With One Voice - Pharmaceutical Executive


With One Voice

Pharmaceutical Executive

The Benefits of an Aligned Strategy

On the other hand, choosing a single entity working with an aligned strategy can create a unified brand value proposition, shared across stakeholders, which in turn can foster a positive dialogue.

This was the case with a certain medication for a highly stigmatized and misunderstood condition. As the complete agency of record for the medication, CommonHealth created a unified messaging campaign designed to unfold over time in specific ways, to prepare both physicians and patients to initiate an effective dialogue. One of the core insights that cut across both professional and consumer audiences was that neither side knew how to initiate or engage in a conversation about diagnosis and treatment of this condition, largely due to misconceptions about the nature of the condition and types of patients who suffer from it. In fact, in many instances, the condition was not viewed as a disease at all.

With these insights, the marketing plan began by preparing physicians to recognize and treat these patients, and subsequently to activate consumer-directed messaging that would drive potential patients to the physician. An initial challenge was the limited number of treating physicians in any given area, leading to a two-step messaging approach—once a critical mass of physicians was created in a given area, localized DTC would be activated to drive patients in that region to seek help.

Channel planning was key to ensuring that the right type of patient was reached (one who was prepared to be treated in a primary care, outpatient setting) in an area where there were physicians to treat them. To this end, consumer messaging was channeled through the Internet, including a "find a doctor" feature, and localized DTC aimed at working professionals (drive-time radio, bus kiosks, etc.) The campaign has been tremendously successful.

Forecasts were initially modest, but the brand has completely changed the perception of how the condition is managed within the healthcare system. Revenues are just under $500 million, and the brand has become the leader in a newly invigorated category. One of the key drivers of this success was the campaign coordination—including timing, channel planning, and messaging—to create a positive interaction at the moment of diagnosis.

The lesson? A unified strategy has the intended effect upon each audience. Patient-directed advertising can help patients understand the nature of their condition and set expectations for treatment. And physicians appreciate the fact that patients are educated when discussing their disease state.

Plan for Multiple Audiences

Creating unified messaging and designing for multiple audiences is not as difficult as it sounds. In all forms of communication, we frequently talk simultaneously to more than one audience, each with a different stake in the conversation.

For example, when one parent tells another about a child's misbehavior in front of that child (Do you know what Mary did in school today?), the second parent understands that the child's behavior is now his or her responsibility, and the child understands that parent No. 2 is now being called onto the case.

There are times when this "one message, many audiences" strategy is simply a time-saver, but there are other times when it is an unavoidable reality. Either way, it is a common and highly effective means of communicating to multiple audiences about a topic of shared interest.

The Challenge of Unified Strategies

The problem faced by brand managers is not theoretical; as users of language, we instinctively know how to talk to different audiences simultaneously, varying tone and content to achieve effect. Rather, the problem is more structural: The companies for whom brand managers work, and the agencies serving them, are designed with audience separation, not unification, in mind. This stems from historical separations and the reality that different audiences have different needs and abilities.

However, with the blurring of channels, the distinctions have become less meaningful, and in many cases the historic separations have become counter-functional. At the very least, building and rebuilding cross-functional teams with overlapping responsibilities is inefficient. Working with multiple agencies for the same brand but different targets can result in both muddled messages and runaway fees arising from difficult collaboration.

The good news is that the solution to the "multiple audiences, multiple channels" issue is straightforward. Instead of staffing in incrementally more complicated ways to meet multiplying responsibilities, you can simplify the structure to a single point of reference: the brand itself. In such a model, seamless integration is not the goal. Seamlessness is the goal.

This, then, is the vision of 21st century medical marketing: a unified team executing a unified vision. When a single strategy is produced, execution becomes a question of right iteration in the right context. As our traditional views of professional and consumer messaging become a thing of the past, the brand manager who can create an internally unified team, supported by a single external vendor that is organized to service multiple needs, will ultimately succeed.

Brad Davidson is vice president, strategic planner at EvoLogue, part of CommonHealth. He can be reached at


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