Managed Markets Monday: What is Payer Marketing

Welcome to Managed Markets Monday! As Palio’s John Guarino, SVP, Managed Markets and Payer Strategy, points out in a previous post that effectively sets up this series, Are You Managing Managed Markets: The managed markets space is critical to pharma/biotech success for two reasons: 1) it represents the goal line of patients actually receiving their prescriptions and them being paid for, and 2) payers are becoming institutional decision makers that drive physician use through the payer preference. Things like market access, reimbursement, effective pull through, and contracting profitability are all areas in which expertise is necessary. The market is moving towards these customers becoming more important, not less. An understanding of the differences and similarities between traditional marketing and payer marketing will help deliver the strategies and tactics that ensure access and reimbursement success so critical to the success of the brands you’re managing.

We’re passionate about the critical role that managed markets plays in today’s marketplace and this new series provides insight into what we think it takes to meaningfully and effectively communicate with the payer customer. We begin today with the important question, What is Payer Marketing?

Follow up with John at and follow us at #ManagedMarketsMonday.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

#ChalkChat: Building A More Holistic Brand Value in Pharma

In this week’s #ChalkChat, Rob Kempton, VP, Brand Strategy Director at Palio, discusses building a more holistic brand value in pharma.

#ChalkChat is a weekly video series that brings you insights on branding, marketing and multichannel integration within the pharmaceutical industry. Follow us at #ChalkChat. Follow up with Rob Kempton @robonthemoon.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

#ChalkChat: 4 Ways to Learn About Your Target Market

In this episode of #ChalkChat, Palio’s Krystina Smith talks about 4 ways to learn about your target market.

#ChalkChat is a weekly video series that brings you insights on branding, marketing and multichannel integration within the pharmaceutical industry. Follow us at #ChalkChat. Follow up with Krystina at

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

Welcome to #ChalkChat

Welcome to #ChalkChat! In our debut episode, Mike Smith, Palio’s Senior Brand Strategist, shares 6 key factors to telling a compelling brand story across channels.

#ChalkChat is a weekly video series that brings you insights on branding, marketing and multichannel integration within the pharmaceutical industry. Follow us at #ChalkChat. Follow up with Mike @mikesmith55.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

“C’s” the Moment


By Mike Smith, Senior Brand Strategist, Palio

Recently, Viacom Media Networks conducted a study on how its viewers socialize around television content and integrate their favorite shows into their lives. Unlike previous generations of couch potatoes chastised for a sedentary lifestyle, today’s television viewer is active, engaged and essential to increasing a program’s visibility and fan-base.

Instead of just looking at likes or retweets, this study looked socializing from the viewer’s perspective and understanding what it is they want from their social experience. The emerging themes – communication, content and comments – are similar to what individuals want from any social experience. And, for organizations interested in activating their brand on the social channels, tapping into this mindset can yield a following of evangelists who help increase awareness and spread brand messages.

How can you “C’s” the moment and tap into the power of brand ambassadors?

Add in a fun factor – The best social experiences have an element of fun in them. It can be hard to keep things light when you’re hawking cholesterol or diabetes medications, but if you want people talking about your brands or products, dull and dreary isn’t going to do it. Instead, motivate them to say positive things by illustrating how life can be better, and that requires communicating in a way that’s human, energized and easy to replicate.

Recognize that people are a nosey bunch – For every person that couldn’t care less about which Huffington Post article you’ve recently read, there’s another who wants to see what’s got your interest, look at your friend’s photos or cyber-stalk your profile. Keep your network up to date on topics other members find of interest – not just your marketing messages. Not only is this useful for fostering community and keeping the conversation focused on relevant topics, it can provide people with content of interest to their network.

Promote value-driven interactions – With so much information competing for our attention, it’s hard to embrace a less-is-more mindset, but brand fatigue can be detrimental and contribute to brand detractors – people who bash your brand. Make sure you deliver value at every interaction, whether that’s in the content itself or by empowering your ambassadors with information to share with others.

Think like your audience thinks – One size fits all was the old way of doing business. Today, everything is customizable and that also translates to the user experience. If your audience is accessing content on a mobile device (and that will continue to increase), make sure you deliver the best mobile experience possible. If your audience is using a mix of apps, devices, platforms and networks to communicate, broaden your strategy to incorporate a variety of touch points.

