4 Things Pharma Needs to do to Unlock its Super Powers

June 18, 2016


Reflecting on my first day at the Cannes Lions Health festival, there is a consistent theme across all of the sessions… Yes, pharma can.

It’s no secret that social and digital changed the health landscape. The smart phone will revolutionize healthcare, as much as germ theory and vaccinations did.

Increasingly however, “cyber-condria” rises as people turn to Dr. Google and chat rooms for a first (and second) opinion. Bruce Henderson, chief creative officer at Jack Morton Worldwide, noted that with “unprecedented access to information, people are feeling more unempowered.”

In this confusion, there is an opportunity for pharmaceutical brands to improve patient’s lives. Here are 4 steps for pharmaceutical companies to unlock its superhero powers and highlights from some of the stellar highlighted campaigns:

  • Be Human: Recognize that a patient is a person who has a disease. Think like consumer marketers and put the person first – not the disease. Debra Bass, president of the Global Baby franchise at Johnson & Johnson, reminded attendees that “touting scientific benefits and clinical data isn’t going to engage consumers. Brands must find their creative voice to breakdown entrenched narratives and inspire brand love. It is important to show a more human side – and build campaigns that inspire, create awe, make people laugh and, above all, show empathy.” (FleishmanHillard provides communications services to Johnson & Johnson including the J&J Consumer Family of Companies.)
  • Be Useful: Getting a baby to sleep can be a huge pain point for parents. With the insight that when baby sleeps, everyone sleeps better — a recent study observed 45,000 babies to understand the simple 3 steps to help babies sleep. An integrated marketing campaign and family-friendly app provided parents support at any time of day to execute upon these 3 steps. Click to read more about the campaign.
  • Invite Participation: Apple watches and Fitbit (client) make it easier for everyone to participate. Use the information gathered to continually find trends and adapt the program. Consumers have come to expect that you are listening to them and will want to see improvements.
  • Build Community: Look beyond social. In-person connections to start and build social communities shouldn’t be underestimated. Two good example of this are 1) Janssen’s HealtheVoices summit – the first health advocate blog conference that brought together hundreds of bloggers across various disease states. In doing this, advocates were inspired and the company found similarities between disease states. Click to read more about the campaign.

Over at GSK, when an online patient community didn’t exist, they looked internally and built a community for their employees with the health condition. As part of the effort to unite and build the community, GSK hosted a one-day conference for these employees. Out of that session a campaign “The Voice of HS” was born providing this community with the information and support they needed. Now 250,000 patients across 40 markets have been connected. With a patient-first approach, GCK built a community and drove engagement with healthcare professionals.

At the end of the day one, it is clear that yes, healthcare brands can be super heroes. The secret isn’t just about sexy ads. It is doing the hard work of getting into communities and expanding the brand experience to those patients.