Accentuating a Brand's Positives: What Marketers Can Learn from Blockbuster Drugs
July 29, 2008 ‐ 3 comments
Let’s play a little game of “Match the Blockbuster Drug to its Possible Side Effect”: pharmagame Okay – it was a trick – they’re already matched. But no matter how hardcore your TV habit, and despite big pharma’s massive ad spending, I’ll wager the above was an exercise in guesswork. Watch this ad for the popular drug Cymbalta: Notice that only the first 24 seconds of the 60-second spot cover the drug’s benefits. The balance of the commercial describes the perils and side effects of its use, in clear and audible terms. And yet, according to Katharine Greider’s The Big Fix, prescriptions for the 50 drugs with the heaviest direct-to-consumer promotion increased 6 times faster than prescriptions for all other drugs. It probably has something to do with the facts that: a) The cure for illness is a product that really does sell itself b) There’s no such thing as bad publicity But there’s another lesson here for all marketers. An image is worth far more than 1000 words. Look at what’s happening in that Cymbalta ad while the narrator uses terms like ‘migraine’ and ‘life-threatening’. How can those big words compete with the unadulterated joy of playing with your son? Visuals, imagery and design are of paramount importance. The world’s most strategic value proposition is nothing without an arresting presentation. Consumers’ sophisticated filters allow them to absorb what they want, and omit what’s inconvenient. Be mindful of the power of images to get past those filters, and maybe you'll even turn a product which you are legally obligated to promote as possibly causing ‘gastrointestinal leakage’ into a $100 million a year cash cow.
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Nicholas Wallfarer
August 1, 2008 1:41 pm
I disagree that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Bad publicity can destroy. Look at John Kerry and the Swiftboat Gang and the well-placed innuendo that destroys celebrities, other public figures, and even institutions. Maybe what you mean is that some bad publicity does not necessarily bring destructive notoriety.
Glycerine Mopsa
August 1, 2008 1:34 pm
Most people who are unfamiliar with medications and the medical profession just do what they're told to do when a doctor prescribes a chemical panacea. However, for sophisticated patients, being prescribed a medication is the beginning of a search to see if it is safe to take. You are right that the visual image in the commercial helps to ignore the warnings that the drug company must put in the ad .
July 31, 2008 1:00 pm
I used to work with pharmaceutical advertisers online and they were by far the trickiest companies to work with. There are a lot of legal restrictions on their advertising, such as listing all the side effects and not advertising the parent company that are supposed to help the consumer. Amazing that this all has such an effect still with up to 6xs more perscriptions. Yikes.

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