The technology has advanced but the concept is the same as it’s always been – humans are social creatures who like to connect, comment and communicate with their friends and the world around them. The conversation is happening whether you join in or not, but rather than wait, isn’t it time you seized the moment?

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

iPads for All


By Saul Morse, VP, Multichannel Integration, Palio

There is no doubt that the iPad has made a profound impact on the technological landscape in the last two years. While the concept of a tablet had been discussed and tried by various companies, no one really captivated the market until Apple hit one out of the park. Rewind to 30 months ago and the craze seemed to be the netbook…as soon as the iPad hit the shelves the netbook industry disappeared almost overnight. Between the iPhone and the iPad the entire way we look at consuming digital information has dramatically changed.

So when we announced we were purchasing iPads for the entire staff of Palio it was received with a giant chorus of “cool.” While iPads were already proliferating throughout the halls, we wanted to formalize its presence and embrace this revolutionary piece of technology with open arms. In doing so we not only better position our teams to become thought leaders but give them a tool to help them do their job better, work more efficiently, and discover cool new things.

Now many companies are quick to point out why they shouldn’t embrace iPads in the organization. They’re a security risk, they cost too much to add onto the cost of an employee’s existing computer, how do you refresh when a new model comes out each year, how do you manage them, etc. We knew we had to think about this, but the bottom line is our clients are using them and our clients customers are also. So rather than focusing on the reasons we shouldn’t do it, we focused on the reasons we should. By making Palio an iPad culture we can help identify the unique opportunities afforded by these devices, and in general have it become integral to our company DNA.

We’ve encouraged our teams to sign up for the app store using their own AppleID so it becomes a blend of personal and professional and given new iPad users an iTunes gift card to go and experiment with various apps. We’re bringing in specialists from Apple to train on the basics and then building a series of roundtables led by champions across the organization on function specific topics. For instance an upcoming roundtable will highlight some of the creative apps available in the marketplace and how to use them for sketching, sharing, wireframing, app design, etc. Other roundtables will focus on video, notes, presentations and many more as time goes on.

Our clients are constantly asking about iOS devices and how they can be used in this highly regulated industry and by building an army of highly motivated, smart, creative people we will position ourselves to be at the forefront of the discussion. It’s already happening that there will be group of people will be in a strategy meeting together and when an idea comes up someone will say “I saw something similar…check it out” and within seconds it is being shared on one of the AppleTV equipped conference room monitors.

So will having an iPad alone make you a better thinker? Absolutely not. But by creating a culture open to sharing, discovering, and thinking in a technological way you can bet that this simple pane of glass will be a big contributor to our daily lives.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

Should Pharma Go Culture Casting?


by Carl Turner, SVP, Director of Insight and Brand Strategy, Palio

If 2011 showed us anything, it’s that the people have the power.

Marketing messages and buying digital advertising is still important, but companies today are using advertising less to promote their products and more to direct consumers to their Facebook or Twitter pages. With conversations taking center stage for extending brand messages, it’s time for pharmaceutical companies to go culture casting and find brand influencers to support them in communicating key messages.

Pharmaceutical companies have long relied on other people to pitch their products and tell their story. Key opinion leaders such as physicians who hold academic titles at medical schools often partner with pharmaceutical companies to speak at industry events or participate in detailing prescription drugs to doctors. Physicians have also long been the conduit of information for patients. But, with more individuals going online for health information, their role is changing.

Physicians will continue to play an active role in influencing decisions, but having a doctor endorse a drug or treatment is similar to a mother giving advice to a teenager. While parents are often right, it’s the peer group that holds the most influence. The same is true for communicating with patients; other people may be the most influential opinion leaders. Going culture casting and finding the most active patient participants can help influence public opinion in an authentic manner.

Pharmaceutical advertising has incorporated the stories of real patients to connect with customers. Smoking-cessation drug Chantrix has people sharing their experiences quitting smoking. Long Island Jewish Medical Center uses a narrator to tell the tale of real patient encounters. New York Columbia Presbyterian hospital features actual patients who are undergoing treatment or have overcome an illness thanks to physician expertise and state-of-the-art facilities.

Market research supports the power of peer influence. Tapping into the power of empowered patients can play a meaningful role in other’s health care decisions.

