Category: Healthcare Marketing Strategy

Storytelling in a Zoom Fatigued World

Check this out. What you will see is a piece on how pharma needs to work extra hard in 2021 to capture attention. Much of our population suffers from pandemic-induced Zoom fatigue. Virtually everyone is awash in streaming media from hundreds of sources. The result? The bar for attention-grabbing has been raised significantly. What to do? Get over using simple graphics and move on to emotion-grabbing “visual storytelling.” Sophisticated cinematography. Speed, clarity, accuracy. These are all boxes that must increasingly be checked if we are to grab our increasingly sophisticated customers’ attention. As this piece points out, the elegance with which a spot is shot is now as important as the strategy underlying the message. 

Bottom Line. BUT. This is not just art for art’s sake. Powerful renditions, it is argued here, draw people into the story, raise emotions, let the viewer experience what the people in the story they are watching are experiencing. 

Gone are the days of “Pop Pop Fizz Fizz, oh what a relief it is” being all you needed to sell Alka Seltzer. 

Long gone! 

Vaccine Shoutouts

Check this out. What you will see is no great surprise. Rather, it is the finding that social media are playing a major role in helping to relieve “vaccine anxiety.” As an example, watch this video. A really creative way of presenting important comparative vaccine efficacy data. No coincidence that all the players are of color, since vaccine anxiety has historically been much higher among minorities. AND. Not unimportant that the actors quickly and humorously deal with the urban legend that the vaccines contain “chips” that permit recipients to be tracked. 

Bottom Line. With community leaders, social media, word of mouth and other forces at work, it is gratifying to see the vaccine anxiety which has bedeviled up to 33% of the U.S. population begin to decrease significantly. As I have already said in several posts and I will set forth again here, “Public Health” and marketing are often two sides of the same coin.  

Value the Visual

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 7.25.06 PM The gentleman pictured above is Rich Angelini. He’s the Creative Director for HYC Health. For a recent article in MM&M, Rich assembled six ad campaigns that “value the visual.” Extremely powerful, hard hitting graphics. Check out the individual campaigns, and take the time to read the narrative descriptions attached to each. I would guess that, like me, you will find that the graphics convey the indicated message extremely well. BUT. I have a question. How do we know what each of these visuals actually accomplishes? Yup, they grab attention. Yup, I bet they win creative awards. But do we look for each of them to increase knowledge? Change attitudes? Induce changes in behavior? Look at them individually. The girl dressed in garbage. Very emotional. Makes me feel sorry for her and others at a similar level of poverty. But does it make me more likely to donate used clothing? We already do that. How well would it work in causing this kind of behavior in somebody that doesn’t? Dunno! And the Chantix advertisement. I am guessing (!) that this might resonate well with smokers whose efforts at smoking cessation have been stymied. It might even make them request a Chantix prescription from their doctors, which of course is the behavior desired. Bottom Line. You get the point. Once you have appreciated each of these graphics for its creativity, ponder what you think it is designed to do, and take your best guess as to how likely it is to accomplish that goal.  And that, folks, is the way you should be looking at “strong” visuals from now on. 

Choice Architecture

Nudge Yes, you have a good memory. You remember that I flashed the book cover pictured above a few weeks ago, gave a couple of examples that I had already gleaned from the book about how to structure situations to get people to make good choices, and suggested you download the Kindle version and read it. I did, and I am now ready to report to you that this book is a must read! Go grab it from Amazon now and get to work. You will learn all of the basics of choice architecture. Like, too many choices make for bad decisions. And which choice is the default is tremendously important in determining what choice is made. AND. In case you want ongoing updates to this book that was last revised several years ago, you can make your way to the page where readers get to share their own nudges. Bottom Line. In healthcare marketing, we think a lot about convincing people to make desirable choices, and don’t spend a heck of a lot of time worrying about how to make it simpler/more likely for them to make these choices. Choice Architecture is a distinct and useful body of knowledge that is highly relevant to what we do for a living. Go and learn about it, and maybe even run a seminar on Choice Architecture to bring your colleagues up to speed on its important principles.

Spit Kit Coming Soon to a Pharmacy Near You???

