Why pharma disease awareness campaigns need an upgrade

A creative agency develops an awareness campaign that launches in a prominent city centre.

People duly interact with it. Take photos. Mill around it. Read things. Maybe even tweet a hashtag – the holy grail!

People are blown away by the creative.

Awards season comes around. Awards are won. Backs are patted.

Job done.

Or is it?

Shifting your goal post

If your goal was to spend a healthy chunk of your budget, fleetingly capture attention, and get to stand on stage with a minor celeb at an industry awards ceremony, then yes, job done.

But maybe, just maybe, we’ve been missing the point with awareness campaigns.

If you’re a brand manager working on a condition that you really care about, of course you want make as many people as possible aware of the disease. When you care about something, it’ natural to want others to care as much as you do.

And of course, let’ be blunt, it’ good to demonstrate you care when you’re a pharma company.

Yet ‘awareness’ is a slippery thing to define. Is someone sharing a photo of your augmented-reality-enabled installation on Twitter a true measure of awareness?


But then what?

At ARK Comms we love a cool awareness campaign as much as the next person, but we love a cool and effective awareness campaign even more.

Awareness without action = 🙁

Attention is fleeting. How long is that ‘awareness’ you raised going to last?

More importantly, what’ this nebulous awareness done to your audience? Has it shifted opinion? Or even better, shifted behaviour? If the goal is solely to increase knowledge of an issue, then maybe an awareness campaign can work just fine.

But is it ever enough for people to simply ‘know’ more about something?

That’ why we try to move our ideas and campaigns beyond the this ‘information provision’ model of awareness raising to really understand what drives and influences behaviour of the target population, and what value or exchange they require in order to be persuaded to change their behaviour.

Hearts, Minds and Limbs

At ARK Comms we talk about the ‘Heart–Minds–Limbs’ approach to disease awareness. We believe that to be truly effective, any campaign needs to address each of these components:

  • Hearts’ is the good stuff – the smash-it-out-the-park idea and creative that’ going to make people stop and think, laugh, cry, be outraged, etc.
  • Minds’ is about the substance of the campaign. Who specifically are you targeting? What is the message you’re telling them? How is it relevant to that particular audience?
  • Limbs’ is the change maker. What do you want your audience to do once they’ve seen your campaign?

And then, wrapped around all of that, is the the measurement piece, the Vital Statistics… how are you evaluating the actual behaviour change achieved by the targeted audience, and the impact this behaviour change has had on the health challenge being addressed?

In short, we believe there’ a difference between increasing knowledge or awareness and persuading or inspiring people to do something. And only by applying the Heart–Minds–Limbs approach to an awareness campaign can you know what difference you’ve made.

If you are starting to think about what awareness can mean for your audience and your brand, then get in touch.