In the first chapter of his book Uprising: How to Build a Brand—and Change the World—By Sparking Cultural Movements, Scott Goodson tells the story of the Boomer Coalition. As it goes, following the deaths of soul singer Barry White and actor John Ritter, friends and relatives of the celebrities started to make high-profile appearances in which they talked about CVD, aka cardiovascular disease. This started to raise awareness among the Baby Boomer generation about their risk of CVD and how something needed to be done. Before you knew it, the Boomer Coalition was born followed by T-shirts, rallies and concerts all focused on CVD. A front-page garnering movement seemingly popped out of nowhere. Only it didn’t.

In fact, Pfizer actually worked with Goodson and his cultural movement agency StrawberryFrog to get this public conversation started. By enlisting people close to the cause (including people affected by the deaths of White and Ritter) they elicited a movement all without mentioning Pfizer. That is exactly what is at the heart of movement marketing: Supporting a cause rather than a product or company.

“The movement there was to reenergize Americans to fight complacency and stop heart disease,” Goodson explains in an email interview with Panorama. “An old and most deadly disease, but one that the American Heart Association was unable to affect.”

Goodson adds that these movements that companies decide to start or become a part of should either rally people around an idea that can change the world for the better, or rally people around a wrong that needs to be righted. Or even celebrate and advocate for a new point of view.

“The idea should already exist in culture and be able to inspire many different people both inside and outside the pharmaceutical industry,” explains Goodson. “It’s not about awareness, it’s about defining a movement and connecting to people in a powerfully, inspiring and engaging way.”

And, as it turns out, consumers are also more willing to support a company that supports a cause. According to an Interpublic Group, Emerging Media Lab Survey from 2010, 92% of consumers said they have a more positive image of a product/company when it supports a cause and 87% of consumers (when price and quality are equal) are more likely to choose a brand associated with a cause.

“By participating in movements that consumers are passionate about, pharma becomes included as a member of the community instead of being suspiciously held at arm’s length,” says Sonia Hassan, Writer at The Snow Companies, an agency that specializes in direct-to-patient and word-of-mouth solutions. “The inclusion of social media allows companies to interact directly with consumers, and attaches consumers to the brands in a more familiar way.”

Movement in the Rare Disease Community

Movement marketing, along with social media, also makes it easier for people who share a cause to find each other and offer their support, advice and or just share personal stories. This is especially true when a cause, or disease, only affects a small amount of people rather than hundreds of thousands or even millions.

That is why, as Wendy White, Founder and President of Siren Interactive explains, people living with rare diseases are leaders in social media. Often, turning to Facebook or Twitter is the only way they can find someone who understands what they’re going through and provide the help and information they are desperately seeking.

Siren Interactive, which is an agency that focuses on patients and physicians dealing with chronic rare diseases, has had success using movement marketing to engage with this audience. The Facebook page the company launched for a client in Hemophilia A has 11,900 likes—and the patient population in the U.S. is only 18,000. Meanwhile, the “Raise Your Hand for Rare Diseases” campaign they designed with Lundbeck has met its social sharing goal in each of the past three years and raised a $10,000 donation for a National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) research grant. The campaign also offers Lundbeck a safe way to engage with patients on social media while elevating the company’s name within that community.

“Movement marketing is a natural for rare communities—as long as it’s done authentically, with a real desire to help and a spirit of collaboration and respect,” says White. “Partnering with a trust agent, such as a relevant patient organization, provides benefits for everyone involved. We’ve found this to be a powerful way to activate the community, build awareness in the medical community and beyond, increase diagnosis and gain broad public support for an important cause.”

When developing a campaign for rare disease initiatives, White says that the key is micro-targeting. “Be relevant, be credible, be useful and create something that people find interesting and compelling enough to share.”

Moving Beyond Disease Awareness

Even though unbranded disease awareness (for rare or any other disease category) is the most obvious area in which pharma can use movement marketing, Kurt Mueller, Chief Digital and Science Officer at Roska Healthcare Advertising, doesn’t believe pharma should limit itself to the “low-hanging fruit of movement marketing.”

“Movement marketing absolutely can work for pharma companies,” explains Mueller, “and it fits well into the broader strategy of experiential marketing, which involves connecting impactful moments at key points throughout the customer experience.”

For instance, Mueller suggests that movement marketing could also be used to increase clinical trial participation or even life sciences education in city schools, rural areas or developing countries where disciplines such as biology, chemistry and medicine may suffer from a lack of highly qualified educators or decent space and equipment.

