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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

It’s time for growth

Time for pharma marketers to get back to what they do best

It's time for growthIt's been a tough few years for pharma. Pipelines have all but dried up. We've been up and over a patent cliff and austerity healthcare has become the global reality. I don't know about anybody else, but I believe it's time to get back to doing what we do best. I believe, it's time for growth. 

Here's my simple two-step growth manifesto.

Step one: embrace data transparency
Horsemeat in burgers, bankers fixing the Libor rate, pharma companies not being 100 per cent transparent with their data – there is a connection. They're all part of a wider disease that threatens not just pharma, but the very existence of brands and branding. While it is very easy to get excited about the froth of marketing, at a fundamental level what brands are about is keeping their promises. After all, the brand raison d'être is to be the trademark, the logo, the identity that allows us all to collectively relax in the knowledge that we have made the right choice. The trusted choice.

Data, like beef, is better if it is 100 per cent pure. A trace of horse, however small, undermines not just the burger but the whole food chain (I'm going to stop the analogy before I get too far in!). Once clinicians have the perception (and I choose that word carefully) that the industry has lost the ability to provide them with credible, meaningful data then it becomes hard for us to add value. Data gives us the opportunity to engage, to hold conversations, collaborate and innovate. How we get to a situation where both industry and the medical community feel comfortable about the approach to transparency, I will leave to better people than me. But as a healthcare brand practitioner, I say it can't come soon enough.

Step two: use the data to tell compelling brand truths
Credible data is a precious commodity. What disappoints me is how badly we, as a communications industry, use it. Is it really enough to hit our audience over the metaphorical head with data in the form of a graph-laden iPad, detail aid or congress presentation? A recent blog by consumer brand planner David Trott clearly explains how creativity can transform data into a powerful experience that help change brand beliefs and reset expectations. In it he describes the launch of Apple's MacBook Air. After a long technical presentation focused on data, Steve Jobs took to the stage. Jobs simply said, “Ladies and gentlemen. The MacBook Air is the thinnest laptop in the world.” Then he popped it into a manila envelope. As Trott noted, “a computer in a little paper envelope? The audience got it; this was revolutionary, amazing, unbelievable.” This small action had hit home in a way that the data alone never could. 

As you're reading this article, the chances are you are looking for a creative agency partner – a partner for growth. Make sure you choose one that understands how precious your brand and the data that supports it are. Choose a partner that not only demonstrates that it understands your data but that also treats it credibly and creativity, turning it into engaging moments of truth. That is the role of the modern advertising agency.

Article by
Jon Lee

managing director of CDM London. Email him

24th October 2013

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