Bookmark and Share

Feb 24

4-cuevaWe recently talked with Amy Cueva of Mad*Pow about an area of online healthcare communications that all too frequently falls to the wayside. Namely, design. With clients including the Journal Watch, Aetna, McKesson, and Google, Amy and her team of 25 coworkers have some serious design chops. She shared some thoughts about usability and design.

Q: Amy, why don’t you tell us about a specific case? What did you do for Journal Watch?

A: We wanted to understand Journal Watch’s target audience - specifically, how they currently consume information, and how they might do it in the future, if it were available digitally. We needed to understand their relationship with online technology, to understand their “digital habits.” So, we took a look at everything they’d done in the past, and then did a ton of additional research to understand what makes these people tick and basically predict future information consumption.

That research helped us generate personas or archetypes of different types of doctors. So, for example, you have the “old salt,” the doctor who has decades of hands-on experience, but isn’t necessarily web savvy and isn’t keen on trying new technology. And on the other hand, there’s the recent med school graduate who’s totally wired, ready to try every new tool, and completely ready to change the world. Understanding these iconic user groups takes people out of the abstract and helped get everyone on the same page with regard to marketing.

Q: I’m a big fan of personas but I know others are critical of them. Did your clients find value in them?

Before you even begin the process of generating personas, you need to have the key stakeholders understand the value. They have to know that persona development is work that can be reused throughout their organization, from marketing and sales to customer service. They need to understand how it can help to coordinate everyone’s thinking around the customers’ experience.

One client actually used our persona results as the basis for redesigning their lobby. They knew that if their ideal customer was highly visual, their lobby better make a big impression - through color, furnishings, and other visual elements. On the other hand, if our work showed that the target client was impressed by big client names or anything else like that, then their marketing efforts needed to reflect this learning.

Q: What are some practical tips you can give our readers for establishing their own websites and online marketing efforts?

A: There are three things I’d recommend. First, watch how people interact with your website. Take three people. For three one-hour sessions. One morning a month. Are they going where you want them to go? Where do they spend the most time? Do they ever get frustrated or lost?

Next, consider your audience - or the people you wish were your audience. What makes them tick? Put yourself in their shoes. Or at their keyboard. Say it’s a woman, expecting her first baby. What do you think is going through her mind when she logs on and starts researching hospitals? Does she want to be able to make an appointment online? Does she want to know if her insurance company will cover the birth? Does she want to connect with other women who’ve chosen a particular birth center? Make a list of everything this person might want to know when she goes online. And then, make a list of what you want her to walk away knowing. Building a bridge between those two lists is the foundation of a great user experience.

And, finally, think about destination websites and about how people get to them. Chances are they don’t get there by typing in a URL. They get there from Google. Or because a friend sent them a link. Or because they read about it in a blog. You may have the best website in the world, but you can’t just sit around waiting for people to come and find you. You have to make your presence known. Write a newsletter, comment on someone else’s blog. Send texts or tweets. Spread your message virally via social media and let people connect and share it amongst themselves. If you consistently speak to your audience, they’ll hear you, and they’ll find you, in their own way, and in their own time. Your job is to make sure that you’re ready for them when they get there.


Feb 23

Personal biometrics is a hot sector right now with big business and startups alike rushing to deliver sensors, software and health coaching. One of the most widely covered stories was the launch of the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach. We wondered, was Zeo using social media effectively to market their unique product? If so, what results have they seen?


Meet the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach, a little bedside device that can track your sleep and help you learn how to do it better. Here’s how it works. You wear the Zeo headband each night, and it senses electrical signals produced by your brain during sleep, and records them. The Bedside Display, that thing that looks like an alarm clock, records the signals so you can see a graph of your sleep patterns. It also calculates your sleep score - called your ZQ.

Using the ListenLogic platform, we monitored 180 million websites and looked at who’s talking about Zeo and what they’re saying. Generally speaking, the sentiment is very good, showing much more positive buzz than negative. Over one month in early 2010, we saw almost 40% of comments showing positive sentiment, with less than 5% on the negative side. The other half of comments gathered didn’t contain a positive or negative slant, and were rated neutral.


