Let me tell you a little secret. Having just made the transition from a consumer agency to a healthcare agency, I find there’s very little difference between consumer and healthcare.
After two decades working at consumer agencies and tweeting everything from New York Fashion Week to U.N. press events, I can tell you that healthcare marketing is at it’ core, and at its best, consumer marketing. The little death knell sounding in the heads of a few former consumer agency colleagues when I announced my move to healthcare was completely unfounded.
In the best of social marketing, brands are here to help consumers. We’re not here to sell. We’re here to help people buy, if they want to buy. It’s a subtle nuance and an important one. In healthcare marketing, we’re speaking to the consumer as patient, and we’re here to advocate for that person, if they want an advocate.
In fact, much of consumer marketing is creeping into healthcare. Performance apparel brands are developing wearables and app technology, measuring and improving performance and overall health. Fashion brands are integrating style into that same technology. The fast-growing consumer marketing ecosystem supporting healthier living is, in many cases, going to market in a more engaging way than Pharma.
But Pharma social marketing can be better, despite restrictions and regulations. Here are a few ways:
Leverage visual storytelling. End the scourge of bad stock art as ads and social creative. Show me in a photo what 1,000 words, including a lengthy ISI, could never say. Show me a smiling person who just did something they never thought they’d do again when they were first diagnosed. How does it feel and look when a patient reaches the ideal healthy outcome? Put the spotlight on practitioners making a tremendous impact. Make me feel something. Teach me something. Make me want to be a part of your community. Make me want to share with mine.
Speak social. At its most basic, this means speak human. This is so simple, it’s often overlooked. And, yes, we know you have regulatory to adhere to, we know there are approval processes – that doesn’t mean you can’t sound human in social. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t use the language of social when interacting in it. We live in a world of emoji emotions. A simple smiley face or a sunburst can make a reply from a brand feel imminently more relatable. Get there.
Surprise and delight. This might be the oldest tactic in the book, yet we see brands like Beyoncé and Taco Bell deploying it across social in new ways that generate excitement and word of mouth. There’s no reason that Pharma, with detailed planning, can’t incorporate something special for communities that may change the social playbook. We have ambassador and patient services teams doing amazing work with patients. Tell their stories.
Pharma can win the Internet and by doing so, help the world. Or, as Snapchat star DJ Khaled might say, using social creatively to connect with communities is major key.