Marketing Disease to Sell the ‘Cure’

Even diseases can be branded, a CNN story says. It opens with the lessons of Edward Bernays, who saw public relations as “less about selling things than about creating the conditions for things to sell themselves.”

That sets the stage for a look at how pharmaceutical marketers sell drugs today: the article argues that it comes down to branding the disease itself.

Branding diseases, the writer says, has taken conditions “once regarded as rare” and made them prime for treatment. It cites GlaxoSmithKline’s hiring of PR firm Cohn & Wolfe, which ran a 1999 campaign called “Imagine being allergic to people” and the fact that during the campaign, there were over a billion references to social anxiety disorder in the press, versus about 50 the two years before.

Cohn & Wolfe received an award for the campaign, the drug saw a huge uptick in profitability, and the disease is “often described as the third most common mental illness in the world” today, the story says.

“Once a branded disease has achieved a degree of cultural legitimacy, there is no need to convince anyone that a drug to treat it is necessary. It will come to him as his own idea,” the article says.