Why should pharma cultivate more brand ambassadors?

*There will be negative stories. Transparency is a must, and that means patients will be posting about procedures that went wrong or drugs that weren’t effective. Encouraging patients who had a more positive experience to post and share their stories can provide balance and perpetuate positive messages.

*Buzz builds buzz. An expert word-of-mouth network can support the launch of a new drug, foster discussion around new health guidelines, or raise awareness of a clinical trial. Getting people talking – whether that’s posting comments on your blog, retweeting messages or interacting with their followers and sharing opinions and views – can provide the support patients need to help them make informed decisions. And, the more influential and vocal an individual becomes, the more their network listens to them and turns to them for advice.

*People remember stories. People tuned into your culture tell the most compelling stories – which are much more memorable than marketing messages. That’s because people remember stories that elicit an emotion and it’s sometimes hard to differentiate marketing messages. Plus, as people develop a following, they build trust and their opinions tend to be valued.

The current pharma landscape still doesn’t offer guidelines for social media participation, but it’s not stopping patients from talking and influencing their networks. Going culture casting and enlisting the help of the most influential patients can help companies establish an online presence, inform people of an unknown disease or treatment, elicit hope or provide support to patients and improve disease care.

What are you doing to engage patients and get people talking?

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.


(Image credit:

The Life and Death of Ideation


by Guy Mastrion, Chief Global Creative Officer, Palio

Some of the many things we tend to do with our global creative raves is to always try to bring fresh voices into the room, find fresh locations, tear down barriers and fail rapidly through hundreds of ideas until we succeed. And then, with a smaller portion of the group actively debating and editing the ideas, we push harder and deeper until we arrive at a set of discreet ideas. This is a lot of heavy lifting for the people involved, and one of the key aspects of making brainstorming work is to create a safe environment that encourages the rapid failure and spontaneity needed to spark fresh ideas.

But also there has to be a method to the madness.

Critical thinking is essential to success. An open critique that pressure tests the ideas through effective moderation of a strategic discussion is always needed. Effective critique is a lost art. Too often misunderstood and mislabeled as negative thinking, critique – when understood and harnessed as essential to the evaluation and elevation of ideas – plays a key role in all aspects of business, not just ideation. If the groups are a relatively small (10-15 people), then I think open critique can be effectively moderated. If your group is bigger than this, select a smaller, cross-sectional subgroup as your critical thinkers.

When brainstorming fails, when ideation fails, they can fail for countless reasons, many more reasons than those that exist to support why they succeed. There is a fine balance that is very difficult to maintain. Ideas are fragile things that are often doomed before they even begin to live due to the many, ultimately oppressive things an idea must overcome.

Some of the more common bailey wicks include briefs that are unclear, with too many objectives or key communication thoughts, making it near impossible to judge the success of any given idea. This problem is a sure sign the brief has become a parking lot for failure.

Ideas can also suffer from a lack of alignment across team members, where personal bias and opinion, no matter how worthy or potentially insightful, conflict with the tenets of the brief (assuming you have a solid brief).

Ideas also suffer from their own complexity, or I should say from becoming more complex. In a brainstorming session, it is easy to lose the big ideas.

Let me explain. Big ideas very often at first seem quite small and are easily overlooked. A word and a picture, one or the other, sitting alone on a big white sheet of paper can be the most fearsome of ideas. Other ideas, by comparison, can seem bigger at first because they have more going on they seem more dynamic, when in fact, they may simply be loaded down with what amounts to little more than window dressing. These are complexities and complex ideas most often have much less ability to be plastic. What do I mean by plastic? It’s the ability to be moldable, to move with your brand, and more important with how your consumer perceives, experiences, and ever more – communicates with your brand. So, the thought of big ideas being plastic is something to keep in mind – this is just one word to help describe a potentially big idea. It’s not the only word. The point is that a simple idea is an elegant solution. The simple idea – the big idea – is an idea that grows in meaning, depth, and definition the more it is used. When we work up a potentially big idea through our 360 worksheet, it is not limited by this exercise, but is expanded as a result of it. Lesser ideas reveal their vulnerabilities as a result of this exercise.

