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ethicon1For the past five years, obesity has been the number one health risk in America, the root cause of over 400,000 deaths annually and a nearly $123 billion burden on the economy. With 66% of the U.S. population overweight and an astonishing 32% obese, the issue is a constant concern for millions of people seeking to either prevent or eliminate their own weight issues.

Ethicon Endo-Surgery’s “Realize” adjustable gastric band, is a weight-loss device that is surgically placed around the stomach to limit food intake. Realize marketers have turned to YouTube as one of its primary marketing tools.

Featuring tutorials, customer testimonials and expert views, Realize’s YouTube Channel has received over 32,000 views since it’s inception late this June. The channel’s video tags feature a canny mix of specific and general terms, including “lose weight,” “bariatric surgery” and even rival product “lapband” promoting a diverse and broad flow of traffic.

This YouTube push, conceived without a specific ROI in mind, is just one of several online and social media publicity campaigns for the surgery, which is increasingly being touted as not only a way to combat obesity, but some forms of diabetes as well. There is a Facebook fan club with around 400 members and an online support group for customers that deliver recipes, fitness plans, and an opportunity to communicate with other members.

[...Realize's YouTube Channel has received over 32,000 views since it's inception late this June.]

However, on YouTube, Ethicon has turned off its social media features. The videos on their channel do not allow ratings or comments, nor does their Facebook page, hobbling the entire “social” aspect of social media and possibly raising skeptical eyebrows among casual browsers.

Furthermore, while a Discovery Health documentary hosted on the channel does feature information from real surgeons and other doctors, this content isn’t featured prominently. The channel’s “From the Experts” section only has testimony from a psychologist, a dietician, and an insurance expert-hardly the expertise most patients are likely to look to first. Previous research from Kru and others has shown that trust is a key variable to a health consumer actually taking action or talking to their own physician, and an onscreen real doctor would actually move Ethicon a lot closer to their goals.

YouTube videos garner massive viewership and the site has emerged as one of the most popular search engines on the Internet. Ethicon Endo-Surgery is wise to have launched this channel and the video on it are well produced. A person considering a gastric band certainly does want to hear from others who have gone through the procedure, so the prominent display of patient testimonials was also smart.

However, physicians continue to be a trusted advisor on health issues and those videos should be increased in terms of quantity and prominence. Lastly, Ethicon would be wise to enable the social features on their social platforms. Although fearful of negative comments, pharma will soon realize that negative comments only increases the credibility of the content in the eyes of the potential customers.

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