Posts Tagged ‘messaging

25
Sep
15

Humanizing Pharma Advertising

Many factors contribute to the design, structure and content of a Web site. That is, to the extent that it’s profitable to talk about any of these topics in isolation. In the best sites, the three are inextricably linked.

That link is never more crucial than in pharmaceutical sites for consumers where, regulations or no, the exercise is wasted if the message doesn’t reach out over the footlights to address each visitor. “Address,” of course, is too mild a word. An effective site is one that shakes your audience out of its chair and sets it on a path to action.

Keeping in mind that the FDA imposes varying levels of restriction on the story each drug can tell, even within the same drug category, it’s still interesting to compare the approaches taken by different brands. If we look, for example, at sites created for three prescription cholesterol brands, the differences are striking.

Affectless.
Taken at face value and, again, with no knowledge of the regulatory path that was followed, the Crestor site is as neutral and affectless as it could possibly be. I mean, yes, there’s a recurring stock shot of a doctor in a lab coat, as well as a faker-than-fake dramatization shot of a patient reaching her numbers. But that’s about it. Every other aspect of the site is merely “informative.” Nor is the site’s lack of emotion alleviated by the literal adoption of the Crestor logo’s color scheme as the only other design element to speak of.

The site is, in other words, a classic example of Tidy Marketing, in which the only thing that matters is deniability. “Hey, consumers!” the site says, “Everything on these pages is lined up straight. You’re welcome.”

Personable.
The site for Zetia, another cholesterol medication, humanizes a similarly information-dense Web site with a relatively simple device. The headers of each section contain a flash video of an “average person” writing the visitor a note, delineating the topic of that section.

While the video itself is a big step forward toward making the site more welcoming, it’s the understated quality of the actors’ performances that has the greatest impact. Here are people, not icons, sharing the experience with you, with a minimum of artifice or fake backstory.

Responsive.
Livalorx.com, however, takes a more integrated approach to drawing users in. For starters, the home page calls attention to the free cholesterol screenings the brand offers through a mobile diagnostic unit. Sure, that’s not an intrinsic part of the site but, more to the point, it is an intrinsic component of the brand’s overall marketing campaign. As in many other cases, an online presence linked to an offline marketing initiative gives the digital component greater relevance and, as it were, a “spine.”

Within the body of the site, detailed programming allows users to find the most efficient user-path for their particular relationship both to the topic and to the medication. By answering a series of yes or no questions, users get where they need to go fast, without having to conduct an archeological dig.

Contributing to the effectiveness of this approach is the reasonably idiomatic way the questions and responses are written. You quickly lose the feeling you’re talking to a robot, as on one of those annoying voice-activated telephone screeners that never seem to understand you when you say “speak to a representative.”

Additionally, the understated use of animation on interior pages makes them feel responsive. Only the decision to include the horrible cliché of the 50+ hetero couple out on their bikes undercuts the site’s relatively fresh feeling.

Finally, a nearly YouTube-worthy video about drug interactions takes the bold step of using an analogy to explain this topic, apparently unconcerned that someone will think Livalo will also help you park your car. You

While neither the sites for Zetia or Livalo break new ground in terms of marketing ideology, what they demonstrate is how little it takes to communicate to people as opposed to “audience members” or “users.” It’s possible, marketers everywhere, even on a heavily regulated pharma site.

Now if we could steer away from those “What is…?” subject headings, we might begin to see consumer-facing pharmaceutical ads that read less like a child’s first reader from the early 1960s. These desperate measures to ensure clarity are completely unnecessary. What’s needed is the common sense to realize your audience also has common sense.

19
Nov
14

Consistency: Mythical Beast, Real-world Tyrant

When it comes to messaging, the word “consistency” is the consistent favorite, as a way to describe the messaging goals of many a brand. It consistently wins the prize for the most overused word in the business.

Not that I don’t understand the impulse. With today’s top-heavy staffing, it takes so many hours to reach common ground on the simplest decisions that there’s little incentive to evolve consumer messaging once the latest tagline passes in committee.

It’s so bad that the very idea of a consistent style of communication is too radical to contemplate. In a know-nothing world dominated by the best-practice undead, being consistent means saying exactly the same thing over and over and over and over and…

While this phenomenon is disturbing enough, the origin of the consistency bug is, as I see it, far more troubling. It stems from a deep-seated fear, born of deep-seated ignorance: The horrifying realization that one has neither the training, instinct, or talent to approach advertising and marketing creatively.

Of the many excuses for this decidedly aberrant behavior, none is less convincing than the all-time favorite, “The client made me do it.” Let me go on record as the first person in the history of advertising to assert that the client can’t make you do anything.

Occult powers.
If I’m not the first, I see no evidence of that principle at work anywhere I look.

  • Your CEO might “make you,” for no other reason than that your
    agency’s market niche is only one notch over from Upstairs Maid
  • Your creative director might “make you,” because it means less
    fuss and bother with image searches and font choices
  • Or your Account Supervisor might “make you,” because it’s
    scientifically proven to guarantee getting to Pilates class on time

But never the client, no matter how many implied client directives you choose to divine, using the mind-reading skills you learned in your MBA program.

To the client, one can always say “no.”

Not flat-out no, by the way. Not scary, lose-the-account no, I’m talking about a no that’s demonstrated, taught, presented and, most important, accompanied by alternatives.

Why is this worth the bother? Because, like any sane person, you’d like your 60-hour work week to add up to something—as opposed to a pile of conventionalized drivel that will one day be cranked out by a Google subroutine.

Myth making vs….
As I see it, the Myth of Consistency also has its origins in a misunderstanding of Brand Identity. At one end of the spectrum are people who believe any ad-like object with the “approved logo lock up, font and color palette” is branded. At the other end are a large group of brand managers who believe nothing is branded unless it conveys exactly the same message each time, word-for-word like a parrot and pixel-for-pixel like a child’s paint-by-numbers book.

But none of this micro consistency is real branding. That’s because branding is a promise of value. Not a promise, mind you, that the headline of every print ad will have 5 words and be in 24-point type. Not a promise that that the logo lock up will never appear on a colored background or that gradient color washes will anchor every background.

And, for heaven’s sake, branding does not mean using the same stock art everyone else is using, the same grinning, proto-orgasmic customers enjoying the same perfect day. Or their opposite, the sad sack, frowny-faced types who telegraph “Before [PRODUCT_NAME].”

…real brand building.
Branding, to the extent that consistency is involved at all, is bound up with the idea of trust. A branded message is a promise to deliver service or function reliably. And contrary to today’s obsessive practice, there is—yes there is—more than one way to make that promise, keep it alive and make your audience’s perception of its value grow.

Because that’s the mistake consistency hawks continue to make. If your message isn’t constantly evolving to reveal more and more of your value to consumers, your branding efforts are all for naught.
You become like that annoying friend we’ve all had at one point who does one tiny favor for you and never stops reminding you, word-for-word, of that favor every time you run into them.

Branding, then, is not about piddling details. It’s about being consistently engaging, enlivening and most of all interesting. If Apple is America’s most valuable company, it has everything to do with its ability to capture the Thought Leader title over and over again on a variety of issues. The apple logo, the color white, those annoying, cloying, smarmy, smug and grotesquely self-congratulatory voiceovers they crank out “consistently”? Not so much.




Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
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