Ernest Hemingway said something about writing that I think applies to all creativity, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Coming up with the big idea is not easy, nor is it any easier to recognize the big idea when you see it. This is one less obvious reason why time is such an important factor in creativity. The big idea might be the first idea you come up with, but it might also take days of ideation to see its true value.

If we approach our every day as a brainstorm, days lived without fear of being “wrong,” where failure is understood as part of a larger success – working together – we would more easily and consistently craft work of lasting value.

Highly functioning, idea-driven companies are built on this culture. They also have discipline and order and process and financial goals, but those things are all used to support the creation of a great product and not as rate limiting factors. When these instruments of any successful business become the business itself, then no manner of ideation will ever be truly and consistently successful.

In the end, culture trumps strategy, process, execution, and ideation. Even the most skillful and creative brainstorm session will fail to deliver success if the culture of the company (or teams involved) is not built on an open mind with complete alignment on the goal to be achieved.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.



We’re off, on the Island!

Todd LaRoche, EVP, Managing Director of Creative, Palio

Just last summer, Hyper Island brought their brains to Saratoga Springs and about 50 of us Palio folks devoured every minute of their Hyper Island Master Class – an intensive 3-day immersion into digital media and strategy development.

If you’ve never heard of Hyper Island, take a look at their Web site. In a nutshell, Hyper Island is a Swedish-based, global learning leader that helps companies “stay up to date with the latest trends in interactive media…” and “fully understand how to create efficiency within [their] organization.”

There was a lot of excitement and anticipation leading up to Hyper Island’s visit, and once they got here, things took off quickly. The three days we spent with the Hyper Island team had an immediate and lasting influence on our organization; one that is paying great dividends in terms of how we’re engaging our clients and how we’re structuring and managing our Agency resources and overall growth.

Overall, and among other things, the Hyper Island training has helped us:

• Identify ways we can jumpstart our digital thinking on any given brand,

• Brainstorm digital tactics as part of an integrated, 360-degree media plan, not simply as “add-ons,”

• Bring more depth to our strategic thinking,

• Attain a higher-level understanding of the Web and digital media,

• Wield practical tools that have helped us to better understand the interrelationships of social media and traditional media and bridge the two.

Here’s what some folks were saying once the training was underway. Following are a few post-Hyper Island learnings/observations.

Going Digital – It’s a Frame of Mind

One of the most important things we learned from our Hyper Island experience is that no one group or individual should, or can, own digital strategy and deployment. Today, no one can escape the grasp of digital (screen-based) technology, and no brand can ignore the power of social media as a communications conduit. Digital/social media is ubiquitous and it has to be something that all of us – in creative, account, planning, media and production – leverages and shapes in each of our brand engagements. In other words, everyone is, to some degree, an expert in digital communication because it impacts all of us constantly. And that leads to the realization that smart digital thinking can come from anywhere in the Agency – it’s a frame of mind, not a skill to which some siloed, techno-savvy group lays claim.

Fundamental Shifts

The furious growth of digital/social media has spurred some fundamental shifts in the marketing world, and these shifts, at a macro-level, need to be understood and embraced in order for any marketing or advertising agency to stay competitive. Here are some randomly related thoughts/learnings from our Master Class that capture this (and check out this footage of folks talking about their experience after the training):

• Digital technology is now allowing for content-based marketing strategies, designed to “pull” rather than “push” brand awareness and messaging, to become the rule rather than the exception

• Digital/social media has put never-before-seen power into the customer’s hands

• Having a digital footprint is essential to brand survival

• Marketing is now very much about conversations… and brands need to partake

• Don’t always be a slave to the big idea… thinking tactically first, in some cases, can be the best way to meet a specific marketing challenge

How Is Palio Different After The Island’s Visit?

In fundamental ways, Palio hasn’t changed at all: we’re still an idea company, we’re still all about connecting brands and consumers. But how we go about that has changed in places. Here are just a few examples of how the Hyper Island experience has brought change to Palio:

Now, when we present campaign concepts to our clients, we include what we call a 360-degree Worksheet. It’s a way for us to develop and present our creative thinking in the context of media channels, traditional and digital alike. If an idea doesn’t easily spawn executions around the media horn, it’s probably not something we’ll want to pursue.

