Emotional appeal: how to engage patients with powerful creative campaigns

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This is a guest article and does not necessarily reflect the views and values of Impetus Digital. The original article was created by Fishawack Health and can be found here.

As the healthcare industry shifts towards personalized and precision medicine, patients are becoming increasingly involved in decision-making. It’s more critical than ever for pharma to engage with patients in a meaningful way in order to change beliefs, behaviors and elicit brand loyalty.

Just like with all consumer audiences, we need to grab patients’ attention then deliver relevant information, clearly detailing why, and how, a product or service could improve their lives. This is achieved through brave, bold and authentic advertising campaigns that are the perfect mix of rational thinking and emotion, or as we like to call it at Blue Latitude Health, a member of Fishawack Health, Logic and Magic.


Why do we need to engage rationally and emotionally with patients?

The field of neuromarketing and the science behind consumer preference, motivation and decision making gives us great insights about the impact of emotional and rational engagement. Using medical techniques, neuromarketing measures detailed emotional responses, engagement and areas of interest, in response to advertising and marketing stimuli.

Neuromarketing techniques include:

• Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

• Electroencephalography (EEG) biometric tests (skin conductance, heart rate and respiration)

• Eye tracking gaze and eye pupillometry

• Facial response

To get inside the minds of the consumer, neuromarketing has been applied to testing adverts, optimizing design, improving branding and packaging and even to the subtleties of choosing font colors. All major brands (Coca-Cola, Google and Amazon, to name a few) use neuromarketing and it’s such commonplace we’ve all been subjected to it without realizing it.

Sadly, there is an enormous amount of neuro-rubbish out there, with many people making a lucrative business out of peddling nonsense under the guise of neuromarketing (like the snake oil salesmen of old). Just because the techniques listed above are expensive, and studies use real participants, does not mean all insights generated from neuromarketing are useful. That’s why it’s important to work with people capable of recognizing what’s credible and what’s a con, applying their expert knowledge to ensure neuromarketing is used in the right way.

The Pepsi paradox – Famous neuromarketing research

A two-part taste test was carried out to determine whether participants preferred Pepsi or Coca-Cola. In the first part of the study, 67 people blind-tasted the two drinks and underwent brain scanning. When asked which they preferred, most participants chose Pepsi. And results of the brain scans showed the Pepsi drink elicited more activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The area of the brain responsible for processing of risk and fear, and critical in the regulation of emotional processing in humans.

Participants in the study were then told which drink was Pepsi and which was Coca-Cola. On receiving this information, brain scans revealed that different areas of the brain lit up when participants knew they were drinking Coca-Cola and three quarters said that it tasted much better. The study revealed that despite participants thinking and knowing Pepsi tasted better, they couldn’t help themselves, and chose Coca-Cola as the superior drink because they felt a connection with the brand. The famous Pepsi paradox shows how logical/rational thinking is overridden by consumer emotional connection and brand value.

As much as we like to think decisions are made consciously, based on logic, reasoning and facts, scientists estimate that 95% of decisions are made subconsciously, based on emotion.

The area of the brain responsible for processing emotion is called the limbic system and functions in emotion, learning, memory and subconscious processing. Clinical studies by famous neuroscientist, Professor Antonio Damasio, showed that patients with brain injuries had difficulties making decisions, even when intellect remained intact, as people were unsure of how they felt about something.

Neuromarketing insights have consistently shown that adverts targeting emotional responses leave lasting impressions in the consumer’s brain. After all, the purpose of memory is to help us navigate positive and negative experiences. Advertising that evokes a strong emotional response and builds a connection subconsciously is key to changing behaviors and consumer mindset.

How does this impact the creative process?

Creative work aims to solve a specific problem identified during strategic insight gathering and/or market research. When insights are combined with learnings from neuroscience and neuromarketing, we can apply all this knowledge to concepting through to copywriting. To deliver work that is relevant and impactful.

Learnings from neuromarketing can also be counterintuitive. Research shows that less obvious advertising performs better than obvious advertising, with successful advertising rarely using just simple arguments as to why you should buy a product or behave in a certain way. This impacts how we present creative work and propositions to our peers and clients. Presenting a problem then giving the audience the tools to work out the answer for themselves can lead to better engagement and buy-in of a creative idea. Think of those adverts that deliver the “Aha” moment when you ‘get’ what the advert is trying to say.

Information sources are now extremely fragmented. We are no longer all watching the same television adverts, accessing the same news outlets or even scrolling through the same social media channels. Consumers (and in this case patients) are exposed to thousands of advertising messages a day. Advertising that elicits an emotional response receives the most attention.

Using rational messaging, large amounts of statistics and facts can be hard to digest, unengaging and potentially boring. Of course, facts are needed to substantiate messages and claims for ethical and legal reasons, but facts and rational should be the secondary focus. We need to trigger emotions, thoughts, feelings and memories subconsciously to create an emotional connection. Only then can more rational, detailed messaging be at its most effective, provided it is relevant. And what is the simplest way to combine rational thought and emotion? Through stories and storytelling.