Of course, unbranded disease awareness is how most pharma companies are using movement marketing and some are certainly excelling at it. Mueller said the two campaigns that stick out most in his mind are the “Sounds of Pertussis” campaign from Sanofi Pasteur and March of Dimes and the Drive4COPD health initiative from Boehringer Ingleheim, The COPD Foundation and NASCAR. Mueller even joked that “Sounds of Pertussis” has been so successful that Sanofi is having trouble finding places to deliver all the donated vaccine.

According to Mueller, the reason that these two campaigns are such success stories is that the companies involved got two things right: Credibility and connectivity.

“The diseases that the movements address are the targets of entire portfolios of therapies that the companies manufacture,” says Mueller. “So there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind about Sanofi’s commitment to research and delivery of pediatric vaccines, or about BI’s commitment to COPD. If either company had connected a specific brand to their effort, then anyone who understands drug patents might view their commitments as short-lived or opportunistic.”

Both companies also integrated social media into their campaigns and “these days, if you don’t have social media, you don’t have a movement,” explains Mueller.

“So the creation of things like Facebook and Google+ pages, YouTube channels, Twitter handles, and Pinterest boards is critical to creating engagement,” he adds. “By keeping those outlets focused on the movement, not on specific therapies, companies can minimize the likelihood of comments around adverse effects.”

Tips for Movement Marketing

For pharma marketers, the first key to movement marketing should be a familiar term: Patient centricity.

“The only way for pharma companies to successfully engage in movement marketing is by ensuring each program is designed with the patient’s benefit in mind,” explains Jennifer Fuhrman-Kestler, Senior Manager, Digital at GolinHarris. “Pharma companies who are successful in social media share resources beyond medications. When creating social media content, pharma marketers should ask: How does this information add value to the existing online conversation?”

But that isn’t the only question that pharma marketers should be asking themselves. Sandra Stahl, a healthcare and wellness communications specialist and Partner at PR agency jacobstahl, and Chip Walker, an Executive Vice President at global advertising agency Young & Rubicam, have been writing about the use of movement models in healthcare since 2009. According to them, pharma marketers looking for authentic engagements with stakeholders can draw on movement strategy, lexicon and best practices. And deciding whether or not to build a movement campaign hinges on the answers to the following questions:

  • Who is your audience? Patients, their families, caregivers and at-risk consumers are ideal “activists” in a movement strategy and typically audiences with whom most brands want engagement.
  • What is their dissatisfaction? Is there a need not currently being met? Are currently available treatments for the condition your brand treats inconvenient to use or have a difficult side effect profile, or ineffective in a specific patient population? Does your audience need a voice, or help finding their voices so they can speak up?
  • Why and how would your movement help resolve their dissatisfactions? Is there an idea that has real-world context for your audience that your brand or product can rally around that will address your audience’s problem?
  • What do you want your audience to do? If you only want to educate or build awareness without engagement, then a movement probably isn’t the right approach.
  • How will they spread the word? What is the ideal outlet for word-of-mouth?

However, according to Stahl and Walker, the most critical element in a movement is the central message and the vehicle around which to mobilize. The message needs to be simple, linked directly to the cause (“Ask your doctor” is not a movement message) and easy to pass on as well as action. The vehicle can be three-dimensional (a bracelet as in the Gardasil “Charm4Life” campaign) or virtual. Authenticity rules here; the goal is to rally around a meaningful purpose in the world of your audience and the message cannot feel like a product sell.

If you are looking to start a movement campaign over a traditional marketing campaign, Stahl and Walker offer these three tips:

1. You need to have a cultural context into which you can place your brand. Dove, for example, is about women’s self-esteem rather than soap.
2. Your end game should build engagement rather than increased awareness. Movements require participation. A movement ROI is an active community of fans and believers, rather than eyeballs or impressions.
3. A movement usually has an enemy or cultural nemesis—something the brand or the company rails against. Apple fans are against conformity.  In pharma, Stahl says, the nemesis can be found in an unmet need, patients’ concern about their family’s future, or the interference with daily life the disease or condition imposes

“Movement marketing isn’t for every company or brand, but for those who do their homework and are prepared to invest for the long-term,” explains Mueller, “the benefits are potentially significant for everyone the movement touches. When done right, what might start out as a tremor ends up as a tidal wave.”




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