Further analysis showed that the positive sentiment is primarily related to the ‘coolness’ of the concept and to what the users hope it can do for them. The negative is focused around a recognized weakness of the technology in that it cannot accurately detect brief awakenings during sleep.

In terms of specific topics, the concept of human instrumentation is getting a lot of discussion, and the bulk of the conversation by users comes from early adopters who admit that they’re suckers for new technology.

Another subject that came up frequently was Zeo competitor, WakeMate. These comments were generally favorable for WakeMate (which is not yet available) noting that it’s far cheaper-around $50 as compared to $249 for Zeo, and WakeMate has an iPhone synch capability.

Of most interest to health marketers, Zeo is clearly social media savvy and has a strong online presence. Zeo is tweeting (@zeo), and has a blog, a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel.

And Zeo isn’t just doing one-way broadcasts, they are listening and responding to what they hear. In addition to responding to individual tweets, they’re also doing online outreach to consumers with questions or concerns about the product or its performance. Here is a comment from a blogger who was contacted by Zeo. He had returned the Zeo, but was pleased with the response from the company.


And here is a post from Zeo, which offers information in response to a consumer question:


Zeo also did a Twitter promo. Tweeters were asked to post a tweet that includes 3 things - an answer to the question “what helps you sleep at night,” a link to the Zeo webpage, and the hashtag #ZQ - for a chance to win a Zeo or a vacation. Like many things that offer a chance to get something for free, it generated buzz.


Unfortunately the level of conversation didn’t last past the end of the promo. Overall mentions of Zeo dropped sharply starting on January 16, 2010 - the day after the promo ended.

Zeo is clearly using a strong social media strategy to market its product, and is getting a positive result with consumers for its efforts. Judging by some of the chatter, it also seems like the company and the consumers are learning from each other. We hope the conversation will help people sleep better as much as it will help Zeo improve their product.


Feb 22

How do you get 100,000 fans on Facebook? Give away free t-shirts. People love free stuff. They also seem to love putting their photos online, even when they’re not looking their best. And Nyquil is taking full advantage. They’re giving away something for free, and they have more than 101,000 fans to prove it.


A Facebook app launched in December 2009, countless fans have joined “Nyquil Nation,” a community of people who claim they’ve found sleep (even though they had a cold), with the help of the well known “nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, best sleep you ever got with a cold… medicine.” The premise is simple, upload a photo of yourself sleeping when you’ve got a cold, get 5 friends to vote for it (by signing up themselves), and you get a free T-Shirt. The person interested in the free shirt gets their photo posted online and the free T, and Nyquil gets 5 more visitors to the page. It’s a fun and quirky blend of community, self-promotion, and support for the product - and all rolled together it becomes a self-perpetuating buzz machine. According to a message posted on Nyquil’s wall, Nyquil Nation even has photos of sleeping Olympians - speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, and snowboarder Lindsey Jacobelis.

When you add in the fact that every user who gets his or her free shirt might wear it around town advertising Nyquil to everyone they see, it’s easy to see how that free T-shirt has paid for itself many times over.


While the medium Nyquil is using is new, the idea isn’t. For years, marketers have been going to the people, showing up in public places and hosting special events designed to showcase their products and develop customer loyalty. Nyquil Nation is doing the same thing, but instead of going to the people, it’s encouraging the people to bring each other to it. We say kudos that they’re on Facebook, and that they’re putting a fresh face (well, maybe after the Nyquil does its job) on traditional marketing, and continuing to build awareness for the brand. And they might just be reaching a new, potentially younger, audience in the process. Nyquil is already a well-known product, with memorable TV and print advertising. It’s great they’re not stopping there.

The only thing we wonder is why the Nyquil Facebook page doesn’t allow messages from fans. The fans are obviously contributors to the site and its content by providing their photos and luring their friends there to sign up too. It seems unusual that they wouldn’t be allowed to share their opinions. As for the posts made by Nyquil itself, they’re almost exclusively focused on the Nyquil Nation promotion, which makes sense given the high level of recognition for the product. Overall this combination of offline rewards for online participation is an approach other over-the-counter remedies should consider.


