For Optimized Brand Strategies, Look to Market Research

brain_gears_on background_Who knew that Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors, knew a thing or two about market research? Proof is in one of his great quotes “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

That’s a comment on discipline, and it takes on a whole different—and cautionary—meaning when it’s applied to primary market research.

As a market researcher, my first order of business is to help clients “get the facts first.” The discipline of gathering the right facts from the right stakeholders―and in the right way at the right time, to boot―allows us to not only uncover our customer’s drivers and motivators, but also to help inspire changes in behavior.

There are certain activities and processes that are important for us, as an agency, to shepherd our clients through. For instance, we don’t want brand team members driving the creative according to their personal beliefs and perceptions about the product. Rather, we want our clients to clearly hear their customers’ voices, and shape their brand strategy accordingly, with our guidance.

As market researchers, we help ensure that clients “hear” their customers by answering 4 key questions:

1. What are the right facts?

  • The right facts can be as simple as the customer’s geography (physical location) and demography (age, gender, occupation, socioeconomic status), or as complex as their behavior (product consumption level, use patterns, frequency, and loyalty), and psychographic profile (interests, attitudes, and opinions)
  • By targeting the specific questions that our clients need to answer, and by understanding how that data are meant to inform business decisions, we determine the right facts to gather

2. Who are the right stakeholders?

  • Pharmaceutical clients often believe they have a “physician problem,” but chances are they could also have a patient, caregiver, payer, or pharmacist problem (And I could go on!). Sometimes it’s even more than one problem! Healthcare is a sector defined by intricate interdependencies among a long list of stakeholders that ultimately impact product usage
  • Well-designed market research takes into account all relevant stakeholders, including them as the research questions dictate. We often talk with clients about, at minimum, viewing patients, physicians, and payers as three legs supporting their product’s stool—the “length” (eg, importance) of those legs can vary by therapeutic area, but they all need to be taken into account when planning brand strategy

3. What is the right way to gather the facts given budgets and timelines?

  • Do we need one-on-one conversations with customers where we can take the time and latitude to investigate the “why’s” behind responses, and explore topics that might be challenging to articulate in front of others?
  • Do we need small groups of customers to talk with us about our clients’ products’ features and benefits, and the extent to which they produce functional, emotional, and/or personal benefits?
  • Do we need to use projective exercises in which ambiguous or vaguely defined stimuli grant customers’ considerable freedom in their responses? Images and metaphors can sometimes reveal a deeper dimension of thought/decision-making processes and feelings than objective, “correct” responses to explicit research questions
  • Do we need to survey a large number of customers, and on a big enough scale so we can obtain results that are statistically significant?
  • Do we need to survey various types of customers to understand the number and size of diverse market segments, including what those segments look like?
  • Do we need to deploy mobile or app-based methodologies that allow us to track customer thinking and behavior in real time?

4. When is the right time to gather the facts?

  • Sometimes we want to conduct research, either to take the market pulse on the heels of a significant marketplace event, or to get a “snapshot” of the market at a particular moment
  • Sometimes we want to be in the field when the market is quiet, so we can get a baseline against which to compare the impact of future disruptive events
  • Sometimes we want to longitudinally gather the same metrics from the same customers at certain intervals to get a long-term understanding of customer behavior and product usage
  • Sometimes we simply have materials or concepts to test. This might warrant multiple rounds of research, depending on customer response

Contrary to Mr. Twain’s memorable comment, the second order of business for market researchers is to make sure that clients do not distort those facts to fit their own view of their marketplace–or the marketplace they want instead of the one they have.

It’s therefore our job not just to provide the facts, but to give them meaning and to make actionable recommendations. The beauty of being part of the larger Ogilvy CommonHealth organization is that we have a wide and deep network of resources to help us round out our interpretation.

Drawing on our own backgrounds in multiple therapeutic areas, and working closely with our account team counterparts, optimizes our point of view on the research. Having our secondary research, data analytics, and digital colleagues weigh in allows us to ensure that our recommendations are deep and broad, and showcases our capabilities as an integrated agency.

Consider how primary market research can help your organization’s brand teams to get the right facts first (distortion-free!), and use that data as a platform on which to build robust strategies that firmly stake your brands’ positioning in the marketplace.

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Stuck in My Head

6608547When I was younger, “great creative” meant a toy commercial with a catchy jingle that was easily memorized. If I happened to be in Toys”R“Us with my mom, I should be able to strategically bust out the jingle while running up and down the aisles. As you can imagine, Mom was unamused by this behavior and was rarely compelled to buy toys I sang about.

While my mother wasn’t heavily influenced by these commercials, I was. I took the ads with me to daycare, and later to school. My classmates and I would hum the chipper tune during nap-time, or screech the whimsical words as we somersaulted through woodchips in gym class.

As I got older I realized that while I initially gravitated towards these ads because of the memorable jingle and the headspinning graphics, another exchange was occurring. It went beyond connecting a product to a consumer. These ads became a part of my lived experience and they helped facilitated human connections – emotionally, physically, mentally, and on occasion, spiritually.

These ads have stayed with me as I have grown up (if asked, I can still sing quite a few) and are a fundamental reason as to why I decided to work in an agency. I’m starting to begin to understand the complexities of creating great creative. The extreme challenges present when staying true to a powerful concept that aligns with the client’s needs and brand goals but isn’t easily forgettable. Most importantly, great creative doesn’t only pertain to children’s toys or consumer goods.

I still believe great creative makes you feel. It takes a snapshot of shared human experiences, of being flawed, of overcoming, of loving, of suffering. Overall great creative should be brave, and it should make you think. It should transcend the relationship between product and consumer, and connect with the audience on a human level. Below are links to recent creative that I believe has accomplished that.


Agency/Producer: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Campaign:Mog’s Christmas calamity



Agency/Producer: Langland



Agency/Producer: Tinker Taylor

Campaign:#itswhatwedo – Maggie


Agency/Producer: Velocity Films

Campaign:The Reader

One life 2

Agency/Producer: Bleu Blan Crouge

Campaign:One Life


Agency/Producer: Ogilvy & Mather India


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Machines Learning Marketing

Self-driving cars, Facebook auto-tagging photos, Netflix recommendations, and targeted advertising—what do all of these have in common? These technologies have all undergone significant advancements in recent years due to an explosion of computing power and advancements in computer’s ability to learn, or “machine learning.”

While it sounds like a futuristic term, machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. For example, let’s imagine a CRM program where data has been collected on customer’s interests, demographics, and engagement with previous campaigns. Based on previous interactions with customers, we can create predictions of how these customers will interact in future campaigns.

While the technology has existed for quite some time, significant advances in scale and computing power have allowed this technology to flourish. Companies including Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft have all developed user-friendly machine-learning capabilities to complement their growing web service and cloud offerings. While some user interfaces are more intuitive than others, the goal is to allow users to upload data and allow the computer to extract valuable insights.

The marketing field is certainly taking notice. Marketers who have begun to use these technologies are asking questions such as, “What type of user will click on this ad?” or “How likely is this user to return to my site?” One popular use of the technology is to determine the probability that a user will respond to a direct mail or email. Based on previous information gathered and past user behavior, machine learning can identify who is most likely to engage in certain activities. Instead of blasting a direct mail out to 10,000 people blindly, we can really hone in on the users that we think are going to respond and customize a solution for them.

Another use is detection of click fraud in online advertising. Marketers certainly do not want to pay for 1,000 clicks when 980 of them are spam. While there can be numerous types of fraud, a computer can differentiate these types of spam and determine if a “real” person actually clicked on their ad. These technologies can realize significant savings for advertisers, and certainly distinguish advertising platforms and publishers.

Of course, there are still significant challenges to overcome. In the case of ad fraud detection, because click-through rates tend to be quite low, a significantly large amount of data is needed to accurately predict user action. Another issue is the growing complexity of these machine-learning models. As predictions tend to become more accurate, the complexity of how the computer arrives at an answer is increasingly unclear. Most recent machine learning algorithms have been labeled “black boxes,” as computers are performing millions of abstract calculations that are too vast for the user to analyze.

As machine learning solutions become user friendly and easy to implement, marketers should certainly start thinking of how they can apply machine learning to find new insights about their business.

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Learning to Speak Agency

Learning to speak agency Thumbnail 130x130When I started at my first agency, after 10 years at a medical journal, I knew there would be things I would need to learn. I knew the work would have a different focus, and there would be more people and more steps involved in going from manuscript to finished product. But I was not prepared for the flood of unfamiliar acronyms and jargon I encountered. Sure, I understood what a word-for-word (aka WFW or W4W) was, I knew that “stet” meant I had been overruled, and I could expand NCCN without even looking it up. But what in the world did “PRC,” “AFP,” or “CTA” mean?

Fortunately, I had extremely helpful team members and colleagues who got me up to speed on all the new terminology, and within a month or two I was rattling off cryptic acronyms with the best of them. But as I gained more experience in the agency setting, with different accounts, different clients, and eventually different agencies, I realized that even within the insular world of agency life, there was incredible variation. It’s only been five years (and three different clients) for me so far, but I’ve already heard more than six different terms used to describe the committee each client has to review work for medical accuracy, legal risk, and regulatory compliance. And what do we call those hardworking folks who take our beautifully constructed print and digital pieces out into the field? No, not “reps”—they’re COSs, FMLs, TBMs, AEs, ARMs, and probably hundreds of other titles I’ve yet to come across.

There’s not much we can do to stem the tide of terminology that comes at us from clients, regulatory bodies, professional associations, and our own organizations. Each agency, each client, each branch of healthcare, each disease state, comes with its own lexicon that we must master. We are in the business of communication, and so it falls to us to absorb the unique language we find ourselves awash in, and learn to harness its power and beauty to shape our clients’ messages in a way that will captivate, educate, and effect change.

Still, language doesn’t need to be an impenetrable barrier, keeping out the uninitiated and insulating the inner circle from the rest of the world. Let’s make sure we’re taking the time to explain unfamiliar terms to new team members, keeping tools like style guides and cheat sheets up to date and easily accessible, and above all, talking to each other—across accounts, departments, and disciplines—about what has worked for us, what our challenges are, and what opportunities we have to explore new paths and keep growing as creative entities. And don’t be afraid to ask questions—especially if you’re new. We promise, we won’t laugh when you ask what a “job bag” is.

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Do we need a healthcare awards show?

Health_AwardsWith all but one or two award shows done and dusted for the year, I can honestly say that I have been delighted to see the standard of creativity in healthcare grow from strength to strength. It’s been inspiring, but at the same time it’s been frustrating.

Recently I judged at one of the major healthcare award shows along with some of the industry’s best—people I respect deeply.

We had some interesting conversations around a few of the entries. The main discussion point being, is this really health?

Saving dogs, a hashtag for mums about how amazing their child is, helping hungry people or recruiting medical staff for the armed forces—for me seems broader than health or not even health at all.

We did discuss the fact that it lifted the game in terms of thinking and execution, but it was acting as a guide stick of where we need to be rather than being a true health entry.

But do these types of entries make the interactive visual aid that has been under the red pen of medical advisors feel boring? Does it make the print ad idea that has made it through the treacherous journey of a pharmaceutical marketing department and research group feel flat? Does it make the medical education program that the regulatory body has scrutinised to the inch of its life look dull?
The answer is yes.

There is no place for pharmaceutical work in a current healthcare awards show. If it isn’t bringing you on the brink of tears or changing the world as we know it, it won’t get a real look in. It will be blindsided.

So should we have a healthcare awards show? Why not simply have a health category in the mainstream shows?

Think we know the answer to that one.

The bigger question is (and part of the reason why award shows were there in the first place), how are we going to lift pharmaceutical communications to a better standard? How are we going to inspire true healthcare agencies that live and breathe health every day?

I believe they deserve to be judged in a very different way.
The idea and great execution, without a doubt should be there. But pharmaceutical communications goes deeper than that. It’s the strategy that creatively and intelligently weaves its way through the minefield of regulations and treatment indications. The medical writing that’s taken highly scientific information and made it code-compliant yet highly persuasive to a cynical physician.

So with all this in mind, I believe we do need an awards show for healthcare, but it has to be very different from the shows we currently have. They are mostly celebrating work that’s for the good of man (or animal) kind and I believe you could tack anything to that and call it health.

Pharma is a weird and wonderful world and a very specialised one, so when it comes to judging creativity, should it not be seen through a slightly different lens?

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Pitch Perfect?

Pitching Blog Image 170x127“Teamwork is what the Green Bay Packers were all about. They didn’t do it for individual glory. They did it because they loved one another.”

-Vince Lombardi


Well, it’s football season, so what better way to start things off than with a coach who understood the roots of winning.

While football season is only with us when the air cools and the kids put on their backpacks to return to school, pitch season is always upon us.

For those of us who are pitch junkies, it is an amazing blend of S&M-brink-of-pleasure-and-pain that makes the experience so fulfilling. There is a magnificent energy that, if harvested correctly, can have your team humming along towards a victory at the finish line.

Recently, I was part of a winning team that came together perfectly, so I thought it would be interesting to showcase what went right and provide a few guideposts to follow on your next pitch adventure.

1. Don’t Check Your Ego at the Door

We always hear that to work as a team, you need to tone the ego down a bit. I’m not so sure this is true. Keeping your ego in place can elevate the work and push others on your team to do the same. Challenging each other while still respecting team members can make all the horrible ideas fall by the wayside. Remember, ego doesn’t mean you’re always right. It just means you are confident in yourself. If everyone’s feeling the confidence and not being threatened by it, victory shall be had.

2. Account People Are Creative

Creative doesn’t just mean fancy words and amazing visuals. In our industry, it calls for a deep understanding of what the client is looking to do with their product: Do they want to create a new category or separate it from their competitors? What impact can they make and what space do they want to play in? This is creative thinking, so if you see it this way, if you make the Account lead’s brain part of this process, your creative will be elevated with a strong reasoning behind it. Remember, our Account friends don’t live to fill in boxes of spreadsheets. They’re here to be part of the fun. Let them play!

3. Digital Is Not Separate From Creative

We have a strong tendency on pitches to not bring Digital in until the last minute. At this point, they are usually asked to produce a few “tactics” to help elevate the overall big idea. This is like constructing a building and then asking someone to come in and give their advice on how to decorate the lobby. They won’t have a vested interest in the finished product. Digital folks are up on the latest technology trends, so there their tactics greatly help to push the creative to a higher level. If they understand the science and are part of the medical download, their chops will be even more valuable. Bring them in early.

4. Your Medical Director Should Be Along for the Whole Ride

The science leads on your project are not just people clicking through PowerPoint slides, explaining disease-state information. Understand that they are an integral part of this industry because they bring what they’ve learned in the lab to the people. We, the pitch team, are their first point of contact, so embrace their information. Ask questions. Probe. It will come through to the client. Medical Directors have tremendous minds to explore, so if you make them your partner instead of just your teacher, you’ll find the relationship to be a boost to all. When it comes to pitch time, they are going to be the ones answering the client’s most challenging questions, so it’s best they feel like they have contributed to all aspects of what’s being presented.

5. Your Creative Team Is Always Listening

This is where all of the science, strategy and direction comes together as an idea. Good creative is the combination of thoughts into a beautiful idea that has a life of its own. While embracing an idea is important, it’s essential that the ownership of the idea go to the pitch, not the creative team. Beautiful creative is an offering to the greater good of the team. It’s a manifestation of everyone’s hard work. To perform at a heightened level, the creative team needs to have all the possible information available to them. Invite them to meetings and let them hear your internal debates. You never know where a creative idea is going to come from.

There you have it. The quote at the top by Lombardi is the overarching theme that can guide your pitch. There is that intangible bond that all pitch team members feel with each other that comes through to the client. Remember, they want to have confidence in the team that will be carrying out their vision for their products.

Nothing is more potent than the fuel of love. And perhaps a drink or two along the way to help get you across the goal line.

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4 Key Takeaways From the OCHWW Marketing Summit 2015

Martha CMO Blog2_ED

Behind the scenes look at OCHWW’s Innovation Lab

The OCHWW Marketing Summit took place on September 24, when attendees from all over the world came together to discuss marketing in the age of person-centric healthcare. Throughout the day, speakers from the pharmaceutical and technology industries echoed four main themes surrounding the state of healthcare today: innovation, personalized medicine, social healthcare, and the vast amounts of health data being generated every day.

Innovation must play a larger role in healthcare organizations going forward. According to Chris Halsall of OgilvyRED, it cannot just be a hobby of an organization, it must be the core. As Ryan Olohan from Google Health puts it, “Technology comes at us like a train—you’ve got to innovate or get run over.” Innovation in healthcare comes down to courage, and we must change the culture of healthcare organizations to embrace digital innovation.

Personalized medicine
Personalized medicine is the intersection between biology and technology. With today’s technology, we have the tools to get the full picture of the patient—molecular, clinical, and demographic, according to Niven Narain of Berg Health. With that, we can deliver personalized precision medicine, giving the right patient the right drug at the right time to lead to better health outcomes. Jeff Arnold of Sharecare states that this ultra-personalization of healthcare will empower consumers to take control of their own health.

Social healthcare
Health is the most personal thing there is, but as it stands today, healthcare is the least personal. One of the most significant benefits of technology is facilitating human connection in healthcare. Health is now social, and patients are talking about your pharma brand whether you are part of the conversation or not. Be part of the conversation.

Health data
Vast amounts of health data are being generated every day, and we need a system to parse it to make it useful, according to Bill Evans of IBM Watson Health. David Davenport-Firth of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide states that patients can’t make health decisions if they don’t understand their health data. Cognitive systems like Watson can democratize health insights to better patients’ lives, and responsive and dynamic representations of health data can personalize and humanize patients, leading to better health outcomes.

Healthcare is undergoing a transformation unlike any it’s seen before. Looking to the future, healthcare organizations must be disruptive by embracing innovation and putting patients at the center of everything that they do.

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Illuminate the Customer Journey With Data and Analytics

Journey Blog Image_EDSmart integration of data can now help identify and predict customer location and movement along the customer journey continuum. Mapping the customer journey is a vital planning tool.

Mapping out customer journeys is a well-established phase of communications planning. At Ogilvy, this represents the third step in the well-regarded planning platform: FUSION. The customer journey identifies the different phases customers migrate through toward a desired behavioral change destination. The journey phase will differ in each planning effort as the preferred consumer action and marketing objective are all project specific.

Improved understanding of the different stages customers should pass through en route to the ultimate desired location helps planners marshal the right channels, messages, and content to aid the customers along their journey.

The construct around the journey-based plan addresses key questions such as:

• What is our ideal behavioral perception for audiences in a specific stage?
• What are the perceptual challenges that may hinder getting our audience to think in a particular way?
• What are the positive levers that can enhance the likelihood of our audience to respond in a desired manner?
• How do we then move our consumers to the journey’s next phase?
• What channels do we deploy, and at what times, to get our key messages across our audience?

When these are well identified, the output helps make the ubiquitous, overused, but still aspirational goal of “right message, right channel, at the right time, to the right audience,” a possibility.

The customer journey can be complex: recent studies such as McKinsey’s The Consumer Decision Journey have shown that the customer journey has grown more complex. As I have alluded to in my previous article, The Marketing Funnel is Not Dead: A Website Analogy, customers may take several complex detours, but they still have to pass through well-defined phases to proceed with their conversion. The typical phases of this journey start with brand or message awareness and proceed to stimulating interest, trial, usage, commitment, and advocacy. Customers may get caught up in a phase, or proceed rapidly through phases, or even recede at times. However, you generally need to be aware of a product before you can consider using it.

The journey currently produces robust and well laid-out plans to engage and usher consumers on the behavioral change voyage. The next step is to map real customers to each phase and deliver plans against these customers to improve the journey. Before consumer-mapping knowledge, marketers have applied satisfactory approaches including contextual marketing, which aligns messages to media content as a proxy for consumer awareness and the journey phase. Sequential messaging is another approach without mapping knowledge. This approach starts with early-phase messaging and shifts to later-stage messaging based on average phrase duration. Lastly, one could always deliver broad messages, with the hope and expectation that the audience will self-select, and engage with the messages most applicable to their journey. However, the utilization of consumer-mapping information and understanding which individuals are in each phase are preferred.

The availability of customer-level data and the ease of pooling previously unconnected data are making customer mapping a reality. Now we can identify when a customer traverses a specific phase of the journey so that we can execute the well laid-out communication plan against these customers. Data can now help us to answer questions such as who are these customers. What is the likelihood that they will try the product? How quickly will they progress along the journey? How likely are they to become a highly valuable customer? Once the customer journey has been identified, planners and analysts can identify the attributes and traceable behavioral markers that correspond to each phase. Analysts then pool together vast available customer-level data, create new variables as needed, recommend new proxy measures, and categorize customers into their corresponding phase. This is the essence of marketing smart: integrating consumer mapping (segmentation) and targeting with planning from the start.

We recently categorized healthcare professionals (HCPs) into key journey phases using combined data including scripting volume (current value), category share (opportunity), and trajectory of prescription change over time (momentum), as well as other behavioral and attitudinal markers (attributes). We identified “the trialists” as customers who have a low volume of recent activities, or have remained static in their usage patterns. “Adopters” are users on an upward momentum who overindex on usage, while “the passionate advocates” have a large volume of usage and are still increasing their volume. The passionate advocates typically index well in terms of the category’s brand share. Since we can put a face to every target HCP within the customer journey’s important stages, allows us to map the communication plan, as well as behavioral change targets, to specific customers.

A journey infused with data makes evaluating and optimizing marketing effectiveness easier. Goals and targets should be set with behavioral outcome objectives for each customer segment, which makes tracking, assessment, and adjustment more feasible. When customers traverse into the journey’s next phase, the speed and momentum can be quantified, and the effect of channels and messages can be realized. A/B testing experiments are also beneficial to identify and amplify drivers (eg, tactics, content, execution) that have proven effective in engaging and moving customers into the next phase.

In conclusion, data, and the attendant analysis, can enhance our understanding of audiences along the customer journey, thereby enhancing more relevant communication, engagement, and desired responses from our customers. Marketers who put the customer-mapping capability to better use will reap the results of increased customer velocity along the journey, better customer experience with the brand, and higher value per customer.

1 http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/the_consumer_decision_journey
2 https://digitaliy.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/the-marketing-funnel-is-not-dead-a-website-analogy/

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A Case Study: Unlearning

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“Fail, fail again, fail better.” Samuel Beckett

I have this fear of making mistakes.

I find that I’m always second-guessing and triple-checking myself in most things I do because of that fear. When I do end up making a mistake, I find that I spend about 5 minutes scolding myself and wondering how it could have all been avoided. Let me just say that I find about 10 different ways to answer that question.

