4 Industry Trends That Are Guaranteed to Shake Up the Pharma Industry

Health and wellness finally have their chance to get more creative

McCann Health's "The Immunity Charm" won the 2017 Cannes Lions Health Grand Prix for Good.
McCann Worldgroup

Cannes Lions Health was created to celebrate life-changing creativity. The expectation is clear, and the bar is decidedly higher than most other award shows. And in the pharma category, we’re faced with so many hurdles to create world-class creative. It isn’t easy.

Our clients are more conservative. The system is heavily regulated, built to take risk out of the equation. Under these circumstances, doing brave and iconic work is a formidable challenge. Just read the headlines coming from the festival year after year and you’ll feel the palpable tone of disappointment. “Fewer Lions for the U.S.” “No Grand Prix for pharma, again.”

Now more than ever, clients are looking to do the brave thing, to break free from the norm and disrupt their markets. This is the perfect environment for creativity to thrive.

So, what can we do to encourage more success? We can start by gaining insights from the key trends that are positively shaping creativity in the healthcare industry.

Technology joins forces with pharma

Applying creativity to health challenges extends huge possibilities for humanity. When you think about it, many companies are in the health business these days and are looking to disrupt the experience for consumers and healthcare professionals. Brands are now taking command of the patient relationship and greatly simplifying the experience for all involved. Consumer giants like Apple, Amazon and Google are finding their way into healthcare through data and technology. I expect we’ll begin to see more innovation in these partnerships, which will add to the overall disruption of the healthcare model. 

Doing brave and iconic work [in the healthcare industry] is a formidable challenge.

Trust building is key

Despite the many things our industry is doing to improve its image, trust in pharma is at an all-time low. According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer Survey, 2018 saw a 13 point drop in trust, from 51% to 38% in the U.S., the category’s biggest decrease in the past five years.

In response, we’ll likely see a continued theme around authenticity and doing good. Trust is one of the largest drivers of brand love and affinity. A key insight from Kantar Media is that, in order to build trust, brands need to be more people-centric. In a world that is so caught up with technology, some brands have lost their humanity.

I believe we’ll see more pharma brands teaming up with nonprofits, advocacy groups and other cause-related organizations to demonstrate the good they do in the world. The opportunities are great, yet we still have to overcome the challenges. 

Simple ideas can solve complex problems 

Solving complex problems can be done without the need for big investment and sometimes inaccessible technology. A great example is “The Immunity Charm,” which won the 2017 Cannes Lions Health Grand Prix for Good. McCann Health and McCann Worldgroup Partner worked with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health to develop the beaded bracelet that shows the immunization history of the child who wears it. A play on the charm bracelets that traditionally protect Afghan babies from evil, each bead is color-coded to show their vaccination history. In a country with limited medical records and one of the world’s worst infant mortality rates, the bracelet creates a direct medical history for doctors and parents to access. Sometimes the world’s most difficult challenges can be solved so simply, a trend I expect to see explode in 2019 and beyond.

Data-driven creativity presents essential insights

In a world where authenticity and honesty matters, we can’t just go with our gut. People’s bullshit meters are very attuned. Data is the only way to garner unbiased customer insights that drive creative that is based in truth. It’s not just about the authenticity of the data; it’s also about its immediacy. Having a pulse on the behavior of consumers though real-time data collection and reporting allows pharma marketers to respond in real-time to the immediate needs of consumers, making a brand even more relevant.

This year more than ever, look for data-fueled creativity. We’ll see data driving everything from where to place a pop-up experience to how to tailor products specifically for a target demographics. This year will bring more AI-inspired brand platform ideas as well.