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Are we harnessing the full emotional power of brand creativity?

Creative Director Damien Parsonage breaks down the common misconception that pharma and healthcare marketing for healthcare professionals ought to be entirely scientific and rational. Brands are powerful; here's how to strengthen yours by infusing it with emotion.
Brands are powerful things. After all, we know that a brand name alone can impact the efficacy of medication. In their 1981 experiment, psychologists Branthwaite and Cooper concluded that branded aspirin tablets were “significantly more effective than unbranded tablets in relieving headaches” accounting for some “one-quarter to one-third” of the pain relief. Even branded placebos enjoyed this brand effect, and there was as much impact on non-brand users as those who chose a branded product regularly.

The power of brand is pervasive and persistent. Take Volvo, for example. What would you say Volvo’s brand position is? What does Volvo mean to you? If you said ‘safety’, you’re not alone. Everyone, everywhere says ‘safety’. Even though Volvo hasn’t even been in the top 10 list of the safest family cars for years.

Or what about Apple, officially the world’s most desirable brand? Branding is the reason Apple can charge three times as much for their technology as other, less desirable brands. It’s also why, in this social media age when any number of marketers will tell you that brands need to be open and generous to survive, Apple is able to do almost the exact opposite. A different, proprietary charger for every device? A music platform that makes it incredibly difficult for me to access and transfer tunes I already own? And yet still the people queue outside the store all night for the latest iPhone (and new charger).   

Irrationality rules 

It’s fundamentally irrational. And that’s the point. Brands create emotional bonds with consumers. It’s not about being rational and assessing your options with a cool head. It’s about the feeling you get when you encounter a brand: “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes”, as David Ogilvy described it.

That’s all very well, but what’s it got to do with pharma marketing? And specifically, prescription marketing to healthcare professionals (HCPs)? Aren’t we dealing with people who are rational and scientific?

No one is immune, however much they think they are  

It’s funny, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t think they’re immune to advertising. And over the years, I’ve worked in numerous specialist sectors - IT, Telecoms, Financial Services, Insurance, and now Healthcare – where I have been told: “advertising doesn’t work on our target audience.” That’s always interesting, because those very same people (engineers, technicians, doctors), all drive fancy cars, wear expensive watches and have the latest smartphones. In the pharma sector specifically, we know branded medication continues to get prescribed even after loss of exclusivity. There’s no rational reason not to choose a generic every time, and yet physicians do.

The truth is, none of us is immune to advertising and the power of brand, however much we’d like to think we are. Even highly rational people in highly rational professions make emotional decisions. It’s how we work as humans.

In his 1994 book Descartes’ Error, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, Antonio Damasio, argues that emotion plays a key role in all decisions we make. He found that people with damaged connections between the ‘thinking’ and the ‘emotional’ sides of the brain were simply unable to make decisions, essentially because they didn’t know how they felt about it. 
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Read the full article on the Blue Latitude Health website

10th November 2016

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