Finding New Ways To Be Fearless

Healthcare marketing is in the midst of a dramatic transition. This transition is being dictated by the behavior and preference of the patients and physicians we serve. While we are generally less dependent on mass media, we are still very much under its spell. The allure and tradition of mass media continues to shape strategies and execution in ways that we may not realize.

Given the significant expense, visibility (including friends and neighbors) and tradition, broadcast has been the dominant force shaping brands and how they’re designed, and ultimately, experienced.  But when broadcast sits at the center of a brand’s development we also inherit the high risk and corresponding fearfulness. Even when broadcast is not actually part of the plan, you can still feel the constraints.

This is not an argument against (or for) broadcast. Rather it’s an attempt to find new ways to produce better (and more effective) work by reducing the fear that too often undermines our best intentions. 



The fear is real and justified given the risks surrounding broadcast advertising. Let’s say a “typical” spot costs around $1 million to produce and around $50 million for a year of air time. Add to that the scrutiny that comes with the billions of household impressions a typical spot generates and you have the perfect recipe for night terrors and risk aversion. Curiously, this anxiety tends to set the tone for all of the creative.  

So how might we free ourselves from the baggage and burden of these traditional anxieties? Experience on a number of brands in a variety of categories provides some clues.

1. Content before channel When we start with a channel-centric approach, we are immediately encumbered by the past. Experience, comfort and familiarity with traditional channels stifles our ability to think differently and be truly people-inspired. A content strategy is inherently more generous than a channel strategy. A content-first approach will always force thinking that is outside of the traditional frame. This is a fundamental requirement for telling great stories in our omni-channel world.

2. Social as a source of strength Increasingly, we’re seeing social as an effective way to greenhouse a content strategy. In it we can test and learn — optimize faster and truer than traditional forms of research. In the process, our confidence in the ideas increases. Not surprisingly, this leads to more courageous and innovative work across all channels. The value of a social-first content strategy is, therefore, less fear and a network of people engaged with your idea that serves to support your larger media investments.

Wait, what? You’re suggesting that social (something that strikes fear in the hearts of many a pharma marketer) can actually help build confidence and courage? Precisely. As several of our social initiatives mature, they’re clearly helping make us and the work stronger.

3. Build for the relationship you need Deciding what kind of relationship your brand needs to be successful is a fantastic source of courage. It will tell you almost everything you need to know about how and what to be. Do you need a relationship that’s broad, far away and shouting? Or do you need to be closer, more precise and engaging? Given that we’re talking about healthcare the answer is pretty obvious. Healthcare demands a uniquely intimate customer relationship. Given that broadcast can’t provide the requisite intimacy, you’re free from its constraints.

How and where you start to find ideas and build brands will determine what you ultimately create. Starting with traditional channels and their corresponding structures is confining and will impose a lot of unnecessary fear upon the creative process. It’s exciting to see that more contemporary structures based on content and supported by social are yielding more courageous creative.

Give it a try and please let me know how it goes.

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