Feb 18

Leveraging Generational Theory for Health Marketing
Carlen Lea Lesser, (7 minutes) watch video

  • Pecha Kucha style (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide)
  • Strauss & Howe Generational Theory
  • Boomers in Fourth Turning
  • Which Star Wars characters map to which generations? (you might be surprised!)

for Pharma & Health Communications

Each one-day boot camp is led by Kevin Kruse and is limited to only 15 participants to maximize individual attention. Sign-up now to get a 50% early bird discount.

e-Patient Connections 2010

Feb 16

As you’re walking down the street, you feel a sudden pain in your ear. You’re a few blocks from home, so you step into a coffee shop, pull out your iPhone, and within half a minute find out that ear pain in adults is not usually an ear infection, and is likely to clear up on its own. You read further and discover that a warm cloth, some ibuprofen for pain, and or some over the counter pain relief drops can help for the time being, and that maybe you should call your physician about some antibiotics if it doesn’t clear up in the next few days. You click off your phone and head home with a firm understanding of the problem and what to do about it.

When it comes to accessing health information online, one of the most popular apps is the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) Medical Reference for the iPhone. The application is a free mobile medical encyclopedia that on paper, would literally be a back-breaking amount of information. The brainchild of the university’s own Web Production Manager Marc Laytar, this application has achieved astonishing reach since its July, 2009 release, with an average of over 1,500 downloads a day and peaking at the #3 position on the iPhone’s list of most popular free medical applications.

The app doesn’t contain a slick interface or flashy animations, so what’s the secret to this humble app’s success? Probably the fact that it has more than 50,000 pages of medically reviewed content available in both English and Spanish. Much of the content comes from the proprietary medical encyclopedia available from health-info giant A.D.A.M.

“A.D.A.M. content is a wonderful foundation,” said Ed Bennett, director of web strategy for UMMC, in a phone interview, but UMMC’s app is its own animal. It repackages A.D.A.M’s online content into a mobile-friendly format, and supplements the licensed material with additional in-house productions such as its YouTube videos. By building around a pre-existing base, the app provides a maximum of polish and utility with a minimum of sweat and hassle.

UMMC iPhone App

UMMC iPhone App

Running in a clean blue and white frame, the application offers comprehensive information on everything from juvenile diabetes to the nutritional requirements of a vegetarian diet. What’s more, it manages to organize a large amount of digital information in a logical and intuitive fashion. Articles are broken into categories based on utility, such as Symptoms, Injuries, Disease, and Nutrition with links to treatment, complications, and symptoms within each article. Just the right number of links within each article make it easy to navigate to related pieces without it being overwhelming.

The app even features a fascinating “Tests” section, which gives a rigorous rundown of common medical tests a patient might undergo. Maybe the most useful part is the focus on the patient’s experience during a test -including information in subsections such as How the Test Will Feel, and How to Prepare for the Test.

The application, by Laytar’s own admission, could use some tweaking and upgrades. He specifically mentions speed and the look and feel of the application, including graphics and navigational features. We think the app could also benefit from integrating the YouTube videos more seamlessly as the section currently feels like an add-on. However, we think these are small things - the UMMC app is a sterling example of a quality, content rich application that can be of value to many people.


Feb 10

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Marketing Mayo Clinic, Lee Aase (20 minutes)

  • Power of word of mouth marketing
  • Top 7 reasons patients choose Mayo Clinic
  • Series of tactics from new media to social media
  • Total cost of Mayo Clinic e-marketing = $0
  • Social media pyramid (ie, right number of servings per day)
  • The Mayo video that generated over 6 million views

for Pharma & Health Communications

Each one-day boot camp is led by Kevin Kruse and is limited to only 15 participants to maximize individual attention. Sign-up now to get a 50% early bird discount.

SAVE THE DATE: e-Patient Connections 2010!
September 27-29, 2010, Philadelphia Hyatt Bellevue

Feb 09

Nobody heads out for the night with the intention of waking up with a hangover. However, as some of us can attest, it can happen. Even with the best intentions to keep drinking to a minimum, it can become all too easy after a couple of drinks to go back for a couple more, and maybe a couple more, leading to unintended and potentially dangerous consequences.

In order to help tech-savvy citizens curtail this habit, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has unveiled an application called “Alcohol Tracker,” designed to track alcohol consumption and analyze trends over time, touting it as the “first official alcohol tracker application for mobile phones.”


