Instagram for Pharma Marketers: A Fresh, Emotional Connection

When it comes to marketing campaigns, it is no secret that digital and social marketing has evolved into extremely successful means of reaching and acquiring target demographics. It still may surprise you, however, to hear which form of social media is ready to fly away with your brand’s desires, reaching more consumers than your status meetings could imagine. It is “cooler” and more current than Facebook and, though it is now attributed as the root of success for several brand campaigns and, respectively, corporations as a whole, it remains largely unexplored and fresh to the general consumer. Marketers, meet your new best friend: Instagram.

At the “What Do Marketers Want from Mobile?” workshop at this year’s SXSW, Pamela Naumes, Director of Brand Engagement at Bolthouse Farms, Inc., shared that she was looking for a “cool” way to get healthy drinks into the hands of consumers. After advertising on TV and search engines, she turned to a billboard/Instagram campaign that consisted of three steps: 1) Take a picture of a Bolthouse Farms bottle or advertisement, 2) Share it on Instagram with the tag “#carrotfarmers” and the tag “#gotcoupon” and 3) Receive a $1.50 coupon instantly delivered via an automatic comment. The results? Two and a half million Instagram impressions and more than 16,000 posts containing the tags. Of those who received the coupon via comment, 91% printed it, outshining the 35% print rate that Bolthouse had been achieving among all other digital channels, including Google and Facebook.

“[Marketers] are looking for an emotional connection.  Metrics don’t do it.”

Why is this? For one thing, Instagram is fresh. According to a recent article on The Next Web, Instagram has surpassed Twitter in quantity of mobile users (200 million at press time), a fact that is likely heart-breaking to the blue birdie. While Facebook aged, Twitter had, for some time, become a fresh outlet for those seeking a new beginning. Now, Instagram is Twitter’s one-upper. Instagram is so fresh that it hasn’t even been conquered by spam artists yet. Even Facebook got so jealous of Instagram’s swagger, they bought it. It seems like there is always someone waiting to take the spotlight, right? Before Facebook, you might remember AOL Instant Messenger? I sure do. If only AIM had practiced “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’”

On top of being fresh, the Instagram campaign itself is mobile, which invites creativity out of its consumers and, let’s face it, creators are competitive. Posting anything to Instagram is an added entertainment, a mission, a focus—it gives consumers something to look for and do in addition to any ordinary situation. It’s a challenge. Even I, since I heard Ms. Naumes mention this campaign, have found myself double-glancing at billboards, momentarily considering that it may be a Bolthouse advertisement, for which I could take a picture, hashtag the company, “be cool,” and get a coupon. Even if I never use the coupon, even if I never even print the coupon, it’s brand awareness. It’s name recognition. It’s word-of-mouth. As my friend asks, “What are you looking at?” and I inform her of Bolthouse’s campaign, she’s onto the challenge as well and that’s one more impression made for Bolthouse.

“Take a picture of our picture and show it to your friends.”

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of an Instagram campaign is the opportunity to use print, television and other mediums to inform consumers of the campaign itself. An Instagram campaign alone encourages consumers to locate and capture examples of your brand’s other various forms of marketing. This is genius! Don’t just take it from me—the truth is in the numbers. According to Mike Parkinson’s book Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics on the power of visual communication, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. Four in 10 people respond better to visual information than plain text. Visual content, coupled with a fad as current as Instagram, can be instrumental to a brand’s success.

Everyone’s a Star

Bigwigs like MTV, Starbucks, Burberry and Nike are the top brands already using Instagram, each with high-engagement rates. That means that consumers are ever-connected, consistently participating in campaigns and hash-tagging whatever is requested. Truly, this level of participation should come as no surprise. It only relates to the human tendency to want to belong, to want to be a part of something bigger. In the ’90s, if a television campaign was seeking its brand users to appear in the corporation’s television commercial for the product, users would flock to the soundstage. In the ’60s, if a marketer invited its users to come provide voiceovers for their radio campaign, the company wouldn’t have to pony up the dough to gain participants. The general public wants to be involved, wants to be seen, and wants to be heard.  Today, this invitation comes in the form of social media. Anyone, anywhere can be a part of a brand’s “commercial” by using the assigned hashtag, or challenging each other to the most creative photo opp. In the end, what began as a billboard welcoming hash-taggers to Instagram for coupons evolved into high engagements, brand recognition, word of mouth and a social media craze.

