What Are IDEAs Made Of: Emotions

Mike Rea

IDEA Pharma

To the annoyance of many, no pharmaceutical product has ever had an ’emotional’ positioning*. They may have had, indeed should have had, some emotional component to their communications. But, as we’ve seen before, positioning is different. Positioning, to the annoyance of many, needs some differentiation if it isn’t to be pointless.

There are lots of emotions. (There are even lists of them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions). The problem is that there are fewer emotions than there are products. In choosing an ’emotional’ positioning, the less experienced / misled marketer is, by design, choosing a generic positioning. There are even fewer positive emotions, and in restricting the choice to positive emotions, the marketer is choosing from a pretty limited pool – unsurprisingly one that has been fished thousands of times before. Agencies and these marketers are made for each other. Agencies would never dream of ‘positioning’ on anything other than ‘optimism’, ‘trust’ or ‘joy’… Genericism by design… It is hugely frustrating to see positioning statement after positioning statement take the unique features of a great product and turn it into ‘makes the doctor feel like a hero/ guardian/ partner.’ Of course, if you have Coke’s marketing budget and its reach, feel free to take a tilt at making doctors feel like heroes when they use your brand.

“…if you have Coke’s marketing budget and its reach, feel free to take a tilt at making doctors feel like heroes when they use your brand.”

Something well understood outside of pharma is positioning based on negative emotions: anxiety, desire for peer respect, fear of doing wrong. And in fact, many of the best pharma brands have had this as part of their effective positioning. Lipitor’s positioning as the most effective statin understood that while doctors talked outcomes and saving lives, they acted on proximal markers – LDL coming down reliably and rapidly was much more of a concern in day-to-day practice. Products that promise to stop your patients coming back have traditionally done better than those that promised partnership, unless there is a financial incentive to keep them coming back (the drivers of behaviour often seem contradictory to the professed goals of the physician – witness the way that payments for IV infusions change practice country to country).

Emotions are great places to go looking for insights. But they are not a landscape against which to position a drug – they are a paint-by-numbers picture rather than a Monet. Brands do have emotional connections with their audiences, but they are/ should be positioned rationally.

The opposite of rational is not ’emotional’, it is irrational.

*A lot of brands have an emotional positioning statement, of course. That is not the same.

About the author:

Mike Rea is a Principal with IDEA Pharma, who enjoys taking a look outside the industry to learn how it can think differently. For direct enquiries he can be contacted on mike.rea@ideapharma.com and for more information on IDEA Pharma please see http://www.ideapharma.com/what/default.htm.

The next WAIMO piece will be in a couple of weeks.

Is there room for emotions in drug positioning?