Direct to Consumer: Emotional Connection - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Direct to Consumer: Emotional Connection
By reaching out to women, pharma companies can build more meaningful brands


Pharmaceutical Executive



Marcee Nelson
Women influence up to 80 percent of healthcare decisions for their households, and have more than $1.2 trillion in buying power. Yet, many pharma marketers don't have a firm understanding of how to craft their messages to resonate with this important group. As such, they are missing the opportunity to connect with female influencers—be they patients, caregivers, or professionals.

Understanding how women communicate is key to understanding how to market to them successfully. Women are relationship-focused and oriented toward others—they're interested in personal stories, subplots, and context. Women bond with each other not by demographics but by shared experiences. They are caregivers and place a high value on reciprocal demonstrations of caring. When making decisions, women want to confirm the best choice, often soliciting the opinions of others. In return, they often influence the choices of their families and friends.

"Women don't buy brands," says cultural-trend analyst Faith Popcorn. "They join them." To that end, it helps for companies to think of their brand communications not simply as information, but as invitations to join a "brand club." Thinking about messages as invitations can help companies see their brands through the eyes of their potential customers. Finding the right brand invitation is key to fulfilling a brand's potential to connect with women.


Bonding Session Merck´s "Tell Someone" and AstraZeneca´s "If I Was Your Sister" television ad campaigns both feature real women offering advice and sharing experiences with people who may be in similar situations. In both ads, straightforward conversation is a central component.
The following three campaigns from Merck, AstraZeneca, and MCI Pharma illustrate how to effectively target women, and create memorable brands by building a shared experience and long-lasting connection.

Get Personal

When marketing to women, brand teams sometimes confuse making an emotional connection (engaging a consumer with insightful relevance) with being emotional in the message (trying to evoke a particular emotion from a reader). Making emotional pleas that come on too strong often backfire—women simply tune out.

AstraZeneca was careful to balance this approach with its recent disease-state campaign, "If I Was Your Sister." The TV spot features real-life breast cancer survivors who discuss the availability of post-surgery prevention options and the importance of therapy compliance. The company manages to stir positive emotions with upbeat encouragement of the benefits of prevention treatment, while delivering an honest message to breast cancer survivors: Their cancer could recur.


Touching Others MGI Pharma´s campaign for Aloxi, a generic treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, uses a striking visual and powerful quotes to stir emotions and create a bond between patient and ad
Patients' personal experiences, coupled with the "big sister" approach to sharing health advice, turns what could be an emotional land mine into an authentic and optimistic message. The spot encourages survivor "sisterhood," but the content is straightforward and credible, thereby striking the right emotional balance.


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