23andme Interesting. Up until now, you had to order your 23andMe sample kit from the company and wait for it to arrive before you could provide a saliva sample for genotyping. But, according to this article, you may soon be able to pick up your “spit kit” at your local Walgreens. Why does this article pique my interest? I’m thinking that partnerships and distribution channels will become increasingly important in the future of health care. Pick the right strategic combination for your product and you can win big. Screw up these choices and you can go down the tubes pretty quickly. But how does one evaluate such choices? Here, my initial thinking is that by putting their kits on shelves, 23andMe can appeal to those people (like me!) who are sort of “fire, ready, aim.” You know, us folk who like immediate gratification and who might not take the “extra step” of having to order the kit and wait for it to arrive. BUT. How about the impact of their using this distribution channel on the popular perception of the science behind the product? Does the pharmacy environment enhance it, or does the “rack job” display detract from it? Bottom Line. Time will tell. Let’s see what we can learn from this!  

…. Our Industry Needs To Get Real

2016 Check out this piece from a publication focused on the advertising industry. What you will see here is what you might expect. In an era where it is increasingly possible for consumers to dodge commercials and advertisements, marketers will need to get over the notion that enough “noise” will sell product. Increasingly, nobody is listening. The value added here, however, is the data-supported pronouncement that people are happier when they spend their money on buying experiences instead of “stuff.” Bottom Line. Thought question. How do those two paragraphs fit together to provide marketers with a clue as to how they should proceed?

It’s Amazing!

AMA A recent news release from the American Medical Association reports that at an interim meeting, participating physicians voted to push for a ban on the Direct–To-Consumer advertising of prescription medications. Bottom Line. You’re right. That’s not amazing at all. Two things here are amazing, however. First, that it took until 2015 for the docs to get on this high horse. DTC has been around for decades. Second, that the physicians couched their objections to DTC in terms of the impact that advertising has on drug costs, rather than noting the absurdity of recruiting patients to beg their doctors for specific cardiovascular products, psychotropic drugs, etc. In any event, while it is interesting that the ban passed the AMA, there are still a lot of interests vested in keeping DTC going at its current, ridiculously high level. What happens next? Stay tuned!


Seth Godin Sort of amazing, really. Seth Godin has been writing about Permission Marketing for 15 years now, and advertisers are still spending gazillions of dollars a year buying advertising time and space for jingles and noise. BUT. As Seth notes in this blog, technology is increasingly making it possible, even effortless, to block out ads in many media. “Fast forwarding” past commercials. Refusing to see Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives. And yes, patients are doing it, doctors are doing it, everybody is doing it. Bottom Line. Note the fundamental Permission Marketing “building blocks” that Seth restates at the end of the blog. Heeding these words of wisdom will increasingly be what it takes to avoid getting “blocked.” Importantly, please note that these building blocks haven’t changed in the past 15 years that Seth has been writing about Permission Marketing and I have been talking about his writings. More importantly, note that these principles are not likely to change in the next 15 years either. I guess marketers may as well get used to these principles and begin to act as if these building blocks are gospel. They are!

Creating A Condition To Sell A Drug

Journal of Medical Ethics In pharmaceutical marketing, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Over the years, many pharmaceutical companies have spent millions of dollars to have their advertising agencies invent a disease, and then using CME programs to convince doctors that the disease actually exists, and should be actively diagnosed and treated in their practices. Check out this recent example, which may see “hypoactive sexual desire disorder,” a “condition” arguably created to prepare physicians to write Addyi with both fists for women not wanting to initiate sex every night, go down as the gold standard of this marketing approach. Note the key elements here. Create the condition, make it easy to diagnose, make it seem politically incorrect not to be treating the condition (After all, men have long had Viagra for “ED”!!!), etc. Bottom Line. On the other hand, Addyi may well get trumped on this one. Thomas Szasz, for example, has long argued that most of Psychiatry is based on treating trumped up “conditions.” To really understand the art of creating “disorders” and using the results to sell drugs, you might like to check out his seminal work, The Medicalization of Everyday Life. How much longer will the pharmaceutical industry be able to get away with using this marketing approach? Probably for quite a while before the FDA or some other regulatory body shuts it down. BUT. Let’s see how many insurers will pay for the products that the creation of these disorders is designed to sell!

Pediatric Digital Health???

Pediatirc Let’s face it. When we say “Digital Health,” we usually are talking about neurotic adults with smartphones. But what about the kids? An upcoming conference is going to focus on them.  More specifically, the “impactpediatric health pitch competition” will allow entrepreneurs with startup ideas in this space to make their case for investments in front of four leading U.S. children’s hospitals. Here are some finalists. Go check it out, including the sponsors and the meeting context in which it is being held. Bottom Line. Duh! I hadn’t previously thought much about the different market segments for Digital Health. Kids are sure different enough in this regard to constitute their own segment.  But how many other meaningful segments are there? Old/Young? Men/Women? Do we segment by race? By socio-economic status?  Market segmentation is always important. How will it work in Digital Health?