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Seven deadly wins

How to meet the challenge of engagement in a complex communications environment head-on
Seven deadly wins

As the communication landscape becomes ever more complex and fast moving it is even more challenging to engage your audience. 

Yes we have more channels to say things, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, but what we really want is engagement. A connection that creates a meaningful conversation, an exchange that will change belief, attitude or even behaviour.

Whenever I look at communications strategies and their creative expressions I always judge the proposal against my 'seven deadly wins' criteria.

Number 1. Get noticed 
Whatever you do, however you do it, it is vital that your communication gets seen. 

A bold statement, a leading question, an insightful viewpoint, a dramatic image, an unexpected use of media, an innovative technique or a little known fact. All have the ability to cut through the myriad of images and messages that we are exposed to everyday. In a world where 200 petabytes of video were played on Vimeo in 2012, 634m websites vied for our attention, 175m tweets are sent annually and 144bn emails are sent every day (, it is vital that any communication has the power to stand out and get noticed.

The title of this piece could have been more explanatory but would you be reading now if it were?

Number 2. Ensure it can be owned
It is counterintuitive to develop work that inadvertedly promotes a competitor. 

Even if you are the market leader and are driving the category it is important that you stand apart.

Is the vocabulary distinctly yours? Is the tone of voice differentiating? Does the colour palette make you instantly recognisable?

At the same time it is a challenge to differentiate a product or service from an overtly strong corporate identity. Creating stand out communication that gets noticed is often very challenging when all communication is identical, the same size picture in the same position with a similar length headline in exactly the same position.

In a congested market with so many competitors it is imperative that you stand out and get noticed.

Number 3. Logic needs magic
Of course all of our work must make sense and be factually correct, but it doesn't mean that it has to be dull.

Thomas Goetz, executive editor of Wired magazine, showed in his Ted Talk, It's Time To Redesign Medical Data, that prescribing information and test results can be presented in a more distinctive, attractive and easier way. His suggestion is that facts presented well will help patient engagement, understanding and ultimately adherence. 

An interesting visual angle, viewing the world through a different pair of eyes or hearing from a different voice more often than not has a dramatic effect on the power of your communication. 

Number 4. Appeal to the heart as well as the head
A lot of time is still focused only on the facts and very little emphasis is on the emotional, which seems odd as so many products and services are identical. Same treatment, similar evidence and efficacy, more often than not the same communication too.

So there needs to be an angle, an argument that registers emotionally with customers. Whenever we are in the supermarket, we have to make a decision about me-too products all the time. What separates one brand of identically priced can of baked beans from another? Heritage, familiarity, a subconscious portrayal of one's childhood in its advertising, a song that resonates, a thought provoking question about where and when you eat them?

Why do we tell people we drive a BMW, when a Ford does the job of being a car equally well?

Products, services and brands connect with us in many emotional ways and it is the same in the Health industry. Hand on heart, who doesn't make decisions about one pharma company's products over another due to some subconscious awareness, experience or perception that is far from rational?

We make choices everyday and as the research into behavioural economics indicates most of our decisions are irrational rather than rational. So do not underestimate the power to frame your communication around an emotional insight.

Number 5. Behave the way you want others to see you
Brands, products and services make proclamations and announcements on a daily basis. Do you believe them? Do you feel their message is heart felt?

Like people, we always respond well to others who live by what they say. We all like to be seen as genuine and seen to be acting with integrity. It is the same for brands and those who promote them. Is the communication and interaction that we create genuine? Do we feel that the offer is authentic?

The best way to influence change is by behaving the way you want others to behave.

It is far better to be judged by your deeds rather than your words.

Number 6. Pull don't push
We all know that people who listen stand a better chance of success in a fledgling relationship rather than those who constantly talk about themselves. 

We all know that successful relationships are borne out of mutual respect and two-way dialogue. So it is of the utmost importance that our communication encourages the same behaviour. 

No one likes the comedian telling you he is funny, it is far better if he just makes you laugh. 

Long gone are the days when a journal ad would do the trick of announcing a new product or service. Today communication must generate discussion and engagement. What is needed is an idea not an advert.

Number 7. Involve people in your communication
As a wise old Chinese sage once said: I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.

There is nothing more engaging in communication that making people do something. Make them think. Make them consider their perceptions or question their knowledge. 

The most successful ideas should make the customer do something different now that they have experienced your communication.

If the work that you are responsible for can pass the majority of the criteria above, it stands a very good chance of being a winner not a sinner. 

If, of course, it fulfills all seven it may very well change behaviour forever.

If you have found my viewpoints interesting and would like to engage further I'd love to know what you think about these three questions: Do you have a list of criteria for judging creative work or strategies? Is it a problem applying these principles in pharma? Which is the most important organ - the brain or heart? Please tweet me @DickDunford

Article by
Dick Dunford

member of the EACA Health Communications Council and executive creative director at TBWA\PW

25th October 2013

From: Marketing


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