4 Social Media Examples for Pharmaceutical Marketers

Multiple experts have said it in myriad manners: the pharmaceutical industry has some major social anxiety. With a recent report out on social media adoption among the top 50 global drug makers, the verdict is basically this: with the grey territory of FDA, HIPAA, and D2C advertising regulations, pharmaceutical marketers are hesitant to get off the bleachers and ask their patients to dance.

A look at pharma’s sister industries (healthcare and the sciences) reveals that social media adoption and networking can yield massive ROI while staying compliant—outweighing risk with reward. Not only that, challenger brands in these spaces are harnessing their communities to do some pretty amazing things, including expedite clinical trials, dig through masses of data, and even change industry regulation.

Here are some great examples of effective social media strategy, network implementation, and community engagement from the science and healthcare verticals:

Consolidating the community and crowdfunding R&D

When 18 year-old Josh Sommer founded The Chordoma Foundation in 2007, his goal was to find a cure for his one-in-a-million form of malignant bone cancer. To surmount the seemingly impossible funding barriers for research and development, he realized that social media could help him bring together a disperse, global network of researchers specializing in this rare disease.

Through building a Facebook community dedicated to sharing advancements in chordoma R&D, he brought together researchers, with the ancillary benefit of attracting patients and advocates to the first home on the web for chordoma information and support.Pharma social media campaign - tips for pharma social media

This community raised significant funds for early study, and today, the foundation has a thriving research pipeline—and the 7,000 fan-strong Facebook community helped Sommer complete enrollment for a 2014 clinical trial in just two days.

Opening a two-way conversation, and surpassing expert results

Zooniverse is home to the most popular citizen science community in the world. The first Zooniverse project, Galaxy Zoo, was introduced by researchers at the University of Oxford in 2007 to prompt scientists to classify a mass of astronomical photographs.

Unexpectedly, the launch of the Galaxy Zoo website pulled in citizen participants from around the world within hours of going live—and they accurately classified all million photographs that were part of Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Building off the success of the Galaxy Zoo project, the Zooniverse team expanded their social presence, integrating frequently-updated Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and blog feeds with the site to supply the community with progress updates, assignments, and direct-from-scientist feedback for a growing suite of projects.

Today, Zooniverse has millions of fans active on the Zooniverse channels at any given time, and the advancements in research and discovery from this community continue to be significant—in fact, the Snapshot Serengeti project team just published their first article in the journal Scientific Data<, after thousands of volunteers catalogued millions of images from the Serengeti National Park.

Building your own network, and changing industry policy

Privacy concerns don’t have to be a limitation to social media implementation—especially if you build a proprietary channel, and tier levels of information across commonly used social platforms.

A look at PatientsLikeMe or CrowdMed affirms the power of consolidating communities of patients in pursuit of innovation and support for disease. And by the way, PatientsLikeMe just announced  a research collaboration with the FDA to determine how patient-reported data can help change drug safety regulations.

The moral of the story is this: social media is all about empowering people with relevant information and connection to other members of their tribes, whether patients or professionals. Changing delivery from a one-way directives to two-way conversations is immensely powerful—it can also can be good for business, and affirmational for ethics.

Time to get on the dance floor pharmaceutical marketers
Source: Pinterest

And a note to our friends in pharma: we all want to feel part of something bigger than ourselves—plus, most of us are just waiting to say “yes” when we’re asked onto the dance floor.

To get more information on our work with clients in the healthcare, life sciences, and pharmaceutical verticals, send us an email and lets meet up!

5 ways solar energy companies can crush it with their marketing

Yesterday, I received another direct mail letter from a solar company.

Massachusetts set a record for new solar capacity in 2014, with more strong growth on the way. But with this growth has come increased competition among installers, both commercial and residential.

How can any one solar company use marketing to stand out and capture more of this hot market?

The challenge is daunting because of the nature of solar energy itself:

Nobody owns the sun, and one company’s clean electrons are identical to another’s. Remember that oil companies have spent billions of dollars over a one hundred year period to effectively brand their supposedly unique kind of fuel. Every time we pull into a gas station, we’re making a subconscious decision to choose one brand over another, when the reality is that gas is gas.

But Shell has ‘V Power’!

The solar industry, by comparison, is still relatively new, and many companies are searching for their own version of ‘V Power’.

shell v power - energy marketing

Based on Captains of Industry’s experience in branding and marketing for renewable energy companies, I’ve put together this guide.

NOTE: I’m focusing specifically on Massachusetts because, as you’ll see, the local aspects of solar energy marketing are important, although these tips can be customized for any state.

1. Research the customer’s mindset in each local market.

A lot of companies jump into making direct mail pieces and websites before they really understand who they are talking to, what matters to them, and what they think is true about solar energy.

Many of these beliefs are local in nature.

When my company conducted focus groups of consumers in the Northeast, we found that people thought the solar panels were prohibitively expensive.

They liked the idea of solar, but didn’t want to jump into making a $40,000 investment.

I suspect that research of the California residential market’s consumer mindsets would be very different, because there’s simply more awareness there of the fact that these days, there’s no need to actually purchase the solar panels. All kinds of lease options are available.

But does someone in your target market know this? Maybe not so much.

Understanding your customers’ beliefs and desires, locally, is an essential first step that will lead towards creating your key message.

2. Nail your message.

Ever see an American tourist in Paris speak English louder in the hopes that the French will understand them? That’s the same dynamic employed by most marketers: keep shouting your message and enough people will get it. A better path is creating a message based on what will work with consumers in one local area.

Let’s take my town, Lexington.

I received a mailer from a solar company yesterday with an envelope teaser headline that read, “Use the sun to lower your electric bill.”

First off, the message is generic.
Sungevity - solar energy company marketing - Captains of Industry
Any solar company could say the exact same thing. But just as important, the message itself didn’t take into account the reality that most residential customers in my town still think they have to make a big up front investment. If a consumer thinks they have to spend a lot of money, then cutting their electric bill as a message isn’t enough. It could take ten to twenty years to get payback, so why do it? Having explanatory copy on a website is one step too far for most consumers: that’s why the key message has to be the first message. It’s the one thing your customer must know in order to drive them to seek out your content.

Here’s an example of a message that would get the attention of someone in my town:

Your Lexington electricity rate jumped 39% in 2014. Here’s how to lower it—without buying solar panels.

So, right off the bat, I know this company is talking directly to me, in my hometown. This feels relevant and timely. This company has done their homework. While a lot of people have experienced sticker shock when they’ve opened their electric bills recently, many are not aware that their rates have in fact gone up this much (it’s crazy, actually). So the message feels startling and gets my attention.

Then they pay off their headline:

Inside this letter is information that can help me save money. Everybody wants to save money. And I won’t have to invest in solar panels? Tell me more.

3. Use valuable content to show your difference.

If all clean electrons are the same, you have to give your brand a halo that helps you be different and more attractive to just the right audience.

But how can you give your brand a halo?

I suggest that you make this difference something other than a 2015 version of ‘V Power’, the standard ad industry gloss that worked in the 20th century.

What works today is to share your company’s values in a way that is genuine, deep, and transparent.

Consumers want to buy from companies who share their beliefs. They want to see your people and what makes them tick. They want to see your vision and mission, not just a piece of junk mail. For example, a solar company could state their mission as “to lower electric costs for every American.”

The company can live this mission by (as just one idea): having a customer referral program based on providing free solar power to low income people in underserved communities.

When a current customer in Lexington refers a neighbor to the solar company, the company makes a contribution towards a fund that goes towards installing free solar panels for a family that’s having a hard time making ends meet. The company’s website can share a whole range of content that shows how this mission is being carried out in Massachusetts, including videos of the families participating in the program.

Suddenly, what at first appears to be a generic electron becomes something much greater: the embodiment of a mission.

That’s today’s ‘V Power’.

4. Stop selling and start educating.

Before consumers buy, they seek knowledge.

They ask their friends, and they go on the web to do a search. But most solar companies are still in the business of selling, forgetting that there is a big knowledge vacuum. So when a web search happens, what comes up (more often than not) are sales offers.

This is the Speaking-English-Louder-in-Paris (SELP) phenomenon, updated for Google.

When I did a web search just now for “Solar Lexington”, not one residential solar company appears on page one of search results.

Not a single one.

This is a huge opportunity for a solar company to create and publish content that appeals to people in their local communities.

Picture this: an eBook (basically a .pdf file with copy, illustrations and web links), that’s customized for my hometown, with timely, in-depth information on my solar options.

Sure, it’s published by a solar installer, and has their contact information on it, but there’s nothing “salesy” about it.

The knowledge is provided as a service.

And by the way, there’s a mention in the back of the book about a solar company’s referral program to help poor families get free electric power.

This is the company I would choose to work with, versus the one that just sent one more generic sales flyer to my house. Content of this nature can be published without the cost of postal mailings, or the cost of paid ads.

And, it has the added benefit of actually working.

5. Ride the locavore movement.

My hometown, like an increasing number of similar towns in Massachusetts, is into the idea of locally grown fruits and vegetables. There’s actually a weekly farmers’ market down the street from my house.

I love it.

My wife and I get a chance to not only buy amazing produce, but we get to meet the farmers and artisans as well – and they are great people. This puts a face on each company, a personality that matters when we’re choosing what to buy.

You know what else is local? Clean energy.

Solar companies should consider setting up their own booths at local farmers markets, positioning their brand of solar as another kind of local, green, affordable produce.

Call it “fresh energy.”

This creates a close link to the values of customers who want to save money and help the environment at the same time. And it demonstrates that the solar company understands how to make solar work in their town, and that they care about the local environment.

This is how change happens.

In Closing…

These five tips are by no means meant to be comprehensive. There are many other important ways for solar companies to stand out. Some companies are already rising to the top due to their sheer size and marketing muscle, like SunRun and SolarCity.

But, there’s still a tremendous opportunity for challenger brands who want to think about marketing differently to take on the giants and win.

If you want to learn more on renewable energy marketing: download Captains of Industry’s free e-book – Branding & Marketing for Clean Energy Companies.

The Energy Marketing Agencies List

energy marketing agencies - captains of industryThe energy landscape—particularly in the Unites States—is going through a profound shift. This requires companies to communicate differently.

Enter an energy marketing agency.

Over the past five years we saw a rise in smart meter implementation across the country, wind and solar energy are now at a place where they’re financially self-sustaining, and we’re beginning to see growth in the use of electric cars and advanced battery practices. With all this change there’s an increased need for smart, sophisticated marketing and communications to speak to energy consumers, utility managers, project developers or financiers.

There are some great energy marketing agencies out there to help you do this.

I’ve complied a list of all the energy sector communications specialists I know of and admire in the US.

Truth in advertising disclaimer: one of these companies is my own (Captains of Industry), but the reality is that ALL of the agencies I’ve listed here bring something different to the table and are worthy of your consideration as you start to look for a partner to help you communicate effectively.

If you’re a company in the energy sector looking for communications or marketing help, here’s some places you can go.

Energy Marketing Agencies

  • Captains of Industry
    Captains of Industry (that’s us!) is a creative content marketing firm that works with challenger brands. We specialize in energy sector communications. We’ve done successful marketing for companies focusing on wind, solar, demand response, energy consulting, electric cars, battery technology and more. Check our more details around our energy sector marketing case studies.
  • The McDonnell Group
    As the leading integrated marketing firm for the energy industry, we provide a full range of marketing services designed to build the value of your company. With actionable research, powerful strategy, dynamic branding, and creative marketing and communications, we can help you build an integrated, results-driven marketing program to know more, do more, and be more.
  • FleishmanHillard
    Secure. Sustainable. Affordable. Society increasingly demands energy that is secure, sustainable and affordable. FleishmanHillard can help energy clients manage stakeholder expectations created by these often competing demands. FleishmanHillard’s global energy and utilities team provides the counsel today’s organizations need to successfully operate in an environment demanding transparency and high levels of accountability.
  • Antenna Group
    Antenna is a full-service, strategic communications firm specialized in emerging and established energy technology and high technology companies. Widely recognized within media, financial and industry circles as the go-to firm for public relations.
  • The Energy Agency
    As the first firm focused exclusively on the energy industry, we develop creative marketing solutions to facilitate meaningful brand interaction.
  • Edelman
    In 1952, Dan Edelman planted the seed for a new kind of company – one that would redefine the role of public relations. Sixty years later, we continue to push the boundaries of what PR can do. Grounded by our core values and strengthened by our independence, we help clients communicate, engage and build relationships with their stakeholders.
  • Shelton Group
    Are you trying to build a brand around energy responsibility and sustainability? Shelton Group understands your marketing challenges like no other agency. We’re the nation’s leading marketing communications firm focused exclusively on energy and the environment – you’re the reason we exist.
  • Saxum
    Our experienced energy communication strategists understand what it takes to break through. We can help your organization inspire change among internal stakeholders, build awareness and demand for products and services, navigate the unique pressures of investor communications and win the hearts and minds of stakeholders in critical areas of operation.
  • M/C/C
    We’ve provided complete, integrated marketing communication services both for energy companies and for clients needing to reach energy companies, in areas ranging from traditional energy resources to today’s clean energy options.
  • The Merritt Group
    The energy industry will continue to evolve and therefore businesses must be ready to clearly articulate their vision for the industry and differentiate their position in the marketplace. Merritt Group provides a voice for innovative energy companies. We take complex technologies and services and make them accessible to the consumers, investors and policy makers that organizations must communicate with on a daily basis.

If you’re working with other marketing or communications firms in the energy sector that you think are great let me know, share in the comments section, and we’ll add them to the list!