Branding a Unique Story

Jun 01, 2011

First in market


Nick Colucci, CEO & President | Publicis Healthcare Communications Group
With vaccines come questions, heated debate, and controversy. Pharmaceutical company communicators must return the conversation to the ultimate goal— preventing disease.

Gardasil entered the pharmaceutical market with welcomed anticipation—and it wasn't just because it was introduced as the world's first cervical cancer vaccine or because of its controversial nature. It was because the market saw a social/medical need.

Tobacco use is a serious public health threat. It is the single leading preventable cause of death in the United States and responsible for more than 440,000 deaths every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 45.8 million US adults and 3.1 million high school students smoke, triggering some $75.5 billion in excess medical costs and another $81.9 billion in mortality-related productivity losses annually. Despite widespread knowledge of tobacco's dangerous health impact, many smokers are unable to quit, due to tobacco's addictive nature.

The alarming gap in awareness is an opportunity for the industry to show leadership. The societal call-to-action requires getting the message out early to everyone charged with making a difference—hitting exactly the right chords with physicians, caregivers, and patients.

Unbranded campaigns do society's essential health education heavy lifting. They set the tone for family kitchen-table discussion. Like the Viagra-effect, making it acceptable to discuss erectile dysfunction with your partner or your physician, disease-oriented, non-branded public campaigns make people think and talk. The Viagra-effect also brought patients into the physician's office, prompting identification of heart disease and diabetes, among other diseases.

We as an industry must speak to indisputable and widespread health urgencies. The benefit of knowing that young people might be protected from tobacco addiction is life-saving. The reality is that there are health concerns we need to take on—despite the controversy—and pharma is using unbranded campaigns as a path toward unlocking inhibitions around sensitive health issues. Ultimately, that will translate into doing good and good business.