However you think about it pharmaceutical products are in a unique selling environment. Customers of the marketing and sales departments are not the end users and now not even empowered to buy products. Over the last ten years Pharmaceutical companies have focused on creating “first to market” compounds or highly differentiated products. Each of these the strategies have been aimed at generating a “Blockbuster” drugs. In addition the dependency of the industry on mass market chronic conditions, treated by general physicians, has been found to be unsustainable with spiralling costs of development and sales.
Storytelling is the new order for pharmaceutical brands. The science of pharmaceutical compounds and their activity on the human body has become extremely technical and complex. Yet the way the industry communicates this to its customers has remained simplistic. Most pharmaceutical brand communication material remains focused on differentiating the compound attributes from those of the competition. Often the customer is left dazzled with an array of efficacy and safety benefits over the current products without a connection to either the brand or the company and in medicine tried and trusted is the name of the game. In the mind of the customer he must still make up a story about why he should use each new brand even if he has the enthusiasm to change from his current routine.
This need for a story is in ground in the fabric of our psyche. We learn how to do everything by stories. For millennia the history of the world was captured by stories. Empires were created by leaders who communicated stories about how the battle would create a better life for the army and there families. Even religion is based on one of the oldest chronicled stories as told in the bible.
Here I set out my quest to bring storytelling to the pharmaceutical industry. Why? Because I passionately believe that there is a more effective way to communicate complex ideas and where better to start than science of the human body.
Why storytelling? As discussed above storytelling is our inbuilt way of communicating and understanding concepts. Others have written about metaphors and I see these as mini stories. In both cases the power is that you can tell a story and the public gain far more brand connection than a group of well ordered facts. Let me give you an example. Think of the last expensive product you bought and then think of the first time you heard about that brand. Most likely it was by word of mouth, either a friend or on a TV show. It is unlikely that you saw a list of facts and thought that it was a great “must have” brand. The same happens with pharmaceuticals but with even more storytelling power. Physicians and pharmacist have a natural theatre for the story to play out. With a sick patients the story of success of failure drugs are told each day. The new quest for pharmaceuticals is to build brands with this story inbuilt so that it can be well told from the first day.
What goes into a good story- How do I get one? Here are my thoughts elements needed to create a great pharmaceutical brand story.
· Emotion and desire
· Truth and Authenticity
· Change and Call to action
· Who and When
· Innovation or heritage but not same as
· Told from the Patient or Physicians perspective
The challenge you set yourself as you create or reposition your brand would be to see if one of your customers can tell you what you brand story is. More over if you cannot tell your customer what the story is, your brand value is unlikely to optimal.
To help you evaluate your brand let me ask you the following questions.
· What emotion or human driver (think Maslow) are you attempting to invoke in the customers mind?
· Does your story (or communication) have truth and authenticity- Will your customer find this to be true if he looks for himself?
· Does your story ask you customers to do something different that before they heard it and does it have urgency?
· Does your story tell how the actors are and create an understanding of their character?
· Is there a community element to the story- does it invoke a sense of passing the story on to a similar person?
· Is there a time/ date or a when in the story?
· Is the protagonist of your story going to be using a innovative brand to help or a heritage brand? If it is the “Same as” their existing brand you don’t have a story.
· Is your story told from the aspect of a Physician of Patient?
More on market research techniques for uncovering stories, examples of great stories both inside and outside the pharma industry and a more detailed look at each of these story elements in future posts. Contact me directly for more detailed thoughts until then.
Call for stories- If you have examples that communicate a great brand Story please post them here.