PM360 2020 Trailblazer Awards Diabetes/Metabolic Disorders Brand Champion Conrod Kelly

Conrod Kelly, Executive Director, Policy/Gov’t Relations – Social Determinants, Merck

When Conrod Kelly was first offered to lead the diabetes franchise at Merck two years ago, he was hesitant. “My father has type 2 diabetes, so I’ve seen the impact it has on individuals and their families, as well the stigma associated with the disease,” Conrod explains. “I knew it was going to require a different approach, but I just wasn’t sure I’d have the organizational support.” But when Conrod was given the go-ahead to push the envelope, he did just that.

First, his team and extended teams studied what made iconic brands such as Levi, Mountain Dew, and Harley, well iconic. Discovering these brands formed a deep connection with the culture, his team immersed themselves in populations impacted by diabetes that often felt their lived experience was not represented in industry communications, such as Hispanics, Blacks, and people living in rural communities.

From that research, they developed A Touch of Sugar, a 30-minute documentary (in English and Spanish) following the journeys of people impacted by type 2 diabetes to explore how socioeconomic conditions complicate disease management. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, played at other festivals, and was also shown on TV (both nationally and locally). Additionally, the team created toolkits to fulfil more than 1,300 requests from churches, community centers, local governments, patient advocacy groups, and more to view the film in their local communicates. Ultimately, this unbranded campaign resulted in 1.3 billion media impressions and strengthened the company’s relationship with these communities and the healthcare professionals that serve them.

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