“Human minds rely on stories and story architecture as the primary road map for understanding, remembering, making sense of, and planning our lives– as well as the countless experiences and narratives we encounter along the way”, explains Kendall Haven, the author of Super Simple Storytelling.

Storytelling evokes emotion, and emotion forges a connection to a product or service. It’s more than just a stream of facts and doesn’t just mean adding patient lifestyle imagery to a marketing campaign. Patients who find an emotional connection with the product/ service can become brand advocates themselves, as they’re more compelled to share an emotive story with friends, family and within their wider community.

Exploring three emotional and rational healthcare campaigns:

Breathless Choir – Philips

An award-winning campaign for the Philips Simply Go Mini portable oxygen concentrator. The campaign tells the story of 18 patients living with lung disease, including cystic fibrosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and how their disease has impacted on their ability to sing. With help from celebrity choir master, Gareth Malone, they form the “Breathless choir”. The campaign uses storytelling to strike an emotional chord with the audience– how many of us take being able to sing for granted? And although it is a product advert, information about the portable oxygen concentrator is left out. It simply shows how the product has transformed the lives of patients using authentic and highly emotive storytelling.

It’s more than just a stream of facts and doesn’t just mean adding patient lifestyle imagery to a marketing campaign

Mental Health, is it normal? – BUPA

A new and thought-provoking campaign for BUPA mental health services that focuses on the heterogeneity of mental health and asks: “what is normal?” It uses none of the usual mental health statistics that you commonly see in public campaigns and causes you to stop and watch the whole video. The descriptions of mental health symptoms and the portrayal of how patients feel highlight show patients may suffer from the same disease but experience it uniquely. This makes mental health issues feel more real and relatable. It makes you think of the people in your life, perhaps with mental health challenges, and how they are all very different with very diverse experiences and needs.

Make Blood Cancer Visible – Janssen UK and nine blood cancer charities

Blue Latitude Health, a member of Fishawack Health, developed an engaging, interactive installation, which formed the basis of a hard-hitting campaign during Blood Cancer Awareness Month, 2019. More than90% people are unaware of Blood cancer and its symptoms, so the disease awareness campaign focused on making the unseen disease visible.

The installation consisted of life-sized, speaking transparent figures that told the stories of 10 real-life blood cancer patients. The figures were placed in high visibility areas around the UK to represent the unseen and ignored blood cancer patients.

Hearing the first-hand accounts of what life, diagnosis and treatment is like for those living with blood cancer was extremely evocative. It grabbed people’s attention and struck a strong emotional connection. Some members of the public were so moved by the campaign that they left flowers at the base of the statues. Visitors to the installation were then directed to a micro site for more information about blood cancer, including further factual messaging and statistics around different blood cancers. The campaign was picked up by national media, including 240 news items and more than 34 million people were reached across social media.

Tips for engaging rationally and emotionally with patients

First, use strategic insights or market research to identify the specific problem your piece of creative will aim to solve. Next, it’s important to ladder the relevant functional and emotional benefits of a service or product. For a disease awareness campaign, this can mean laddering the unmet clinical needs in a way that evokes empathy and understanding, rather than just statistics on prevalence or disease risk.

For a product, think about the core features and how they functionally and emotionally benefit the patient. This is where story telling is vital. When reading a list of product benefits, patients will rarely feel anything. We want to get patients to think how the product has helped others like them and what life will be like after they have been treated. It’s about conjuring thoughts, feelings and memories and it’s more than just using positive patient imagery.

If the industry wants to engage with patients in a meaningful way, the best way to do this is by crafting creative, emotive advertising to tap into a patient’s subconscious, emotional brain and help steward patient behavior and mindset change.

Remember, there is a lot of neuro-rubbish out there, so it’s crucial to work with people who know their stuff. We are all consumers and patients at some stage of our lives. So, how do the brands you’re most loyal to, and prefer, stir an emotional connection in you?

About Fishawack Health

Fishawack Health is the leading global commercialization partner for the modern life science era. Powered by a globe‑spanning pack of strategic, creative, and scientific experts, we are driven to connect patients and healthcare professionals with the knowledge they need to live better lives. Our three core operating units–Medical Communications, Consulting, and Commercial–bring together best-in-class capabilities from around the world. We empower our clients to navigate the most complex of ecosystems, while embarking on a faster, more efficient path to developing, launching, and growing their brands and portfolios.

To learn more, visit their website or follow Fishawack Health on Twitter or LinkedIn.

About Impetus Digital

Impetus Digital is the spark behind sustained healthcare stakeholder communication, collaboration, education, and insight synthesis. Our best-in-class technology and professional services ensure that life science organizations around the world can easily and cost-effectively grow and prosper—from brand or idea discovery to development, commercialization, execution, and beyond—in collaboration with colleagues, customers, healthcare providers, payers, and patients.