Lorna Weir co-founded Elevate Healthcare in 2015 with Frank X. Powers, both agency veterans. The company name is reflective of their mission to help challenger brands to elevate their quality and influence of brands. We spoke with Lorna about the decision to found Elevate, why the company was founded by the two agency professionals, and about the fun involved in helping companies to achieve their goals.

PM360: You founded Elevate Healthcare in 2015 with Frank X. Powers. What inspiration or need brought the two of you together to form this company?

Lorna Weir: Our shared passion for brand strategy first brought us together 20 years ago, and it’s what makes us click today. I was a former lawyer working as an advertising account manager, and Frank was a Brand Strategist. We met behind the glass on a research project and connected immediately based on our love for branding and creative thinking. A year or so later, an opportunity arose to recruit Frank to the agency side. We spent the next several years rising through the ranks, then left to start Elevate Healthcare. It was the logical next step for us to work together, get back to working directly with clients to build success, and have fun while we’re at it.

What is your mission statement, or personal philosophy, for the agency?

Elevate wasn’t just a name—it was our mission. Our agency was founded with the mission to elevate the quality and influence of a healthcare brand’s marketing by bringing insight, planning, and creativity targeted to addressing our client’s most pressing issues.

Elevate is specifically focused on healthcare challenger brands in the biopharma and medical device space, with the aim to help them differentiate themselves in the healthcare space. Can you speak about challenger brands and what kind of success have you have seen so far?

Every brand we help is different. All kinds of brands are challenger brands—even market leaders are challenged in certain circumstances. We strive to apply creative ideas designed to break through the usual clutter and deliver messages that are heard, sink in, and change behavior.

A great example is the recent relaunch of Synera, a lidocaine/tetracaine patch with a unique warming technology that provides fast, effective prevention of needle-stick pain.

Being afraid of needle-stick pain during medical procedures is not unusual. But we noticed a critical motivating insight: Many people experience the pain and fear to such a degree that it can impinge on their lives—and on their willingness to get necessary medical procedures.

The product had limited brand awareness and promoted itself with an expected campaign featuring patient photos. We set a new strategy to raise awareness of needle-stick pain as a serious issue that should not be ignored. We created the Stop the Sting campaign to plant a powerful notion that many patients view even a simple injection with fear and anxiety—and to reinforce that there is an urgent need to act on patient behalf. The new, more exciting, branded campaign inspired renewed pride within the sales organization, sales calls increased, and so did time spent with target healthcare professionals.

To what do you attribute your success?

Our model of building senior strategic and creative staff fits well with the needs of clients. Frank and I are intimately involved in building a team that consistently creates great work that inspires us: Powerful executions built from sound strategic thinking. That’s what inspires us, and thankfully, it inspires our clients, too.

Your goal at Elevate is to disrupt the biopharma and med device market through marketing strategy. What sort of strategies do you employ at your agency that take your work to the next level or differentiate you from other marketers working in this space?

The things that set us apart are a natural consequence of our business model. Beyond identifying big insights that present opportunities for bold, compelling, creative solutions, we also help our marketing clients assure a seamless transition as they pass the baton over to the sales team and drive impact in the field. Along with eliminating the chasm that can sometimes exist between marketing strategy and sales implementation, we stay intimately involved in the critical aspects of our clients’ business, from guidance in market research, to planning and presenting, to senior management, to specialized tactics, and more.

What would be your advice for marketers working in niche marketing areas?

Whether a brand is competing in a specialty marketplace or a broader one, the key to success is uncovering powerful, actionable insights that provide opportunities to engage and shape behavior. A niche market is not a negative if you own it. You do your homework, know the dynamics, uncover insights, then create strategy. You also need the temerity to pull it through with powerful creative execution.

Where do you see your agency headed five years down the line?

Not only do I think our model will still be extremely relevant in the future, we’re actually built for it. While we can expect significant changes influenced by new technologies, political issues, and other disruptions, our experienced team will always help our clients navigate the changes and build their brands. The need for our core capabilities, like uncovering more authentic ways of engaging, or possessing the experience to know when to accept or reject a new technology, or turn on a dime to take advantage of a new insight will never go away. And we’ll always put a priority on engaging with clients and having fun doing it. That doesn’t have a time limit or expiration date.

To learn more about Lorna and her team at Elevate visit www.elevateHC.com.

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