Potential Instagram Uses for Pharma

For those of you reading this and thinking “Instagram is for teenagers—not the audience for my brand” consider this: Similar statements were made about Facebook, Twitter, even about the Internet as each medium got started, and the adoption rate for Instagram has been much quicker than other media. Pew research recently reported that of Internet users, 28% between the ages of 18 and 29 are using Instagram, 14% between the ages of 30 and 49 use Instagram. There’s even a group of Internet users between ages 50 and 65 using Instagram—Pew estimates this at just 3% now, but that number is growing. And those early adopters make up an excellent focus group for trying out marketing campaigns in new mediums that can illustrate what will work well later when a larger audience is present. The more pharma companies begin using Instagram now to target an older demographic, the more that demographic will want to engage.

Aside from the existence of Instagram support groups that welcome the association of those who have suffered or have known someone who suffered from an ailment, Instagram, like Facebook and Twitter, encourages the sharing of memes and other images, particularly those that are positive, uplifting, inspirational, encouraging and, of course, health-conscious. Sadly, spam artists have already taken to Facebook to bank off of the tendency to share such motivating photos (and—not to worry—the social network has taken necessary steps to prevent such spam from continuing), but opportunity remains for legitimate name-dropping to accompany each photo on Instagram. Truly, the options are endless.

How many times has a picture been shared by a social media user on behalf of a formerly ill patient who beat cancer? Consider the effect of stamping the original image with a hashtag of the healthcare facility that treated him/her. Each impression made for the sake of this survivor grants each of its viewers the belief that the facility is more than helpful, but lifesaving.

Furthermore, a donation could be offered to a relative association in exchange for the promotion of images containing your pharma company’s pre-determined hashtag, such as: “For every picture uploaded to Instagram with a favorite memory of yours and the hashtag #IWillRemember, [your pharma company] will donate $1 to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.” The results: An inspirational, shareable message, a monetary benefit for a remarkable cause and, unavoidably, brand awareness.

From a more light-hearted perspective, allergy brands, which likely rely on annual bursts in revenue throughout allergy seasons, should consider the potential associated with an Instagram campaign that encourages users to make fun of their symptoms and challenge them to maybe: 1) “Take a creative picture of how they deal with their allergies, 2) Take a picture of themselves holding your allergy product, 3) Take a picture of themselves healed, and a humorous, realistic hashtag like #XProductWhatARelief for a coupon for $5 off on your next purchase of X product.” Such an idea not only keeps your current customers buying, but it brings new customers in.

A sleep aid might encourage the partners of users to grab a snapshot of their loved one cozy and (finally) getting some sleep. Upload the picture to Instagram and hashtag the brand.

A snoring preventative could ask those same loved ones to record the relieving effects of the med and hashtag something cute like #silenceisgolden.

After all, it’s no secret that making light of otherwise serious situations is the preferred way of sharing the inspirational message. Deborah Cohan is fondly known as the patient who vivaciously starred in a video that went viral on social media at the end of 2013. Just moments away from a double mastectomy, Cohan initiated a dance party in her hospital gown and cap and among her surgical staff. Finding the fun in the serious stuff is comparable to Instagram’s “#Mamming,” campaign, for example. “#Mamming” sparks breast cancer awareness by encouraging users to take photos of their (clothed) breasts against a flat surface to mimic the (often loathed) process of getting a precautionary mammogram—a move that could prevent and/or catch breast cancer’s progression.

Perhaps the most awesome fact surrounding the #Mammogram campaign is that it was started by two advertising executives, one of whom is a breast cancer survivor. At the end of the day, marketers, consumers and Instagram users, some of whom serve more than one of these roles, at the very least have their own health concerns in common. Opting to use the most effective, current, and trending tools available to reach each other with life-altering and, sometimes, life-saving solutions lets us add value where our audiences are.

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