Put new technology with millennial docs and you get more empathy-oriented marketing messages

Pharma marketers aren't limiting their emotional messaging to consumers. These days, they're trying to tap doctors' compassion, too.

Inspiring empathy is commonly used to help consumers understand the struggles of patients with diseases chronic and acute. But advanced technology, an increase in the number of millennial doctors and consumers' tendency to identify with brands are conspiring to push more compassion-oriented messaging to healthcare providers.  

“I think we mistakenly continue to think that engagement for HCPs, especially in social media, needs to be a clinical dialogue,” said Chris Cullmann, head of digital at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, in an interview. “We keep swallowing this pill that physicians stop being physicians when they go on Facebook. When we talk about physicians making the choice between multiple brands repeatedly—in areas like diabetes, endocrinology or cardiology—making them feel good about the choices they make is as much about the brand story as it is the clinical point of differentiation.”

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He cited Ogilvy’s work for Philips in “Breathless Choir,” which won multiple accolades and awards last year as an example of marketing that spoke to providers. The work—featuring people with respiratory illnesses who were brought together to sing in a choir with the help of Philips equipment—resulted in an elevation of the Phillips brand in physicians’ estimation, he said.

Klick Health created an entire empathy device this year via its own Klick Labs with a two-piece armband that can transmit tremors from a Parkinson's patient to someone who doesn't suffer from the disease, such as a caregiver or doctor. The device dramatically illustrated the disease's effects for HCPs who treat patients with the disease.  

That growth of emotional messaging and empathy extends to pharma ranks as well. Ogilvy CommonHealth head of planning Johanna Skilling additionally predicted that the “Chief Empathy Officer will be the next generation of the Chief Patient Officer, a trend which got under way 5 years ago,” adding that the emerging trend “is being seeded as empathy becomes a cultural watchword.”