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Smart Thinking blog

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

Losing the plot?

Influencing beliefs over branding
Losing the plot

I think I'm beginning to agree with Jonathan S Baskin's book, Branding only works on cattle. Am I losing the plot? 

Let me please explain. Like me, at the outset of any new campaign, I am sure you invest a lot of time in cajoling, persuading and building consensus within your organisation around the need for a vision on behalf of your brand. You make the point to people that there has to be a clear 'why' beyond just holding up the organisation's sales sheet or share price. It takes all your energy, all your agency's energy, it's researched, insight mined, modified, generalised, then refocused and finally signed off about four weeks after the first KPIs should have been met.

The net result is a great campaign from you and the agency with some 'on brand' messaging and a shorter timescale in which to use it to drive sales. Everyone pulls together and somehow you beat target. Then you look back over a very stressful year and start to review all the anecdotal comments from sales, customers and peers. And when you boil them down they all seem to say, "great campaign, love the imagery, very creative, great vision but, actually, I didn't use it – instead I did this . . . "

In other words, whilst they agree with the goal and the intention, they all have their own views on how to achieve that goal.  It probably occurs to you, like me, that what sets people apart is not the aim but the methods by which they believe they should go about achieving the aim. The conclusion has to be that beliefs and assumptions drive behaviours and not lofty visions alone. The key to getting even further beyond sales target, the key to a less stressful year, the key to getting that vision truly bought into, therefore, has to be connecting the vision with our own teams' belief systems. 

Despite me losing the plot, I do have one very recent and inspiring example of a marketing team battling through more than just the vision, and making a real difference.

BMI Healthcare, the independent hospital group, ran a campaign that all started with the 'head office' marketing team taking the time to find out from the local hospital teams what they believed in. Members of hospital staff from the executive director to staff nurses to catering staff were interviewed and many workshop sessions actually held in the hospitals themselves to really get under the skin of what BMI Healthcare stands for and what that means to their patients. This was then rigorously tested across all customer groups from patients to GPs to consultants.

The bottom line was a belief system based on extremely high professional standards.  In addition to this, the team had a real belief in always finding the little touch that would make a patient interaction, a colleague dialogue, or communication with the outside world that bit warmer and give it a depth of humanity.

The campaign launched at the end of 2013 and there is one statistic that demonstrates how this belief has driven performance: the video used to launch the new campaign (see below) has been viewed over 200,000 times in six months since it was launched in September 2013. Why? Because the BMI Healthcare teams in all the hospitals across the country have told everyone they know - patients, customers, friends and family - about how wonderful it is. Imagine that, people driven to build the brand through their own beliefs.

Article by
Stephen Page

managing director of Havas Life Medicom. Email him

3rd April 2014


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