We took what we were calling our Incubator, or our digital production group, and eliminated its name as a formal reference. This has served to help break down lines of distinction between digital and non-digital work teams. And though this might sound like an academic change, it has actually gone a long way to promote an efficient and homogenous work environment whereby all of us in the company, not just those in the “Incubator,” are engaged in developing digital strategy and tactics.

As well, we centralized our multichannel production services in the Project Management group and shifted our role definition of Project Managers to Producers. And we evolved the title of our Digital Strategists to, simply, Brand Strategists. Again, it’s pretty amazing how these rather academic-sounding changes have served to unify the company in a media-agnostic fashion.

We looked at our own brand’s digital footprint and made it bigger and more robust. In part, that included creating a new Website and deploying a more focused and active SEO strategy across all of our social media outlets, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr. We also developed a pharmaceutical app wiki called Pharmapps. Right now we’re building the mobile app for it.

We founded our Social Media Council – a committee of cross-functional roles that is tapping people across the organization to help expand our brand’s awareness and develop messaging to potential clients and employees as well as industry watchdogs.

Internally, we’re using Facebook and Yammer more and more for various closed-group communications. That shift has created a more dialogue-driven type of thinking and behavior across our organization… one that also brings a more immediate sense of involvement among team members. How much longer will office e-mail be around?

In a nutshell, Hyper Island was a brilliant rallying cry that brought our organization a new focus on digital media and strategy. Check out the video here/above to get a sense of how inspiring the entire event was for us. In some respects, it was a reaffirmation of what we already knew: digital media is not rocket science, and since we’re not trying to put our clients’ brands on the moon, that’s a good thing. We’re still here to put our clients’ brands into the hearts and minds of the consumer, which digital media can help us with in more effective ways than anything we’ve seen in the past. As Guy Mastrion, Palio’s Chief Creative Officer, says in the video, “Now it’s just a matter of aligning the opportunities and the resources with the right clients.”

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

Is Digital Marketing the Right Prescription for the Pharma Industry?

Mike Smith, Digital Strategist, Palio

If you had asked a marketer back in 1990 whether digital marketing is right for the pharma industry, the most affirmative answer you’d probably get was: “It depends.”

After all, the regulatory framework was almost non-existent, fewer people were consuming online marketing and those that did were generally just part of a top-down messaging adaptation that followed a traditional one-to-many, broadcast-centric, message-and-channel orthodoxy at the time.

Fast forward two decades to today: One variable hasn’t changed much – We’re still looking at an uncertain regulatory framework for digital marketing. But the question of whether pharma should be marketing online is largely settled, and the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Make that a decided “yes, but…” There’s success to be found, but it often means overcoming internal inertia or hesitancy.

“Yes, but everything’s social these days and we can’t trust the sales force with social media.” OK, so keep social media – which is really nothing more than engaging target audiences with an authentic voice via interactive channels – squarely in marketing. Certainly, some companies are taking that approach and it won’t likely be the kiss of death for your next blockbuster product. But increasingly, the companies that can respond quickest and most effectively via social channels are the ones where many voices – often, voices closest to the prospects – are involved.

“Yes, but measuring ROI on digital marketing is hard/challenging/scary/voodoo.” No, it isn’t. In fact, online advertising delivers the sort of targeting and measurable results old-school advertisers would have only dreamed of having. When people talk about the challenges of measuring ROI in online marketing, they usually mean one of two things: Either the innate conundrum of relevant ROI numbers from social media or the relatively low click-through rates in some online ads. The former usually stems from treating social media as a retail campaign when most of it is more akin to branding efforts. The latter? Well, there are lots of reasons, but increasingly the first thing to look at in a poorly performing online campaign is whether or not there was a parallel social strategy to help extend it.

“Yes, but our domain expertise is in the non-digital world – we lack the human capital to fully leverage online marketing.” Then hire someone – or lots of people to implement, execute and manage your program. That may sound like a flippant answer, but here’s a non-flippant number: In 2010, 79% of the world’s 100 largest companies used at least once social media channel for their marketing. And another: Twitter adds 300,000 new users a day. Against that kind of momentum, online is no longer about “domain expertise” – it’s an immediate, strategic business imperative.

It’s not 1990 anymore – the question isn’t whether pharma should be fully immersed in digital marketing, but rather: “Who will change the game with the next big breakthrough campaign?”

Will it be you?

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

© 2011