Pharma and MedTech; It’s Time to Rehumanise
I’m sure, like me, you’ve never heard the names Pfizer and Astra Zeneca spoken of so regularly before in your life. It feels a little like a goalkeeper in a cup final that’s gone to penalties. They’ve always been there, and you certainly couldn’t do without them. In fact, they’re kind of essential. But all of a sudden, they’ve been thrust into the limelight and those watching expect them to deliver. This is their moment to shine. We’re even prepared to forgive past ills, as long as they save us now.
Last year, a piece of PwC research found that 56% of UK consumers would say their impression of pharmaceutical companies has positively increased during this crisis. I believe that there has never before been an opportunity like this for all pharma businesses as well as MedTech businesses, to reframe how the general public see them. And by reframe I don’t mean smoke and mirrors and marketing spin. I’m talking about reminding the world what it is they do best. Just like that goalkeeper during penalties, when it’s an emergency situation and there’s nowhere to hide, your true purpose shifts dramatically into focus. For the keeper, it’s simply to stop the ball going in the net, for pharma and MedTech businesses, it’s to use medical science to protect, improve and save lives. Even for AZ with their alleged blood clotting issues, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
“Purpose” may feel like the bullshit de jour, at the top of the marketing menu sat alongside other dishes such as overarching narrative, platforms and customer-centricity. However, when you think about it, it’s madness that pharma and MedTech companies haven’t been shouting their purpose from the rooftops. Given that in many cases, we literally can’t live without them, they should have always been amongst the world’s most loved brands. So, what the hell went wrong?
I believe the answer to that is simple. These organisations have become well-oiled machines. Giant, robotic behemoths, driven by data, process and procedures. All put in place for good reasons; to make them efficient, financially stable and successful. But in the search for medical advancements, these organizations have lost sight of who those advancements were for. People. Human beings. You and me.
Covid 19 and its devastating effect on our lives has put humanness back at the heart of healthcare. Our fears, vulnerabilities and frustrations are all front of mind. Those that have been risking their lives for the sake of others in healthcare facilities around the globe, even whilst covered in PPE, are finally seen as human.
To re-engage with this world and to put the Big Pharma days behind them, pharmaceutical and MedTech companies must rehumanise. So how do they do that?
Well, it starts by reminding themselves of what their purpose is, not from a shareholder point of view, but a human point of view. How are they trying to make the world a better place? What is it they’re truly driven to do as an organisation? And this needs to be something that can be lived through the day-to-day behaviour of their entire organisation. And ‘making people better’ isn’t deep enough. It needs to be genuinely unique with regards to their business and brought to life in everyone’s way of working. Not just a headline or tagline on some internal campaign shown on their own intranet.
In her article, How Covid is building trust in Big Pharma, MaryLou Costa writes:
‘So a shift in the industry has to start with leadership at the top; they have to become more human. They have to take a stand...to be perceived better.’
Rehumanising means a change in culture. Through this pandemic, pharma and MedTech businesses have been handed a rare opportunity to change. It’s vital that they take advantage of this chance and create wholesale change. Then, once their internal culture has been rehumanised, they can then begin to allow that newfound purpose to flow out through fresh and imaginative external communications. Having a conversation with human customers working to make the lives of human patients better, through the work of their human employees.
In Reshaping the Future of Pharma, KPMG give this advice:
“Turning to retail and service organisations for inspiration, pharma (and MedTech) companies can note how they employ customer journey mapping and design thinking techniques to seek out touchpoints with their consumers. Moving beyond linear processes, customer journey mapping reframes the conversation as a human-centric endeavour with emotion at the heart.”
Rehumanising is exactly that, reframing the conversation as a human-centric endeavour with emotion at the heart. This is the chance for those in pharma and MedTech to do just that. And if handled correctly, it will do more than pay dividends with regards to how the world perceives your organisation. It will help you attract and retain better talent. It will make your employees and your customers feel more valued. And perhaps just as importantly, it will help you outshine your competition and positively impact your share price. So just like that goalkeeper in the cup final, this is your time to step up and make that big save.