Successful brands tell stories

Martine Leroy|25th July 2018

Storytelling is how we engage with the world and share knowledge and experiences. It’s a powerful tool that inspires the masses and shapes our perspective, moving us to act and occasionally change our behaviour. We have been telling stories to communicate ideas since the dawn of time – from sharing our heritage to inspiring love, eliciting fear and rousing loyalty. These stories have moved soldiers to the battlefield and set the foundation for traditions which have lasted for thousands of years.

This is as relevant for our pharma customers as it is for retail consumers. However, in pharma, we tend to forget that all behaviour and decision making follows the same rules and principles, whether you work on a consumer brand or strive to engage patients, healthcare professionals, carers or payers.

Strong pharma brands use storytelling to capture attention, generate interest, and motivate stakeholders to act. It’s about creating a narrative that’s of real interest to readers, inspiring them to share what they have heard, whether through word of mouth, online forums or social media.

Brands on a mission

A pharma brand starts with a mission – to create a product or service that improves outcomes for the customers. Achieving this goal begins with clinical data, which can be translated into a story that feels alive to customers and motivates internal stakeholders.

Engaging, carefully crafted positioning and messaging sits at the heart of a strong brand. Customer insights are used to help guide the strategy, planning, solution design, and execution. Once these concepts are turned into a story, your brand will come to life. 

Five insight properties 

Insights that combine five properties – rationale, reality, relevance, resonance, and reaction – work powerfully for the brand.

The rationale helps you understand the purpose of a particular learning and to determine the right brand opportunity.

Contextual insights will ensure the reality of the brand for customers is leveraged. This acknowledges the truth about customers’ needs, including deep-seated emotions or behaviour.

Aligning the brand benefits with customers’ needs keeps your brand story relevant, while resonance is about grabbing and holding the attention of customers by ensuring they feel the brand is talking to them specifically. Lastly, you can elicit the desired reaction from customers by articulating differentiated and relevant insights.

Positioning – a story that has never been told

The insights and story support the backbone of the narrative used in patient materials and patient service design. The brand story stems from the positioning, which articulates the essence of the narrative. For pharma brands, this means taking the labelling and clinical trial outcomes and using them to outline the brand space.

Then, statements about brand benefits and reasons to believe are woven into the positioning message. Overall, it requires a creative wordsmith to create an emotive and powerful mission statement, which is aligned with external customers’ needs and resonates with internal stakeholders.

Next, we develop the narrative for healthcare professionals, combining customer insights, which are rich in the five properties, and clinical messaging. Insights ensure we understand our customers’ barriers and frustrations, as much as motivations and beliefs, and we take their unmet needs into account. We also address views about the brand's competitors.

Storytelling ensures the brand communications are all on the same page. All this information comes together to shine a light into the brand’s space in the market and the best position for addressing customers’ needs.

Not the same old story  

Financial giant Mastercard linked insight and positioning to tell their story and change the direction of their brand.

Using the insight ‘life is overwhelmed by things with price tags, but the things that matter most to me are the special people and experiences that give my life meaning’, the brand successfully developed the position: ‘Mastercard allows you to enjoy the priceless relationships and experiences by taking care of things that money can buy’.

Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar explains: “The moment it was launched, there was an immediate connection with customers and there was no looking back and it still resonates — after 17 years —extraordinarily well.”

By developing a story that met customers’ emotive and rational desires, the organisation transformed its corporate image and positioned itself as a company designed to enrich personal relationships and create heart-warming memories. Today, this personal connection still drives customers to choose Mastercard over other banks with similar financial services.

An oncology tale

In 2017 Blue Latitude Health was asked to develop differentiated and convincing global messaging for physicians helping prostate cancer patients. The therapy was well-established in the more advanced disease stage, but it was still a novelty when used to treat patients earlier on. 

Instead of conducting customer research on messaging, we developed possible core brand stories that we tested across regions. The stories stood out and supported broader conversations, which gave a voice to physicians and their patients. We were awaiting final trial results, so we developed brand stories based on scenarios, which also included varying standards of care across regions.

Ensuing conversations with customers delivered insights that aligned with the five properties. They helped to identify areas for physician and patient support. To facilitate further internal conversations, we delivered a digital toolkit that global and regional teams could share and adjust on the publication of the final data to allow them to make decisions on how to address customers’ needs. Storytelling is the way we learn, engage and remember. 

Telling stories is about generating insights that truly reflect customers’ challenges and needs and help embed the brand in their everyday lives. A brands’ return on investment starts with sharing its story with everyone involved, from the rest of the organisation to the customer.

To find out how Blue Latitude can help you develop a strong brand story, based on real insight, get in touch with

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