio. As patients become increasingly proactive about seeking health information online, companies should consider how their expectations might differ across platforms. For example, a TV ad may be focused on informing those who are at the very beginning of their patient journey about a disease. On the other hand, someone who subscribes to a targeted newsletter or who is seeking specific answers through an online search may have very different information needs. To resonate with a wider range of patients, marketers should match (and optimize) the right message for the medium at hand.

January 20, 2015 Bennie Smith

Technological innovation has changed how people react and connect to each other, how consumers engage and communicate both with and about companies, and how companies think about and use data to engage with consumers. These changes are impacting the Life Science and Health industries in much the same way and require a level of thoughtfulness around harnessing this more personalized approach to patients, physicians, and caregivers.

Personalized Experiences

More so today than ever before, the modern consumer is looking for personalized and tailored experiences when they are engaged online, regardless of channel or screen. This desire goes beyond a favorite site remembering a user ID for sign-in, a mailing list asking for frequency preferences, or seeing a personalized welcome message on a home page. Instead, the pharmaceutical marketer can create an experienced-based environment in which the consumer feels at the center, acknowledged and highly valued. It’s within these experiences that the consumer will engage and connect with the pharmaceutical marketer.

The convergence of “digital” is happening at a rapid pace and is pervasive in all forms across television, radio, video, search, and mobile, and a common thread running across that convergence is custom content. The consumer can find what they want, when they want it, wherever they want it, and engage or interact with it as they consider appropriate.

Consumers are actively searching for information and community, and today that means they are also present in social environments that are not controlled or curated. Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are some of the obvious choices. All social media environments are not the same, and consumers don’t interact with them in the same ways either. The pharmaceutical marketer understands this and tailors engagement efforts to match the strengths of one (e.g., Twitter is an effective broadcast medium) and downplay weakness of another (e.g., YouTube is not particularly interactive).

Consumer Concerns

Often, the consumer is faced with requests for information that may enable the tailored experience they are seeking, but it is not necessarily clear to them how the two are connected.

The pharmaceutical marketer understands that it is not just the overt request for information like “tell us your email address,” but also the passive or unseen tracking that cookies can enable. The pharmaceutical marketer makes the effort to connect the request for information with the value received in the return – the personalized experience – and demonstrates the link between the ask and the result. They should communicate that digital tactics like cookies can capture anonymous but individualized information that enables the marketer to find, communicate, and engage the consumer on their own sites and/or when they are on other websites.

Working with the Chief Privacy Officer, the pharmaceutical marketer should map out a framework incorporating those applicable regulatory obligations to the jurisdiction(s) in which they operate and fold them into the overall engagement strategy.

If part of that strategy is to include content created and customized for consumers on the marketer’s own website(s), it will be essential for the marketer, in cooperation with the Chief Privacy Officer, to formulate a comprehensive point of view about the collection, use, and disclosure of both personal and anonymous data collected about and from the consumer. This point of view should be broadly shared and communicated with relevant internal stakeholders.

As we know, innovation and the rapid pace of change has also created a great number of non-traditional platforms on which we can find and communicate with the consumer in order to provide those personalized experiences. Unfortunately, the regulatory framework may be incomplete or silent on critical issues of compliance for the pharmaceutical marketer when engaging with these platforms. As a result, there is a need to develop internal, key principles that can form the basis of a self-regulatory approach based on accuracy, transparency, and accountability. There may be others given specific circumstances or objectives, but these three represent a good foundation.

At first glance, it may seem a daunting task to create meaningful engagement with consumers in this time of change and choice. No longer bound by the old model of one size fits all, the consumer is using the tools on their desktops and in their hands to find, curate, and connect with each other, content, and brands. Marketers recognize this and view opportunity where others see risk and challenges, and are ultimately rewarded with strong, trust-driven customer relationships.

83% of consumers expect marketers to know them as they interact across channels and devices, as reported by the Neustar-MMA Mobile Marketers Insight Study, Oct. 2013. This is a real challenge to marketers in general and to pharmaceutical marketers in particular. Today’s pharmaceutical marketer meets that challenge by spending increased time, thinking, testing, and launching initiatives to form the experiences sought after by the consumer by bringing the content to life.

