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Frankenstein and the art of communication

By Andrew Woodger

Mary Shelley should have run an agency. She had a plan, took exactly the right parts (no more, no less) and sparked her creation into life. It may have gone downhill from there but there is a lot to learn for strategic planning and communication.

A strategic plan is a blueprint for success. It is based on a deep understanding of brand, customer and market, and combines the knowledge, research and experience of the organisation. It doesn’t, however, change behaviour per se. That requires putting all the insight back together as a communications strategy and delivering it effectively.

Mary Shelley’s agency would be built on three principles:

  1. Fully understanding how everything fits together before creating anything
  2. Bringing the story to life
  3. Successfully putting it into the wild.

Fully understanding how everything fits together

Before creating anything, there is a need for a strategy or a plan as to how everything will fit together. This strategy needs to be co-created by the two main constituent parts – the agency and the client.

This is where marketing and communication minds forge a common understanding of the opportunities and challenges for the brand, and the knowledge and assumptions that underpin the strategy are translated into a fundamental shift in behaviours that you want your customer to make.

At this point, we can start the process of extracting the best story, the strongest data and the key objections. From this is born an agreed way of telling your story.

Bringing the story to life

Being distinctive is the jolt of electricity that brings your story alive. But making sure your jolt has enough power is dependent on some core elements.

Deep insights into the brand, the customer and the market will drive relevance and deliver great creative and well-targeted messaging, but to unearth these gems, you need to be curious.

It can’t easily be denied that as a scientist, Dr Frankenstein was imaginative beyond contemporary research, rigorous in his methods and naturally inquisitive. For strategic marketers it is this persistent curiosity that can lead to great discovery. This can be as simple as finding a unique product attribute, if you are lucky, but more often the gems we seek are found in understanding the real human aspects.

This could be the psychology of the decision point (is it a reflex decision for a simple condition, or a considered discussion at an MDT?), the emotional advantages that your brand offers patients and physicians, or empathy with external factors such as limited bed space, that makes your product particularly pertinent.

The right insight can come from research, but also experimentation, experience and breadth of knowledge. As a brand and agency team, the more pieces and areas of expertise you can pull on across multiple brands, therapy areas and non-pharma category experience, the more likely it is that you will find something different.

Successfully putting your story into the wild

Before setting your creation free into the wild, it is important to have a plan as to where you would like it to go and what you would like it to do. Understanding what your customers read, watch and listen to, and where they go and who they speak to, will make sure your great idea is placed consistently and frequently enough in the right places to change behaviour.

It is important to evaluate the role of different communication types and how best to use them together – whether you are looking to drive awareness, educate or simply build your corporate reputation.

This analysis needs to take place before deciding on tactics and selecting channels. The route to market is very different for a rare disease (where all the physicians know each other and information travels fast), a specialist condition (where science and peer-to-peer will play a central role), or a primary care product (where repetition and simplicity are needed to make a brand top of mind and relevant).

Doing the hard work up front to understand the needs and nuances of the specific customers for a brand means both effective and efficient delivery of the message, and that – unlike Dr Frankenstein’s monster – your great idea will perform as you want it to and meet expectations.

No spare parts

After all the co-creation, insight mining and channel analysis, every single message and tactic must link back to the strategic plan. There should not be any spare parts. Being immersed in the brand, the commercial objectives and the marketplace is what makes this a reality. Create great communications rather than monsters.

Andrew Woodger is Strategy Director at the Purple Agency

In association with

21st April 2020


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