Archive for June, 2010

Give The People What They Say They Want. And a Little More.

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I love the phrase from Henry Ford, “If I asked my customers what they want, they’d say a faster horse.” It succinctly communicates the conundrum of market research for communications planning.

Every brand team I’ve ever worked with conducts extensive market study with the goal of getting deeper into the psyche of the target audience. How do they think? What are their habits and desires? Aspirations? Attitudes? What are the brand attributes they look for? How does X brand fit into their everyday lives?

Armed with that information, we in PR, along with our agency partners on the DTC and online sides, trot off and develop our communications recommendations knowing they were supportable and research-based. That’s all we need to develop an effective program, right?

Not always. Here’s why:

  • As is typically the case with questionnaire-based research, the output is only as good as the input. Even when you think you’ve got the right tone, the right queries, the right target, the end product is not gospel. It’s a guide.
  • People often don’t know what they want or how they feel, so they dutifully complete the questionnaire but the answers may only reflect their true opinions at the time they gave them. The yield: some good insights.
  • Unless your brand is first to market, or you are introducing a new message never before heard by your customer, chances are the responses are colored by a positive experience or frustration with existing brands. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but I always maintain a little distance in those cases to avoid positioning the brand as the rebound relationship, rather than the ideal based on its own merits.
  • Regardless of what some audiences – especially if older adults are an important audience – report about dissatisfaction with this or that, they don’t like change.

Even with all these caveats, market research is a necessary and critical part of strategic and tactical planning. When we’re putting together PR recommendations, we draw on a variety of research – market studies, media audits, soft soundings with third party organizations, discussions with key opinion leaders, historical review, competitive analyses, and trends. We are guided by the information we collect, but are not wedded to it. We view the research data as an important ingredient in the communications recipe to which we often add experience, something new, a bit of the unexpected, and instinct. Finally, we ensure what we deliver is measurable. The finishing touch may also include a carefully considered and well informed leap of faith with the anticipated result that our target audience will welcome the information as something they couldn’t quite articulate but have been looking for all along.

A Perspective on the FDA “Bad Ad” Campaign

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The FDA’s new Bad Ad Program conveys many messages, both overt and subtle. The obvious ones: the FDA believes there are misleading prescription drug promotions out there, and the government needs the help of health care providers to identify them. The underlying but nonetheless crystal clear message:  Healthcare providers –and by extension patients, their families, consumers–should not trust the pharmaceutical industry and certainly not their ads and promotions.

That the Rx industry continues to be cast in the role of the villain is not news.  Poll after poll show the need for pharma companies to improve trust. It’s not as if the industry isn’t listening.  The industry invests significant time, energy and resources—people and financial— into programs that give back globally and locally, and on corporate reputation. Just look at any company’s website to see the good that’s being done at home and around the world.

But with this new black cloud, the negative perceptions may come dangerously close to overwhelming any of the realities.  In today’s world where the public trust has been compromised in so many different arenas –Madoff, Toyota, BP, Wall Street –the pharmaceutical industry is in pretty shabby company and Americans are in no mood to forgive.

Now, more than ever, credibility is everything, and PR has long been the communications “credibility” vehicle of choice.  PR can help companies dial up the trust factor in brand marketing by providing the communications balance to DTC investments through programs that deliver against a higher cause – patient education, disease awareness, free screenings, easier access to important information for at-risk patients and families. Moreover, we can help build relationships and establish partnerships with the full range of players from the for-profit and non-profit sectors on important health issues, and support company communications with important stakeholders using clear language and decisive actions.

According to a recent Harris poll, only 18% found pharma advertising most trustworthy compared to ads from four other major US industries.  Although every word of every claim and every visual that appears in a pharma ad is regulated, whether it’s a “good” ad or a “bad ad” isn’t clear, not even to the regulators.  Trust is at the heart of the issue, and we in PR should embrace this latest challenge and do what we do best to help our healthcare clients with counsel and programming that will help to close the the credibility gap.

Jacobstahl Announces Alliance With Global Brand Strategists Vivaldi Partners

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Jacobstahl, has announced today an alliance with Vivaldi Partners, a specialty brand strategic consulting firm headquartered in New York with offices in Europe, Latin America and Asia.  The partnership will begin in healthcare and focus on addressing the communications needs of companies and organizations looking to build strong brands, connect with customers and consumers, and achieve new growth through innovation and designing of meaningful experiences… read more.