January 20, 2015 Jim Joseph

We just recently released a global study on Brand Authenticity here at Cohn & Wolfe that shed a great deal of light on how consumers perceive brand activity and what is important to them. I have to say, we were a little surprised. People from all around the world told us that they care much more about a brand’s behavior than they do about a brand’s products. They care much more about what a brand does than how a product performs.

Say what?

In fact, coming out of the Authentic Brands Study we uncovered seven core pillars or behaviors of any authentic brand:

  • Communicating honestly about products and services
  • Acting with integrity at all times
  • Communicating honestly about environmental impact and sustainability measures
  • Being clear about and true to beliefs
  • Being open and honest about partners and suppliers
  • Standing for more than just making money
  • Having a relevant and engaging story

These are all behaviors that build a brand’s authenticity, creating an open and honest dialogue with consumers. These are all behaviors that demonstrate a great deal of respect for those around you, including your customers.

If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Product benefits can be obtained from a number of brands within any given category, so it’s the branding that differentiates them from each other. It’s the brand that consumers choose, not so much the product. It’s the brand’s behaviors that people notice and share.

How is any of this relevant to healthcare companies and brands? Brand Authenticity is probably even more important in healthcare than virtually any other industry. In healthcare, we are without a doubt seeking “respect” when it comes to our activities. As healthcare providers we in turn must also show respect in order to be embraced and respected by our constituents.

How do we get there? Let our Authentic Brands study guide us on how to provide information, get personal, and show compassion.

Provide Information

As people become more responsible and accountable for their own healthcare, “honest communication” becomes paramount. Patients and patient groups are becoming more and more motivated and in some cases vigilant in finding accurate information, uncovering truths, and surfing through sales information.

As a result, it’s important for healthcare brands to be completely forthcoming with information, and to provide more content than is perhaps necessary to help consumers make their own decisions. Provide important information in a way that is easy to navigate and understand, without covering up what’s truly valuable. Issues like costs, side effects, and side-by-side comparisons should be presented objectively and honestly, not buried in a lot of lingo to better “sell” one particular product. Let the consumer make the decision based on complete information that is well presented, showing that you respect their decision. They will respect the company in return.

Get Personal

As we see a growing number of consumers participate in different ways to measure, track, and analyze their own health, it’s putting the burden on healthcare brands to help them turn that personal information into action… authentic action that will truly add value to their lives, not just sell another drug. As wearable devices and data portals take on more and more prevalence, consumers are going to turn to those brands that help them the most. But remember that all of that personal information must be treated with respect. 80% of the US respondents in our study said that “failure to protect personal information” would make them extremely angry – the highest in the world.

It’s also important to communicate on a personal level. Talk with your consumers, not at them. “Big” doesn’t always mean better in consumers’ minds, in fact only 12% of our study participants said that big companies “generally do what they say they’re going to do.” You should openly and freely communicate your organization’s value systems and invite participation in them. Learn how to communicate on a local level as well as nationally, perhaps using local spokespeople who are a part of the community. Get personal with your consumers and they will understand and respect you even more.

Show Compassion

Our research pointed to a strong link between authenticity and the belief that a company or brand “treats people right,” including employees, customers, and the community… even if it hurts profits. It’s important to demonstrate how your employee, community, and constituent relationships help people. Involve your employees in community activities, and encourage participation with doctors, nurses, and anyone else you affect. Show compassion for what each of those people go through in their lives and show how your commitment to them drives your company policies. Show the respect that people are looking for, at every level.

So many people question whether a pharmaceutical company can possibly be authentic. Our study would answer with a resounding “YES,” provided that the company and brand behave appropriately in this Age of Authenticity.

To review our full report, click here.

January 20, 2015 Todd Kolm

No matter the preparation, resources or rigor applied, there is often an element of marketing that is done in the dark. Even in today’s data-rich, hyper-connected world there is a degree of guesswork resident in the process. Don’t get me wrong, the marketers making these educated guesses are bright people who get it right a lot of the time. But just not all of the time. Absolute confidence in marketing is an elusive beast.

So with that as the backdrop, imagine there is a way to edge ever closer towards absolute confidence, to raise the odds of getting it right, and ultimately elevate the game to a whole other level where there is almost no darkness at all. And what if I told you there are special goggles that could give the DTC marketer “night vision,” the ability to see in the dark?

