2021 augustus

What makes the advertising of Nike, Heineken and Centraal Beheer (”even Apeldoorn bellen”) so powerful? Exactly, the emotion. They play on feelings and because of that the engagement of the target group goes up. We all have a tendency to block commercials, but these brands manage to get around that.

Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry is not really known for its great advertising campaigns. In general, the “creative” campaigns in the industry can be thrown into several clich√© bins. The sad lady staring out the window, couples walking somewhere, or a lonely person missing daily life.

Why? The impact or urgency is not there. Where consumer brands are much more responsive to emotion and the deeper layer of being, the pharmaceutical industry sticks to promoting safety and effectiveness. They are not all bad ideas by any means, but they are copied too much, which makes them ineffective.

A piece of neuroscience

Effective advertising targets the amygdala and the hippocampus. These two are important within the limbic system and provide the main structures of emotion. Simply put, the hippocampus is involved in capturing an event labeling the context.

The amygdala takes care of capturing the emotions. The interaction between these two brain regions ensures that the captured emotions are linked to the context from the hippocampus. This process forms the basis of our emotional memory.

An advertising campaign linked to emotion will therefore increase customer engagement. Just think of the KLM campaign with “the swans” or the Melkunie campaign with “I said no cannonball”. Both of these unique campaigns evoke a positive emotion in many people and that is why we still remember them so well.

When setting up a new campaign, customer insights are often the key to success. In pharma, we usually start with in-depth interviews of healthcare employees and patients. We look for our target audience’s drivers and barriers to what drives them to prescribe a prescription.

Feet never lie

The problem, however, is that physicians default to numbers, such as efficacy and safety data. But doctors are also people, and people tend to make emotional decisions. Therefore, when doing market research, it is important to also look very closely at the physician’s nonverbal communication. This usually says more and is difficult to hide. Therefore, it is better to have the market research take place physically and not via the phone or a video link (unfortunately, there was no other way lately).

A fun fact, for example, is that feet reveal everything about your interlocutor. Our feet often betray our thoughts. If your conversation partner’s feet are pointing at you, this says that he or she finds you interesting. If one or both feet of the person you are talking to are pointing at the exit, he or she would prefer to leave and therefore no longer listens to what you have to say.

How should we do this then?

Most pharma marketers get excited when a doctor tells 5 things about their brand’s efficacy, safety profile or drug.

Take for example the sports brands Nike, Adidas and Puma. All three make soccer shoes, yet they manage to differentiate themselves from each other. From these brands we learn that very often it is not the content but the packaging that is the determining factor.

Unfortunately, in many therapeutic areas the differences are nil and the products are often seen as commodity goods. It is a pity that in pharma we still do not try to be distinctive in another way, while brands from our daily lives manage to do so. Take for example the sports brands Nike, Adidas and Puma again. All three make soccer boots, but still they manage to distinguish themselves from each other. From these brands we learn that it is often not the content but the packaging that is decisive. You can also see this in the blind testing of Pepsi cola and Coca-Cola. Pepsi is the standard winner, but the market share does not show this.

In order to increase the customer engagement of our customers, we should therefore dig much deeper into the actual reason why certain products are chosen or what these products can mean for patients and doctors. This became clear to me again recently when I saw interviews of people who have had a stroke. It was very emotional to see that they themselves, as well as their partners, invariably talked about their lives before and after the stroke. This insight gave me a lot of inspiration for a possible campaign.

Finally, the closer you are to a product, the harder it is to get to the point. Therefore, seek help from someone who does not breathe the brand on a daily basis. As a marketer, it’s easy to fall in love with the 5 brand features of your product. It just doesn’t necessarily make it easier to sell the product. Time and time again, it turns out that simple sells. Just think ‘Just do it’, ‘Think different’ and ‘What else