How Do You Talk With Patients?

Is It Important to Catch Their Attention?

Sure it is. If they do not notice the communication, it cannot have an effect. However the form should not overwhelm the content. This means that any communication should be highly relevant to the patients and consistent with the feelings that they have.

KEYTRUDA demonstrates great examples of meetings patients where they are at. The "Moment" campaign starts by saying, "I remember when the doctor first told me that I had cancer." All cancer patients will be able to relate to this statement.

The ad does not dwell on the despair of the condition. It moves on to the fullness that these patients can feel in their lives, which is supported by using the right medications.

Some DTC Marketing Can "Break the Rules"

Many agencies applaud the bold approach that is used by PHEXXI to promote the brand for use in birth control. It shows a woman who welcomes the viewer to her vagina. This whimsical approach may work very well for this target audience, younger women who will appreciate the sense of humor that is indicated. The ad gets your attention. However, it is very difficult to imagine another category where this type of approach would be effective.  

Breaking the rules can mean selecting unique imagery that is consistent with core patient feeling. Competing against VIAGRA, CIALIS needed to find a new way to speak to patients. VIAGRA already owned the idea of macho men. Following that path was useless. Everyone has forgotten LEVITRA, another brand that used the same approach as VIAGRA. It depicted men throwing footballs through tires (a very odd metaphor). We doubt that patients could relate. The problem would have been revealed in well conducted research. Perhaps that never happened. In any case, Bayer spent millions and LEVITRA was still a flop. VIAGRA was the macho man brand.

CIALIS Took A Different Approach

By conducting research among patients with ED, CIALIS learned more about the impact that the condition had on couples. It is not surprising to hear that ED affects both women and men and will undermine relationships. VIAGRA was placing the emphasis in marketing almost exclusively on men. CIALIS identified the impact the condition has on women and focused on the emotional side of the dynamic, taking romance into account. Unlike LEVITRA, sales of CIALIS surged.

As a side note, it did not hurt that the advertising used "Tubs" as a metaphor to flag this intimacy. Initially panned by critics, this image became iconic and overcame a problem that all brands new to the market will face. Advertising did not need to focus so much on building brand awareness. We found that when patients asked physicians about "Tubs," they nearly always got CIALIS.

Effective DTC Communication Is Rooted In Patient Centricity

The idea of “patient centricity” is quite in vogue these days. Many talk about it. ”True” patient centricity can only be achieved if you listen to patients and understand how the condition is affecting them. More than anything, you need to understand how they feel.

Emotional response differs by category. Claire Wineland, who suffered from Cystic Fibrosis, cautioned Pharma to not treat patients as cripples. Even though she was dying, she was filled with hope. Emotional triggers of “love," “hope,” and ”peace” work best in DTC communication.

The lives of patients can differ greatly by category. Your job is to listen well to what they need. Great patient communications are in the best interest of patients. They must always be at the center of all that we do!