April 14, 2022

Why “Just the Facts” Is Never Enough in Pharma Marketing

Woman smiling looking at laptop

How often do you try to surprise?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. In pharma marketing, people can get hyper-focused sometimes on describing key clinical information, believing that simply conveying this compelling data will capture an HCP’s attention. They think, “Our safety and tolerability are an advantage, so our tactics and creative will center around these key ideas in the ecosystem and will lead to consistent messaging elsewhere.” And they sit back pleased and think that’s that.

In pharma, everything can feel very regimented. And rightfully so! We’re talking quite literally about life-or-death topics. Everything about our work should absolutely be rigorous. But thinking about the best creative, looking back on our case studies, the best work doesn’t just list out reasons to believe. It finds ways to intercept people’s attention.

Even in our regulated, scientifically rigorous field, though, we can’t forget how important surprise and attention-grabbing is to the process of developing strategy and marketing.

The most data-driven medical professional is still a human, and surprises wake up human brains. We’re wired to pay attention to the unexpected.

Recently, at the SXSW conference, I saw neuroscientist Dr. Carmen Simon speak, and what stuck with me was her finding that people only remember 1% of the content they’ve experienced after only 48 hours have passed — I took notes in her session, so I retained much more than 1%! She listed “four habits of forgettable people”:

  1. Failing to create content that attracts attention
  2. Failing to sustain attention across time
  3. Abusing abstracts
  4. Sharing content that looks like someone else’s content

Let’s look at these individually in terms of how they might look in your everyday …

When thinking about how you create a banner ad, for example, are you just listing clinical data and hoping for a click? Or are you using teasing copy to promise more information that may be relevant in order to capture attention and make a user curious?

When users are on your website, are your data points or reasons to believe laid out in a way that makes it easy for a user to grasp quickly, and do you build a cohesive narrative that guides a user through and builds their knowledge for a more memorable experience – or does it all feel static and inactionable?

Abstracts can be hard in pharma, when everything is so regulated; however, the larger takeaway is more around a balance of concrete and abstract thinking in your communications. Are you only delivering concrete data and not using anything more eye-grabbing, visual, or colloquial for HCPs and patients to grasp and connect to your brand?

Critically, in a world like pharma that’s so driven by data, how is what you’re designing, crafting, and deploying different from your competitor? How are you ensuring that the moment someone looks at a piece of your collateral, they know it’s yours?

We do have to keep “doing the needful,” of course – conveying the complex clinical information accurately, with fair balance, in ways that our audiences will comprehend. But we need to do more.

Today, the people in our target audiences (just like us!) have so much content presented to them, far more than anyone could ever process. We have only a split second to make an impact on the audience we’re trying to reach. This is what we mean when we say “build moments that matter.” It’s not just about making an impression: it’s about making that impression quickly and memorably. We have to create experiences that connect in meaningful ways, avoiding both extremes – i.e., being informative but dull, and being attention-grabbing but unhelpful.

As an example: in focus groups with oncologists recently, we’ve heard them talk about how inundated they are, and how that results in them going to certain peers they trust to be filters for them. Brands should be helping with this, but all too often, healthcare professionals experience marketing messages as just part of the deluge.

Think about your channel and message, and the roles those play. Where do you need to grab attention? What are you driving that attention toward? Should you put everything all in one email, or should that email lead someone to click to find the information they’re looking for? Should a banner include all of the endpoints, or just attract someone’s eye to click?

These are examples of the questions that arise when you’re taking an omnichannel approach and doing big-picture thinking about ecosystems. Clinical data matters, but data is often not what grabs. What grabs is empathizing with a problem and offering the solution: giving the brain a problem to be curious about, and then offering a path to the answer. 

Author: Hank Greene is an associate director of content strategy with Intouch 7.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash