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The Science of Marketing Bioresearch Brands.

How 3 Organizations Use Patient-driven Marketing Campaigns to Build More Enduring Brands

By Karan Cushman, October 17, 2016

From big pharma to nonprofit biomedical groups, more bioresearch brands are turning to patients to create meaningful marketing communications.

The nature of bioresearch—something that is done in protected labs, far away from the public eye—can also separate it from the very patients it is designed to help. By reconnecting your work to the patients it benefits, your bioresearch organization can energize scientists internally and inspire support externally through more authentic, patient-driven communications.

Here’s how 3 bioresearch brands are building stronger brands with patient-driven marketing:

1) Pfizer: Restoring Its Reputation

Your brand reputation is what your customers, stakeholders, donors believe it is, and sometimes it’s not as positive as your organization would like it to be. This captivating patient-focused campaign from Pfizer proves that transparency can help improve your reputation by allowing others to see firsthand how it impacts their lives.

The campaign is designed to help patients mentally connect their medications to the real people who develop them. This messaging was a response to the public’s current view of pharmaceutical companies, which has become increasingly skeptical. A Gallup poll showed that the percentage of Americans with a positive view of the pharmaceutical industry dropped from 40% in 2014 to 35% in 2015, while the percentage with a negative view rose from 36% to 43%.

Pfizer’s approach in its 2016 campaign, Before it Became a Medicine, was smart because it ensured its communications were less self-congratulatory and more about how they serve patients. The campaign also provides a look inside of Pfizer’s day-to-day work by introducing its scientists through the lens of the people they help. This patient-driven approach is effective because it humanizes Pfizer in a way that builds lasting trust in the brand.

Marketing takeaway:

Transparency builds trust, and in the age of digital media, pharmaceuticals have more opportunities than ever to step out from behind their institutional walls and engage. Those that do will build lasting reputations as trustworthy brands.


2) MassBio: Turning Patients Into Brand Advocates

Recently, MassBio held its Annual Patient Advocacy Summit in keeping with the ongoing #patientdriven campaign. Presenters raised key topics such as everyone is a patient at some point, and understanding patient stories can empower life science and biotech companies to make better choices.

Those messages are particularly relevant for Bioresearch marketers who are in the position to spearhead patient-driven initiatives. Spotlighting patient stories to raise awareness about a health condition that your innovation improves or cures is an effective way to amplify your brand. This approach, also known as health advocacy, proactively engages key opinion leaders, patients and patient advocacy groups to help tell a story that supports your organization’s innovations.

Health advocacy connects patients and healthcare professionals with your brand in a more authentic way. Instead of you talking at people about your organizations accomplishments, you provide a platform for patients to share their unique experiences as people, as fighters, and, ultimately, as advocates of your brand.

For an example of a patient-driven campaign that brings attention to an innovative biopharmaceutical organization check out the “I’m Not Average” campaign, which features patients whose lives have been impacted by debilitating, chronic or rare diseases. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) created the campaign to build awareness of their focus on searching for new treatments and cures.

Marketing takeaway:

When your organization publicly shows interest in the people it serves, they tend to reciprocate by sharing their experiences with and in support of your brand. This is especially true for Social Media, where reciprocation fuels relevance.


 3) MDI Biological Laboratory: Building Resilience Inside and Out

Inside of most bioresearch organizations, scientific discovery happens within a sterile environment, and it tends to disconnect us from one another. Many researchers repeat the same processes day after day, and it becomes normal for them to become numb to the reasons they labor in the first place—to fight life-changing and life-threatening diseases.

Patients also fight, though in a different way, and they often face the same challenges, confusion and occasional feelings of hopelessness. For two groups of people tied so closely by their emotions and purpose, it seems strange for scientists and patients not to communicate regularly.

That realization is what inspired Breaking Throughan annual report to donors of the MDI Biological Laboratory–a biomedical nonprofit focused on aging disease research. The report highlights patients like Michael Westphal, who lives with Parkinson’s Disease, and speaks to his perseverance as a marathon runner and a survivor. As a patient, Michael embodies the spirit it takes to keep science moving forward—always believing that the next medical advance may be just around the corner. By connecting his story to the story of the Bio Lab, together we were able to communicate the Institution’s larger purpose to donors without sounding self-aggrandizing.

Beyond the marketing benefits of connecting with patients to share our values, patient-driven bioresearch organizations learn to be more proactive on a broader scale because they know what’s at stake and they are directly connected to those who are relying on them to keep trying. As a result, its scientists, stakeholders and marketers remained fueled by the importance of what they do. When one endeavor isn’t as successful as they hoped, knowing the possibilities of how they can improve a patient life helps keeps them on track and inspires them, to try again and again… and again.

Marketing takeaway:

Being patient-driven can fuel an organization’s science by keeping researchers connected to the real value and meaning behind their work. Developing relationships with patients and families who are counting on a cure can be a powerful incentive to keep going. And by bringing their story to life in your communications, you’ll engage donors, media and other outside VIPs more authentically with your work.

Over my 20-year marketing career, I have seen the power of patient stories over and over–most often by healthcare and non-profit clients on the front lines of treating patients. For me, it’s exciting to see the larger research industry becoming more patient focused. My own experiences as a cancer patient are exactly what inspired me to start my agency.

The reality of living with disease is an emotional story only those facing it can tell. As science marketers, if we can shorten the distance between what patients are going through and what our scientists are working on everyone benefits. I’m grateful for any contribution my agency gives to those involved in that process.

Are you wondering how you might incorporate patient-driven marketing into your next campaign? Sign up for a free “Pick My Brain” session at right or simply email me and let’s set up a time to talk. 


Tagged: Strategy

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