When Pharma Met Feelings: Emotion in Healthcare Marketing

Dear House Rules,

As a pharmaceutical marketer, I’ve always heard that “clinical was best.” No matter how often the idea “but HCPs are people too, so they should respond to emotional pitches” crosses my mind, I know it’s all about the data – well, that and the half of your time or pixels you must use for telling your customers all the risks of your product. Recently, though, I’ve noticed pharma pieces with a little more of a style of communication I associate with unbranded creative – fewer restrictions and a lot more heart. What gives?


Do I Need a Tissue?

Dear Tissue,

You’re not imagining things. Pharmaceutical marketing – to patients and prescribers both – has indeed gotten more emotional. Pharmaceutical companies or healthcare brands have long had a hard time authentically engaging with patients or with doctors. However, some are starting to use new tools like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, in addition to classic strategies like humor and storytelling, in an effort to improve their customers’ experience, which has been considered inauthentic.

This move toward authenticity been brewing for years in the healthcare industry, which is bound by regulatory constraints and an internal corporate culture reluctant to try new things. Emotion can be a key part in the story you tell, even in pharma, as long as you tell all sides of the story. In this period of history where almost everyone who has a physician has a smartphone, and can look up conditions, drugs, and patient testimonials on YouTube, it’s especially important to grab the attention of your audience – and hold on. Here are a few tips for success:

• Start with a surprising, compelling idea. Does it make you feel something? Even wipe away a tear? Or does it just tell you something? If it seems familiar, give it the boot.

• Doing a focus group for your new marketing? Focus on the audience. If you steamroll a focus group by extolling your product whenever they offer a suggestion, you’re likely to miss the true insight needed to create a great ad or campaign—the real emotion.

• Make your ad a “no clutter zone”. You want to convey one simple emotion—so don’t distract from that with logos and messages.

• Be patient. The effects and benefits of an emotional marketing campaign aren’t always as instant as direct response coupon campaigns. Set the expectation up front that payoffs won’t necessarily be immediate.

We’re big proponents of emotional advertising at Xavier Creative House, and we strive to be a brand’s head and heart. We’d love to share our expertise with you. Just reach out to us via phone, email, or social media!

References: 1. http://www.mmm-online.com/live-at-cannes/cannes-lions-health-gsk-astrazeneca-gilead-merck-takeda/article/666456/. Accessed March 21, 2018.
2. https://www.pm360online.com/emotional-marketing-successfully-affecting-behavior-change/. Accessed March 21, 2018.

About Xavier Creative House

Founded in 2013, Xavier Creative House (XCH) is an award-winning healthcare creative agency specializing in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device. XCH’s global team of brand builders and healthcare marketers, tech-savvy go-getters, and innovative dream-vetters are passionate about the big idea that changes behavior in the healthcare marketplace. They believe life is about connections and that healthcare is about life. That is why XCH delivers bold and evocative creative solutions, amplified by meaningful technology, to energize brands and authentically connect with patients and HCPs.

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Sunny White
Founder & CEO of Xavier Creative House