But isn’t making mistakes a part of life?

Yes. Everyone makes mistakes in life but it is how you bounce back from those mistakes that defines you. I recently listened to a podcast where the focus was on learning and unlearning. To “unlearn” means to let go of what you have already learned or acquired. To unlearn, you have to be open to letting go of what has been pushed on you for so long, pressing the pause button, and relearning all over again—but this time, the right way for you.

After some research, I decided that the time was right for me to start unlearning a few things—therein began my month of renewing my mind. Here is one thing I’ve “unlearned” thus far:

1. All mistakes are bad.

I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review about “The Wisdom of Deliberate Mistakes.” Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Robert E. Gunther, the authors of the article, state that “the resistance to making mistakes runs deep, creating traps in thinking and decision making”—a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. I believe the No. 1 thing that gets in the way of us being our best creatively is fear. I am learning to call my mistakes “experiments.” We live in a world of trial and error, and sometimes the greatest things can come out of simple experiments. As a wise person once told me, “It’s all about where the creative work is taking you and not where you are trying to take it.”

I have come to believe that in our line of work, especially in the creative department, we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Embrace it because some of the greatest innovations have come from just the simplest mistakes. Don’t believe me? Take some time and research how one of the antibiotics widely used today—penicillin—was created.

I’m still on my journey of unlearning, and if you would like to learn a little bit more, feel free to reach out!

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The Digital Health Revolution: Transforming the Patient Journey

The Digital Health Revolution Blog Image 2Around the world, one in every four people is using social media. Whether they are sharing a funny cat video, advice on dating, or their personal experiences living with a chronic illness, there are nearly two billion people connecting with one another through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social platforms, forever transforming the way humans communicate. This social media ecosystem also is ushering in a “digital health revolution.” Whether through their desktops, laptops, or mobile devices, people seeking medical and wellness information first check with their social networks.

Pharmaceutical companies have started entering the social media waters – — most with one toe in first. Given the increasing dependence on the digital world, social media is a natural touch point for companies to connect with the patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) they serve. Becoming truly social has not been an easy proposition for a conservative industry. But we have reached a tipping point, where social interaction is becoming critically important for the industry, and one that is blowing the lid off of the traditional way of communicating with stakeholders.

In the old paradigm, a pharmaceutical brand issues an advertisement that directs patients and HCPs to a website where they are provided one-sided information and an overall static experience. Patients are then directed to “talk to your doctor,” and that is where the interaction ends. Within the new social paradigm, patients, HCPs and pharmaceutical companies can have real conversations about the topics that are important to all of them. Patients also can access information and answers to their questions much faster, thereby making their path to help shorter.

Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to interact with patients and HCPs in a more meaningful way through social media. At Ogilvy, we are helping our pharmaceutical clients navigate this new paradigm and create unbranded social networks that offer patients who have similar life experiences – — whether that is quitting smoking or managing cancer – — a safe and comfortable environment to listen, learn, and share. We believe these networks offer unique value to the industry, allowing companies to provide patients with a support system where such a community may not otherwise exist.

Social networks resolve the limitations of both time and geography that are inherent with in-person support groups. They allow people to access information targeted to their concerns and conversations with global peers at any hour from the comfort and privacy of their own couch. Social networks also empower patients to initiate and direct conversations, interacting in a way that is meaningful to them. These networks are already forming, and we believe it is vital for industry to take the lead, to serve as the connector of those conversations, and to interact so that patients are assured they are receiving the best quality and most credible information.

The social media world has clearly shifted communication patterns and habits. Pharmaceutical companies can no longer afford to remain disconnected. Social interaction and sharing will continue whether or not the industry gets more involved. By taking a more active role within these patient communities, a pharmaceutical company allows its own voice and expertise to be heard, provides its stakeholders with real value, and, equally important, ensures that competitors aren’t the only ones creating meaningful interactions and relationships with consumers.


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