Imagine you’re chief marketing officer for a global pharmaceutical company. To reach potential customers in the United States, you decide to spend significant amounts of your budget on prime-time TV ads during the Major League Baseball playoffs.
You create a 30-second spot, featuring a serious-looking male doctor in wire-rim glasses and a white lab coat. Strangely enough, the good doctor (who also narrates your ad) never once mentions your brand or product. Only at the very end, for a second or two, does your company’s name appear in a subtle line of superimposed type: “Presented by (company name).”
You call this brand advertising?
Beyond Branding. Inviting Engagement.
Perhaps not. At least not in the traditional sense.
But that’s OK. Because you could call it branded content.
The scenario described above is not fictitious. It’s an actual ad from Japanese drug firm Takeda Pharmaceuticals. A campaign that chooses to be less about conventional branding and more about inviting engagement. Takeda uses a fairly traditional (and not inexpensive) marketing channel not to push a product brand name or to hype trial, but instead to focus primarily on consumer education.
Specifically, their ad promises that by visiting www.goutinfo.com, consumers will find information on how to better understand, manage and consult with their doctors about gout, a painful condition caused by excessive amounts of uric acid.
Sure enough, visitors to the microsite get just that. In addition to the TV ad itself, the site features a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand collection of educational content, starting with the site’s main header: “Important Information to Help You Manage Your Gout.” Site copy speaks in straightforward language about gout, excess uric acid, and the potential harmful effects of both. It offers tips on managing gout, both its occasional flare-ups and chronic challenges. Management strategies highlighted include not only drug treatments, but lifestyle and diet tips, as well.
Consumers can print a “conversation card” to help make their next meeting with a doctor more productive. At a few points in the microsite — where you can “Sign up to stay informed,” and “learn more” about treatments for long-term gout management — visitors are invited to www.goutsmart.com, where a drug named Uloric is first introduced into the experience.
Marketing Content: It’s Not an Oxymoron
I don’t pretend to fully understand the dark arts of pharmaceutical advertising (e.g.,”See our add in Golf Digest”?). I also don’t have metrics to know whether Takeda’s gout campaign is generating big results, in terms of Uloric awareness and prescriptions.
But as an interested observer, I applaud the example Takeda is setting here. The focus on informing vs. pure promotion. Especially because on the night I noticed Takeda’s ad, I saw another which prominently showcased a drug company’s name and logo, and repeated (no, belabored) their product name no fewer than 10 times.
Sometimes people who believe passionately in content marketing all but reject other, more traditional tactics — direct mail, telemarketing, print and TV advertising. Others — me among them — believe that often it’s the integration of traditional tactics and content strategy that makes for the most successful marketing.
As Takeda demonstrates, just because you’re running a TV ad — even in prime time — it’s not mandatory that you focus solely on your brand or product. You can advertise a value-adding experience. Promote a content asset. Blend traditional and content marketing in smart and effective ways.
In other words, you can turn content marketing inside out. Or, more accurately, dare to stray from traditional marketing by approaching content marketing in reverse.
You can dare to try marketing content.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Takeda is the first drug company to focus on consumer education with its marketing. But see if you agree the TV spot and microsite are remarkably soft-sell and content-centric. Meanwhile, what about you and your company? Would you dare run such a content-focused ad in prime time? Would your leadership approve? Maybe you think what Takeda is doing is a mistake, a missed opportunity. Comments and discussion, as always, encouraged and appreciated.