Downloadable to either a user’s desktop or iPhone via the NHS Choices website, the NHS Drinks Tracker app lets users enter what they’re drinking, how much of it they’re drinking, and what strength each beverage is. Preset selections for beer or cider, wine or champagne, spirits or shots, or an alcopop (the term used for sugary or fruity alcoholic beverages) enable the user to input their drinks and the % of alcohol associated with each. After each drink is saved, the program calculates a tally of total units consumed. By moving from this “Select Drinks” tab to the adjacent “Tracker” tab, you can see a graph of your overall alcohol consumption, contrasted in blue against the steady red line that indicates “daily recommended units.” From here you can get a feedback box comparing your drinking over the course of the week, or several, to the recommended average, with an update on potential health risks.

The app also contains a small F.A.Q. section, which provides more detail about various hazards associated with over-consumption.

alcohol-tracker-graph_2The NHS Choices site describes the drinks tracker as a great app “if you want to cut down on how much you drink” and for motivated users, it has the potential to be a great tool. The interface is simple, clear, and quite easy to use. Not only does it let you keep tabs on a single night’s drinking, but also provides a graphical representation of drinking habits over time. This longer term view facilitates awareness, and it’s easy to see how it can help users can identify habits they might not have known they had.

It’s up to the users themselves to take the next step - using this information to make better choices in the future. A solid first step to helping people become aware of their alcohol consumption, it’s easy to see where additional features might be useful. As one example, the drink selection tool lets you enter drinks of different strengths, but it doesn’t provide any information for helping you to figure out what those strengths might be. A list of popular beverages with pre-set alcohol content information keyed to each might be a good addition.

It’s premature to pass verdict on the application’s success at this point, but anything that helps people become self-aware, that helps them identify habits that can be harmful, and that provides information that can be used to make positive behavior changes is bound to be successful for some. And the tracker’s intuitive interface and its portability will certainly facilitate easier use - which is the first step for many.

American users can currently download the desktop version; for now iTunes does not support a mobile U.S. release.

Feb 05

This movie requires Flash Player 9

Johnson & Johnson on YouTube, Rob Halper (10 minutes) watch video

  • Who’s Watching YouTube? Everybody.
  • Health searches and views on YouTube
  • Metrics, metrics, metrics
  • Two-way interaction with viewers
  • Selling the idea internally and overcoming obstacles

for Pharma & Health Communications

Each one-day boot camp is led by Kevin Kruse and is limited to only 15 participants to maximize individual attention. Sign-up now to get a 50% early bird discount.

SAVE THE DATE: e-Patient Connections 2010!
September 27-29, 2010, Philadelphia Hyatt Bellevue

Feb 05

The following is a guest post by John Mack, Editor & Publisher of Pharma Marketing News

Virtually all pharmaceutical company Twitter accounts post mostly corporate news. These corporate Twitter accounts are not likely to be followed by patients. An analysis by Phil Baumann offered some proof that this is indeed the case (see “Do Normal People Follow Big Pharma On Twitter?”;

Novo Nordisk, which has a Levemir-branded Twitter account (Race with Insulin), is the exception. However, that account so far has focused only on marketing and posting the daily trials, tribulations, and hopefully victories of Charlie Kimball, a Levemir-branded spokesperson with diabetes and racecar driver.

Twitter has often been hyped as a great way to support customers. The customers of pharma are physicians and patients. But even pharma branded Twitter accounts like Race with Insulin offer very little in terms of patient support.

A branded, patient-focused Twitter account can be used in many ways to support patients. Such a Twitter account can deliver appropriate messages to followers who opt-in to follow via notices on the web site. Because of the viral nature of Twitter, one follower can lead to many more with very little extra effort or expense on the part of the sponsoring pharma company. If the posts are relevant to patient needs, followers will RT (re-tweet) and recommend that others follow.

Kru Research has written up a nice review of this topic in the eBook: Using Twitter for e-Patient Communications (

What do you think? Should pharma companies use Twitter for patient support? If so, what types of applications would work best? I’ve prepared a survey ( that asks your opinion of using Twitter in this fashion and what you think would be the regulatory, corporate cultural, training, and other barriers that would need to be overcome to achieve success.

