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Humanising innovation

Patient awareness case study: generating awareness of Medtronic's new DBS therapy

In Europe almost 12 million people suffer debilitating motor symptoms such as muscle spasms caused by conditions including Parkinson's disease, dystonia and essential tremor. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a treatment for patients suffering these conditions, and Cohn & Wolfe was tasked by Medtronic with coordinating a European strategy to generate awareness of their new family of DBS devices Activa® RC (rechargeable) and Activa® PC (primary cell), the world's smallest and first ever DBS options to allow programming that adjusts to patients' lifestyle needs.

DBS Therapy has been used to treat difficult motor symptoms for over 20 years and although the new DBS represented a significant innovation, it did not represent a brand new therapy option. Its technical improvements – patient programming feature, rechargeability and size – would be understood and valued by neurosurgeons but needed to be brought to life to engage patients, since patients' reluctance to undergo surgery and physician perception of patients' attitudes were key barriers to overcome. A compelling story and a smart media strategy were needed to mobilise local marketing affiliates, media and target audiences to ensure awareness was raised and the launch was successful.


A Medtronic DBS Therapy device
The campaign generated awareness of the new family of Medtronic DBS Therapy devices


• Generate awareness of Medtronic's new DBS Therapy and its benefits among physicians and patients via media coverage in targeted medical and consumer outlets. Achieve at least 50 targeted pieces in four countries (Germany, Italy, Spain and UK)
• 65 per cent to include at least two key messages
• Mobilise third-party voice to bring to life the patient benefits of the innovation: 30 per cent of coverage to include mention of third party
• Strengthen Medtronic's position as leader in innovation in DBS: 25 per cent of coverage to mention Medtronic or product name.

1. Hospital pilot launch
Priority markets with pilot centres had the opportunity of using the new devices before the anticipated commercial launch in January 2009 and therefore wanted to maximise this opportunity from October 2008. Cohn & Wolfe's challenge was to support communications around selected hospitals' pilot launches without detracting from the full commercial launch still months away.

The pilot launches allowed the opportunity for local marketing affiliates to work with implanting centres and physicians while still leaving a branded opportunity for the commercial launch platform when the devices would be widely available. Countries were given the flexibility to utilise this milestone, or wait and develop their news hooks further. Media materials were developed that could be used by the hospitals leading the pilot launches, positioning their key neurosurgeons as pioneering this new technology in selected areas only.

2. Creating the exclusive
Through listening to the markets' feedback on the strategy and adapting the platform and materials to their needs, video and animation were included in the template materials as well as broadcast media pitching guidance. These were provided to the markets in staggered batches to keep the momentum of action in between the two launch phases. In particular healthcare professionals and, where appropriate, case studies of successfully implanted patients were mobilised, and exclusive media pitching allowed certain media to engage and follow the story from implant to symptom control. Markets were also encouraged to contact patient hospital centres and advocacy groups to be prepared for patient enquiries as a result of the media launch.

3. Commercial launch
With markets fully prepared with materials and positive testimonials obtained through working directly with hospitals, the commercial launch was rolled out. A European press release was distributed; Cohn & Wolfe secured a coordinated national launch strategy via management of the dates for extensive media liaison and follow up by markets across Europe. 

The results of the campaign achieved:
• 209 pieces of coverage in 12 European countries reaching an audience of almost 110 million people
• 11 pieces of TV broadcast coverage
• 70 per cent of coverage included at least two key messages in 75 per cent of core countries
• Mobilisation of the third-party voice to bring to life the patient benefits of the innovation: 50 per cent of coverage in the four core countries included mention of pilot centre and/or patient case studies
• Strengthened Medtronic's position as leader in innovation in DBS: 25 per cent of coverage included product/Medtronic mention in core target countries.

In terms of media coverage, audience reach and market engagement, the activity achieved results over and above the objectives originally set for the campaign.

Together with simultaneous marketing activity, within six months the campaign led to a growth of 14 per cent more new patients receiving DBS implants, and more than 20 per cent of sales comprising current patients converting to the new device options.

Carolina Aguilar, European Market Development Manager, Deep Brain Stimulation, Medtronic, said: "The excellent collaboration and brainstorming between Cohn & Wolfe and Medtronic facilitated a very strong campaign proposal and thanks to their planning, insightful strategy, and well-written materials, the roll out of this launch exceeded all expectations."


Case study detail

Client: Medtronic
Agency: Cohn & Wolfe
Campaign: Humanising innovation in Deep Brain Stimulation
Timescale: October 2008 to January 2009

27th May 2010


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