August 23, 2022

Peanut Butter & Chocolate, Strategy & Creative: Perfect Pairings

A perfect pairing makes two already-great things better together than they are apart. And, just like peanut butter and chocolate, strategy and creative are that kind of pair – especially in medical marketing.

I’ve had an interesting professional journey. In college, I wanted to be a doctor, but my doctor dad also encouraged me to explore my creativity by taking art classes. I did, and I ended up with two degrees, in art and in science – not a common combination! My first job was drawing mechanism-of-action illustrations of how drugs work in the body for physician education. But my career path has taken me out of illustration and into marketing.

The joy of it, for me, is that it combines the two worlds I always loved. Healthcare marketing is the art of science and the science of art. To do it well, you need to be a left-brained rational thinker and a right-brained compelling creative. I get to use my scientific background to understand why a treatment is important, and my creative background to talk about it to people who need to understand it.

In healthcare marketing, you must understand the science, and also the interactions and dynamics among our different audiences – healthcare professionals, payers, caregivers, patients. There are a lot of complexities there, and they go beyond the complexities of the medicine, to the disease itself, the treatment burden, the healthcare system, and the emotions that go with being a human involved in it.

I need to be conversant with scientific experts, and then to arm non-scientists with enough accurate information that they can be good advocates for their health and the health of the people they love. Their healthy action might look like taking their medicine properly, or asking their nurse the right questions, or signing up for a patient support program. Whatever it is, though, it requires taking action, and a flat, dry delivery won’t get anyone to take action.

Applying standard processes works in other industries – and in other facets of healthcare – but it can’t create the resonant, empathic, arresting, action-motivating story necessary for good healthcare marketing.

Part of our work is regulatory: we have to understand, respect, and work within the nuances of rules and guidelines. Part of it is informative: we aren’t just selling a product, as we might in another industry: we want people to understand what’s out there and make the best choice.

Understanding is what makes marketing great – helping people understand not just what the information is, but what to do with it. We’re translators: translating science and its impact to give people that understanding.

Today, patients are more empowered than ever to take charge of their health – and, often, they have to. But they struggle, inundated with information of varying quality and accuracy and far too much quantity. Where do they go? Who do they listen to? What should they do?

In our work, we have the opportunity to be a credible source of information to help with some of the most important decisions people will ever make.

Hard? Yes: it’s very hard. But it matters so much. And, whether you’re a person with an M.D. or not, we can all each care about people feeling better, and we can do our best to help make that happen. It’s a big responsibility. And I love it. Even more than peanut butter and chocolate.