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The convergence of rare disease, digital communications, and pharmaceutical marketing communications

Disciplined Creativitity

Posted by | 5:30pm on Friday, June 26, 2009

The real opportunity for creativity lies in the still unchartered waters of social media for pharma.  

Disciplined creativity is often, as Ed McCabe said years ago, the last remaining legal means you have to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.

In a recent article in Advertising Age titled Pharma Marketing is Embarrassing, Marc Brownstein laments the lack of creativity in pharma advertising as it appears on TV that he sees with his children. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with my children hearing about the dangerous side effects of taking drugs (!). Drugs are powerful, and I don’t think people should take drugs unless they need them. Maybe that’s the legacy of having a doctor/scientist for a father, but frank discussions about how the human body works don’t bother me.

I agree with one of the comments from ‘Agency of One’ about the lack of creativity in pharma advertising:

“I think everyone is missing the forest for the trees. Pharma advertising is not lacking creativity. MOST advertising is lacking creativity. And by creativity, I mean “advertising creativity” which is creativity used for a business purpose… Focus on making money by doing work your clients will continually buy. And trust me, they won’t continually buy it if it is not working. And if it is working, it is by definition good. (And perhaps by David Ogilvy’s definition, is therefore creative.)”

The real opportunity for creativity lies in the still unchartered waters of social media for pharma. (And there are indeed ways to use it to its full potential while still adhering to all the proper guidelines. That’s part of the creativity.)

This is where we can really connect with people who are desperate to be connected with — people who are actively seeking information, care, and support that they may not be finding anywhere else.

Regulatory Barriers

Regulatory guidelines don’t allow us in pharma to directly participate in social media conversations. But that doesn’t mean pharma can’t have a place at the table. Pharma brands that treat rare disorders are usually on the same side of the table with patients in trying to gather communities around a common cause.  That might include better education to support adherence, a stronger voice in congress to support insurance payments, or a smoother path to new therapies through the FDA. As long as pharma is transparent in its intentions and provides good value to the community, they can play a role without actually joining the conversation.

Shareworthyness (What is Most Important to Your Audience)

In order to influence the conversations happening around a specific disease community and drive brand preference, pharma needs to create shareworthy content — content that patients find valuable enough to share. And to understand what a community finds shareworthy, marketers need to do four things:

  • Listen and Learn. Gain knowledge from patient bloggers and online conversations. Everything from what is most important to them to how they refer to themselves.
  • Orient Around your Patient’s Journey. Address their needs directly at every stage.  What is most important before they are diagnosed, when they are newly on treatment, when they have life changes, or when they have an adverse event.
  • Educate, Don’t Sell. The value you bring to the patients is how they will measure their brand experience.  It’s about them, not you and your brand.
  • Measure and Analyze.  It’s not enough to just measure your traffic anymore.  You need to really analyze the changing conversations and build that into your content strategy.

Patients want to be armed with information to intelligently discuss their problem with their doctor. If we provide these people shareworthy information with compassion, honesty, integrity, and tools of empowerment, they themselves will start spreading the word for us.

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About Wendy White

Since founding Siren Interactive in 1999, Wendy has been recognized as a thought leader at the intersection of niche pharma brands, patient empowerment and online marketing. Her vision for how the internet can facilitate interactions and provide crucial information that patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers previously struggled to find has propelled Siren to the forefront of relationship marketing for rare disorder therapies.

View other posts from Wendy

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    26 June 2009 at 11:06pm
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  • marietta baglieri

    Now that’s an excellent post .. All four of the key points are important but what caught me was:

    Listening .. the long forgotten art of taking the trouble to utilize 2 ears and 1 mouth, and consider the ratio!

    Educate, don’t sell .. it’s really very simple .. it’s easier if they understand it, to make them come to you, rather than forcing it at them when they don’t know what it is!

    Lastly, and most importantly .. the key components to any relationship based on trust: compassion, honesty, integrity .. always have compassion, you can’t be “fairly” honest — you are, or you’re not .. and never, never sacrifice your integrity ..

    Excellent piece ..

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