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The Human Touch - A Case for Authenticity

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Words by Louise Rogers

The pharmaceutical industry develops products to improve people’s lives. That much states what is evident. So, in an industry where generally speaking ‘Product + Human = Better Patient Outcome’, how can product be so heavily weighted in the equation, and, in some situations, human removed entirely to have it still equal the same result?

The business of bringing pharma back to its ‘human-focussed’ roots was the topic of several sessions at Cannes Lions 2018, and how some companies have gone about placing the human at the centre of their overall brand strategy.

“Beyond the medicines we manufacture, we realised that we have to deliver the medicines holistically”, says Savitri Basavaiah, Oncology Portfolio Marketing Lead, Pfizer. As part of this, Pfizer, in collaboration with their ad agency, Patients & Purpose, present at this year’s Festival of Creativity their ‘This is Living with Cancer’ campaign, a 20-minute documentary that supports the LivingWith app, a mobile tool to help patients manage life with cancer. The film follows the day-to-day activities of five patients over the space of 4 months, with the ambition to redefine a life living with cancer.

“It wasn’t just about the cancer, although I don’t want to minimise that at all”, says Dina Peck, Managing Partner and Executive Director, Patients & Purpose. “But it was important for us to celebrate their inspiring stories, and who they are as people.”

This objective was not fallen short of. Hearts were won as the film showcased the unique identities of all the individuals, making an impression on every viewer due to the effortless capturing of each person’s outlook on life. “The pain is real, the challenges are real, the fear is real – but you have to focus on the living”, says Judi, one of the subjects in the documentary.

“We let the people tell us a story instead of giving them a narrative”, says Basavaiah. “We felt that there was an opportunity that existed that wasn’t out there and so we wanted to celebrate that, we wanted to celebrate the living”, adds Peck.

Alison Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer at Johnson & Johnson, has aligned views in terms of listening to customers. Recent years have seen the company take hits in the media regarding the ingredients of their products, and the name, synonymous with baby produce, began to appear in a tainted spotlight. “Reality was we were losing market share and share of mind with our consumers”, she voices. “We realised we needed to talk to people – so we went and spoke to 26,000 consumers. We found out what mattered to them, and what didn’t. We spoke to the people that love Johnson & Johnson and those who don’t love Johnson & Johnson. We got all the insights that we needed to make the changes we needed to make.”

The company decided to start from scratch in order to bring the individual back to the heart of Johnson & Johnson, back 96 years to be exact. Lewis presents the first advert from the company that celebrates the power of motherhood and the parent–baby bond. “What were mothers in 1922 asking? They were asking ‘Am I making the right choices?’”. Although there has been recent hype about targeting the millennial generation, the brand realised that what the mothers of today were asking was exactly the same as they were 100 years ago – ‘Am I making the right choices for my baby?’. So, the brand disclosed all the ingredients and even changed a few to more natural alternatives.

These case studies show that while most people listen with the intent to reply, mastery of listening with the intent to understand is critical to bringing pharma back to the individual by balancing the product–patient equation.

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