Specifically, the survey asks how effective Twitter can be in carrying out each of the following patient support activities/communications:

• Drug/device safety alerts (eg, drug recalls, medical device malfunctions, emerging safety issues)
• Prescription management, including pharmacy refill reminders
• Daily health tips from authoritative sources
• Publishing disease-specific tips
• Clinical trial awareness & recruitment
• Enhancing health-related support groups (e.g. buddy-systems for depression)
• Providing around-the-clock disease management
• Patient-sharing of health-related experiences
• Issuing dietary/lifestyle tips
• Delivering adherence and compliance messages

Please take 2 minutes to answer this survey about how effective Twitter can be in carrying patient support activities/communications. Take the survey here:
You will be able to see a summary of up-to-date de-identified results upon completion of the survey.

Results of this survey may be summarized in an issue of Pharma Marketing News.

Your comments are confidential (anonymous) unless you specifically provide your contact information at the end of the survey and allow us to attribute comments to you personally.

John Mack, Editor & Publisher
Pharma Marketing News/Pharma Marketing Blog

Feb 02

If you thought you were ahead of the game because you have a broadband internet connection at home or wireless on the road, The Pew Internet Project has news for you - the rest of the country is catching up. Americans in all demographics are rapidly adopting broadband and wireless, with 60% of people surveyed reporting that they’re using broadband and over half connecting wirelessly.

Overall Internet Usage Holds Steady


Pew’s most recent survey on internet, broadband, and cell phone usage took place in November and December 2009, and for the first time included interviews in Spanish. The survey found that 74% of adults in the US use the internet. Note that this is a slight drop from the same survey conducted in April 2009 which found 79% of English speaking Americans to be online.

Other findings did not vary significantly between the surveys. Both found that about 60% of adults (60% in December 2009 vs 63% in April) use broadband connections at home, and that 55% of adults in the country use wireless connections ( WiFi or WiMax) to connect from their smart phones or laptops.

Looking at the findings of Pew’s survey of internet use over the past 15 years, you can see that the number of Americans using the web has increased dramatically. And also that growth has slowed.

Wireless and Broadband Take Off

For example, overall internet usage has leveled off (73% in 2006 compared to 74% today), leading Pew to conclude that there has been “little significant growth” in the population of people using the Internet since 2006. Broadband usage in that same period, however, has increased considerably from less than half of all households being wired for broadband in 2006 to a near 60% in 2009.


Use of wireless connections is not far behind, with 55% of surveyed Americans using wireless at least occasionally. Among the 46% of the population who own a laptop 83% use Wi-Fi. The increasing trend toward internet access from everywhere is ongoing, and there is still plenty of room for growth. Although over 80% of those surveyed use mobile phones, only 35% have used their phones to access online content.

Who’s Using What?

When broken into demographic groups, Pew’s findings fall into predictable patterns. Among the 2,258 American adults who participated in the phone survey, internet use and use of broadband and wireless connections, correlated with youth, wealth, and higher levels of education.

People in households with incomes greater than $75,000 a year, college graduates, and people in the 18-29 age range have much higher wireless internet use rates than others in those groups. Suburban and urban populations also showed higher rates of use (56% and 57% respectively), to the 45% of wireless users found in rural areas.

It might seem intuitive that the expense of laptops and online services would create the biggest barrier to internet and broadband access for low income users. However, it turns out that the biggest determining factor is education. Of those without a high school degree, a mere 39% are online, compared to 60% of people in the lowest income group.  The only group that uses the Internet less is those over the age of 65. When it comes to broadband use, only 24% of those without a high school degree report using broadband connections, as compared to 46% for high school graduates, and 83% for those who graduated from college.

Putting it All Together

The big picture numbers show us that 3 out of every 4 people are online, and more and more are using wireless and high-speed broadband technologies. This is great news for people searching for health information, support, or communities online. And great news for health communicators, support networks, and others who want to reach them. But there are still gaps to be filled. Assuming these findings apply to the populations of e-patients, caregivers, and other digital health consumers, there are a lot of less affluent, less educated people that need health-related support and can’t access it online.