Putting Emotion in Pharma
As Matt Giegerich, President of Quantum Group highlights, “Unless you understand how the patient feels about a category, and then show how your product can respond to that feeling, the execution is jargon.”
Giegerich statement is particularly relevant, when multiple products are reaching patent expiry and are facing competition from generics. At the same time, more ‘me-too’ product are entering the market, and Rx to OTC switches are getting frequent, putting the purchasing power in consumers’ hands.
While the market undergoes such upheavals, it is disconcerting to brands being promoted on purely functional benefits, with little regard for the emotional connect that could be created with the audience.
And in such a scenario, what happens when a competition ‘one-ups’ your functional offering, or if that functional offering no longer offers greater differentiation than the rest of the market?
AstraZeneca’s highly successful, moving campaign of their oncology brand Arimidex, a hormonal replacement therapy for reducing breast cancer recurrence, is a good example. The integrated advertising campaign aimed at overcoming the HRT-generated fear by negative press, and the reluctance of breast cancer survivors for even hearing about another treatment and achieved it remarkably. The company, instead of pursuing a ‘hard- sell’ strategy, followed an unbranded educational campaign that generated a great deal of goodwill.
Research suggests that cancer patients rely heavily on survivors for information and support. Arimidex implemented a strategy that used real-life breast cancer survivors to talk to other survivors.
Moving Hearts as well as Minds
In a healthcare world where both healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients are often overwhelmed with information and data, the role a brand plays will become all the more important in ensuring success.
Successful healthcare brands are built from a foundation of both rational emotional benefits. This confluence of the heart and the mind gives a brand the ability to communicate its functional attributes and create a lasting, positive image in the minds of those prescribing it.
This is the power of a brand – the capability to provoke resonance. And that happened when a doctor connects with what the brand is saying, and responds by prescribing it instead of a competitor.
Shaking Things Up – The Right Amount of Fear
AstraZeneca repositioned heartburn from a trivial condition, to one that can have serious consequences. Changing the name of the condition from heartburn to Acid Reflux Disease or GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) was a smart repositioning tactic. For example, a TV ad for Nexium warned consumers that “Over time, that acid can shred your esophagus.”2
Quite a fearful image. But it helped viewers remember the brand. Because it alarmed them and presented the condition as something to be concerned about.
Emotional branding goes beyond loyalty and almost creates an “I-am-with-
-no-matter- what” mentality.
For some pharmaceutical products, beyond relieving physical symptoms or discomfort, the product benefit is also to nullify some social emotions.
For example, consumers desire a medication for psoriasis because it relieves itch and pain. However, it also delivers a stronger emotional benefit by alleviating powerful feelings of shame or rejection, which most patients feel when they are in social situations. The product’s ability to alleviate this
strong emotional pain is an equal, if not stronger, purchase driver than its ability to alleviate physical discomfort.
The One who Cares
While cough and cold medications are largely marketed on functional benefits – efficacy, speed, long-lasting – one very strong emotional need remained unaddressed. Parents of sick children feel tremendous anxiety, which is triggered by a number of perceived uncertainties.
“How sick is my child? Will she get worse? Can I go to work tomorrow?”
Armed with this insight, the brand pursued new creative development to implicitly promise anxiety relief, and align this emotional reward with the brand. Understanding the unmet emotional needs enabled breakthrough marketing innovation for this brand.
Good positioning often promises an emotional benefit, without stating it directly.
For example, several years ago, Merck achieved an ideal positioning strategy for Fosamax (Alendronate) with the statement “Fosamax helps you regain your independence.” By focusing on the underlying emotional issues surrounding osteoporosis and the constant threat of fracture faced by
women with low bone density, the essence of the indication was well-captured. In response, sales of Fosamax increased dramatically. In contrast, the statement “Fosamax increases bone density,” while true, lacks the emotional impact of a positioning statement that focuses on regaining
One may argue that it will take a while for pharmaceutical brands to leverage the same kind of returns that FMCG’s have from communicating emotional values in building loyalty. But it is an area that should definitely not be neglected.
Product attributes and pricing do play a significant part in influencing customers to choose a particular brand. But an ongoing advertising campaign that touches consumers emotionally will enable top-of-the mind recall and help build long term brand loyalty. Additionally, all of the brand’s
communication, including press advertising, public relations (PR), online and direct marketing should focus on the emotional values; this will help deliver a consistent message.
In addition to delivering functional benefits, it is only when a product stimulates an emotional dialogue with the consumer and confers value to its customers, will it sustain loyalty in the long term.