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Strategy, a story in several parts…

Onwards to the future - a philosophy for the development of strategic planning
Thought leaders

Rather than write another 'this is how to think' article on strategic planning, I thought that it would be more interesting to poll the strategists here at inVentiv to create a sample of the key principles that we embrace when approaching our clients' business. This isn't meant to be a 'how to' guide, more a philosophy, or possibly a manifesto, that we hold to. We'd be really interested in your take too. Read through, see what you think and then come and talk to us. I'll explain how at the end.

The customer has changed, obviously
Digital natives grew up, went to school and many are now practicing medicine. They connect to everyone digitally and that includes their patients. Non-natives too are increasingly adopting digtial native behaviours, blurring the division. They require a new approach - it's no longer good enough to simply be present in new channels, you need to be useful, interesting or entertaining; all three would be better.

The patient has changed
To paraphrase Ogilvy on Advertising, the patient isn't a moron - she's your wife; with broadband, a knack with Google and a network of like-minded people one click away. Patients are not scared to gather information and opinions or ask questions - it's how they live their lives. They know what good looks like online, and expect the experiences they deserve.

We need to be where our customers are
Rather than just worrying about being behind the competition, we should be equally concerned about how far behind our customers we are. Their expectations are built from real world brand experience, not just those created by pharma marketing - we must match these expectations or risk sounding like muzak to people used to the Proms. 

We no longer represent our customer
Once upon a time we lived in the same areas as our customers; we went to the same schools and universities. Our assumptions about their motivations were often relatively accurate. As we move further into communicating with people other than healthcare professionals (HCPs) this becomes less and less true. Just because we can't leave home without our mobile device, doesn't mean it's the same for a 60 year old, diabetic, farm labourer in southern Italy. If we really want to understand, we need to learn to listen to them in their own words - and not just through the artificial medium of market research. We must also learn to speak the same way.

The ability to develop innovative ideas is the result of working environment and culture of behaviour - culture beats corporate strategy

Your customers are their own media planners
So let's stop obsessing about 'multichannel'. Yes, the range of communications choices available to us has grown in volume and complexity, but all of us consume information through our own personal mix. Don't focus on the multiple channels out there; focus on the channels your customers are using.

But this doesn't mean the 'Big Idea' is dead
It's just done a David Bowie and reinvented itself for a new audience. It's about the Big Story; big data-derived human truths, seemlessly blended with deeply relevant brand offerings, turning marketing from a game of making people want things to one of making things that people want (and will continue to want over time). 

Story telling is about more than just words
Around a fifth of communication is made up of what is actually said. Customers make up - and change - their own minds consciously and unconsciously with every image, word, sound, interaction, rumour and disappointment. From what you say and what you look like when you say it, to who, where and what your audience thinks of it, there's never been a greater necessity for an integrated approach. 

It's not 'our' story anymore
Telling our story in the way that best suits us, and our key market differentiators, is no longer enough - authentic, compelling narratives highlight shared values between a brand and its audience. They will want to get involved, adding their own perspective to the narrative. This means a stronger focus on all the influencers along a person's path, working with them to understand and express what's properly important to both the storyteller and their audience. 

The traditional 'science story' could do with a rewrite
The science messaging for a brand needs to be broader than the main clinical trials. In our connected world our narrative must engage all community members by calling on diverse sources of scientific information from molecule, pharmacokinetics, trials, health economics and market research. All framed within the disease state and patient journey.

Sticking doggedly to one version can be risky
Our story could need to change very quickly. Incongruent brand experiences, new information or changed perceptions of our brand could cause the narrative our customers are sharing to change rapidly. Waiting for the next planning cycle won't cut it, our brand could be irreparably damaged in weeks or even days. Make sure that we are out there with a narrative congruent to the changed circumstances early, or others will fill the gap and we may not like their version much.

We can take part, or watch from the sidelines. Let's face it, as adages go 'the world is run by those who show up' has it pretty much bang on. Brands won't crack the social space if they need six weeks of approval to say something meaningful, or take 24 hours on a 'timely tweet'; equally a new brand with ambitions of leadership won't crack a marketplace if they invest and behave like the lowliest follower. 

Let's stop obessing about 'multichannel' - all of us consume information through our own personal mix

For innovation, culture beats corporate strategy. The ability to develop innovative ideas isn't a function of management strategising or a rigid seven-step process; it's the result of a working environment and culture of behaviour that looks beyond walls and titles towards blended teams with a license to do whatever it takes to get there. 

So these are a few of the things that we believe over here in 151 Shaftesbury Avenue. We'd love to engage you in our own narrative, so feel free to reach out with your own thoughts, comments, criticisms or whatever, over on our blog at In the spirit of authenticity and respect for our own principles, we'll incorporate them in to the next round of this manifesto, giving credit to the original contributors, of course.

Article by
Michel Dubery

is European managing director, inVentiv Health Communications michel.

21st November 2013

From: Sales, Marketing



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