While unfortunately not available in goggle form, the full promise of the above is nonetheless realizable today. It all begins with patient influencers, the empowered patients who drive the healthcare conversation online. They are bloggers, tweeters, pinners, and leaders of Facebook pages. They are the leaders in their communities, from virtually every health condition.

A study published several years ago by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff and Augie Ray, Online Peer Influence Pyramid, indicated that the top 4% at the apex of the social pyramid are responsible for creating about 80% of all content online. Think about that – it’s an incredible statistic. Those at the top of the pyramid – the “social broadcasters” and “mass influencers,” using Bernoff’s and Ray’s labels – are the influencers.

In the DTC realm, patient influencers are the catalysts of the patient empowerment movement.  WEGO Health, the company where I work, has a network of these 100,000 patient influencers. Each reaches approximately 15,000 health consumers every month. These patient influencers not only speak to their respective communities but are also in the unique position to be able to speak for them. They understand the macro and micro needs of these communities like no one else. They represent an invaluable body of knowledge. Patient influencers want to be heard, and DTC marketers need to hear them.

So what does this all have to do with night vision goggles and where is the real disruptive innovation, you may ask? The answer lies in patient influencer advisory panels.

By assembling a group of 30 or so patient influencers within a given condition area and then strategically accessing their wealth of knowledge on a regular and recurring basis throughout the course of the year –WEGO Health has found a solution that gives marketers ongoing, on-demand access to the patient voice. Patient influencer advisory panels can imbue the marketer with more certainty in knowing what consumers really want and need, to possess a keen understanding of the barriers in their way, and be able to gauge their perspective on solution concepts in their earliest stages of life – all before marketing to them.

An optimized combination of virtual online focus groups and short-form studies are the key to effective advisory panels, giving marketers ongoing, on-demand access to the patient voice. WEGO Health’s virtual focus groups are known as Community Insight Groups and its short-form studies are conducted via its smartphone platform, called Truvio, which enables marketers to quickly capture actionable insights in the form of keypad and often-poignant audio responses. Many companies even alter their marketing strategies based on this valuable patient input.

Seeking the perspectives from these patient influencers throughout the year enables marketers to unearth knowledge gaps, shape strategic and tactical planning, refine programs, and much more. But what it really does is minimize the guesswork in marketing. And it achieves that by enabling markets to see in the dark.

Todd Kolm will delve further into this topic during WEGO Health’s panel discussion with pharma marketers and patient influencers at the 2015 DTC National Conference. This session will address the patient-centricity gap and how DTC can help, in part by reacting to findings from the original study, Online Communities and Patient-Centricity 2015. This February 2015 study, with results presented for the first time ever, will feature both data and recorded verbal responses from respected Patient Community Leaders across multiple therapeutic areas. Don’t miss out – only at the 2015 DTC National Conference, held April 7-9 at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC. Register today!

January 20, 2015 Jim Walker

The innovation books on my shelf are typically written by designers, famous agency wizards, marketing gurus, etc., so it was surprising to see a title, co-authored by a team from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, popup in my Amazon book recommendations. After all, healthcare is rarely (if ever) seen as a hotbed for innovation. Not only was it intriguing to see a healthcare provider launching into the innovation conversation, but its title caught my eye as well –Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast – A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation.

So, what can the authors from Mayo – consisting of Nicholas LaRusso, M.D., Barbara Spurrier, MHA and Gianrico Farrugia, M.D. – teach us about innovation and healthcare marketing? It turns out quite a bit! The book probably contains 115 great tips and ideas that you should explore on your own, but here are the top 15 innovation insights that you can start applying right away.

Before diving in, this brief video tour of the Center for Innovation work environment will help you to put these 15 tips in context:

3 Core Principles
The title of the book –Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast is also Mayo’s trademarked operating philosophy and provides an excellent starting point for effective and powerful innovation.

  • Think Big. First, by thinking big and tackling important problems, the team at Mayo Clinic is able to help insure broad organizational support for its projects.
  • Start Small. Then, by starting small, complex challenges are reduced to manageable size, allowing the team to get immediate traction and tangible results.
  • Move Fast. Finally, by committing to moving fast, hypotheses can be tested quickly and interest in particular innovation projects remains high. The goal is to implement a major prototype of the concept within six months of launch. As Steve Jobs famously told his team at Apple, “Real artists ship.”

