Kantar Health Blog

Laugh along with the common people

by Mark Sales | Dec 3, 2015
Mark Sales

Growing up as an 80s child in the north of England, I was exposed to an explosion of music. Britpop and Madchester attempted to take on the world; bands like The Stone Roses, Pulp, and later Oasis and Blur, were reinventing a genre of rock and pop. ‘Why is this important?’ I hear many of you shouting at the computer screen. Well here are two reasons:

  1. My first reason is completely personal, but probably relatable to many. There was a radio in the operating room where my wife gave birth to our first child, when “Common People” by the aforementioned Pulp came on. The song was iconic and described my generation in my adolescent years. The emotional importance of this song forever shifted in my mind as my beautiful, healthy son was placed into my arms to this soundtrack.
  2. Music is often an underestimated medium, by which brands can hook consumers emotionally, none more so than at this time of the year with the battle of the British supermarket Christmas adverts. John Lewis, for example: People were reduced to tears by Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” as a bear left his best friend, the hare, to hibernate for winter, only to be woken on Christmas Day (http://bit.ly/1gD41yN). The following year we heard the lilting tones of John Lennon’s “Real Love” accompany a young boy and his adventures with his best friend Monty the penguin (http://bit.ly/1xhI1nL). The less said about their effort this year the better.

What does this tell us?

Brands are able to use multiple media and channels (the John Lewis Christmas campaign is always a multichannel, digital-heavy campaign) to either create or emphasise a strong emotional positioning.

This brings me to a meeting I attended a few years ago for an oncology brand team, where about 30 global marketers were debating how to position their brand. One very opinionated Brand Manager stood up in front of all of his peers and proclaimed, “Pharmaceutical brands should not even consider emotional positioning. It’s all about clinical data, and that’s it.”

It took a while for the group to calm down after this statement, and the conversation turned to the proliferation of me-too markets at the time where brands have hardly any clinical differentiation. Erectile dysfunction, dyslipidaemia, hypertension and oral antidiabetics, to name a few, were flooded with clinically undifferentiated, similarly priced blockbusters. What made the physician write one molecule on the pad rather than another?

This is when we as an industry dipped our toe into emotional positioning and went patient profile crazy, with every rep turning up with a story of ‘Independent Doris, aged 58, who didn’t go for her blood pressure check-up very often, but had four grandchildren and a single mother daughter who relied heavily on her. How could you not prescribe our drug to all the Dorises so they can stay independent?’

Without getting to the point of adopting Queen’s “Under Pressure” for your hypertension medicine, I think we should be ready to take the next step. Emotional positioning as part of the marketing mix is getting ever more important in healthcare, especially as masterful use of multiple channels can connect healthcare professionals and patients to your brand very powerfully.

To sign off, maybe more of an indulgence for me, but here is Jarvis Cocker singing about those Common People: http://bit.ly/1bEX84J.

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