While the foundational principles of Think Big, Start Small, and Move Fast help power the overall innovation engine, at the core of Mayo’s innovation process is a deep commitment to the customer/patient experience: “Transformative innovation is an evolutionary form of innovation built on an undivided focus on the customer and customer experience… We constantly ask: Will our actions have the potential to profoundly impact the experience and delivery of health and health care?”

However, as you probably recognize, a mission statement espousing the importance of enhanced customer experience is not particularly unique in the marketing and innovation space. Where Mayo has differentiated itself is in terms of execution and long-term focus to this ideal. To make its vision of innovative patient experience come to life, the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation has followed a carefully sequenced series of iterative steps over 11 years. In other words – building a genuine culture of innovation takes sustained effort over time, especially in healthcare.

To achieve this success, Mayo has narrowed in on “4 Habits for Gaining Deep Customer Insights” and “8 Executional Disciplines for Innovation.” Together, this innovation framework has helped it not only drive innovative programs throughout the Mayo Clinic, but also become innovation thought-leaders in its own right.

4 Habits for Gaining Deep Customer Insights

Customer understanding must go beyond traditional surveys and focus groups and identify the explicit, tacit, and latent needs. According to the authors, “the best innovations start by making the customer observations and doing the synthesis yourself.” This commitment to first-hand customer insight is realized through a number of customer-centric organizational habits.

  • Scanning and Framing. By constantly looking at broad trends – both within healthcare, as well as in a range of other industries, Mayo is able to uncover unique insights about the customer and then align those insights with its core strategies.
  • Experimenting. By constantly experimenting and measuring results, a clearer understanding of true user needs emerges, and allows concepts to be redefining.
  • Prototyping. A culture of prototypes helps to crystallize ideas and validate tangible models through a series of iterations.
  • Implementing. The end goal of broad implementation is kept clearly in mind. Solutions and innovations need to be scalable in a real-world context, not just in a small test.

8 Executional Disciplines for Innovation

In addition to these habits for delivering deep customer insights, Mayo has instituted a range of disciplines for building a culture that consistently delivers high levels of innovation.

  • Build a discipline of innovation. The Center for Innovation’s mantra about innovation is to “Build it, live it, champion it throughout the organization.” Commitment to innovation cannot just be lip service. True marketing innovation takes discipline and structure. The organization of the marketing innovation team is also important – allowing others outside the group to understand what the marketing team is doing, and how they can best align.
  • Recruit a diverse team. At Mayo, engineers, architects, product designers, and anthropologists are aligned with scientists and organizational experts to drive unique perspectives. How diverse is your marketing team? How often do you seek outside perspectives?
  • Embrace creativity and design thinking. For Mayo, failures are expected and tolerated in its pursuit of innovation. This Mayo video discusses their willingness to actually embrace failure!

How risk tolerant is your marketing team? Are you truly embracing creativity, and listening to your customers or just copycatting what other healthcare marketers are doing?

  • Environments matter. Innovative marketing is difficult to create in a cube-farm type of office space. Find a working environment that fosters Silicon Valley-style lab experimentation and collaboration.
  • Co-create with your customers and stakeholders. While it is tempting to “go it alone” with your marketing campaign, have you considered ways to incubate and accelerate you customers’ and stakeholders’ ideas, not just yours?
  • Organize around Big Idea platforms. Marketing innovation needs to address key brand strategic objectives. All projects must fit the big picture and vision.
  • Collaborate inside and outside. Encourage outside participation, partnership, and sponsorship wherever they make sense. In a rapidly changing marketing environment, some of the best campaigns are born from cross-functional, or even cross-industry, collaborations.
  • Consistently share your vision, process, and results. Be visible, and be easy and useful to work with. Marketing innovation cannot happen in a vacuum. Sales, commercial operations, customers, and other stakeholders need to embrace your innovative approach – otherwise your campaign will fall flat.

As you can see, the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation has stepped up to meet the need for healthcare innovation in a big and meaningful way. It has also uncovered innovation principles that can help drive healthcare marketing innovation as well. When you have more time, Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast is well worth reading in detail.