Muzeable Thinking

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Shock revelation: When it comes to healthcare we might be in danger of forgetting that a boring old rational RTB might be the best way to explain why we’re relevant to meet someone’s needs?

Posted by on Nov 6th, 2017 in muzeable thinking | 0 comments

Muzeable Thinking No.26 posted by Tim Brooks 6th November 2017

A recent piece written by Tim Brooks, Advisor, Creative Leap/Director, Muzeable & David Gray, CEO, Creative Leap.

Emotional or rational? Rational or emotional? Both? Neither? Something else entirely?

In brand marketing, it is increasingly the received wisdom that successful brands/communication are more effective if they deliver emotional engagement, not necessarily exclusively, but above all else.

The debate is not new. We’ve been talking about emotional engagement based on deep human truth/insight for years. It is the inevitable result of a world where genuine product USPs are unicorn-rare and most categories are becoming commoditised and intensely competitive.

It is the source of endless client-agency ‘discussions’. The clichéd image of clients fighting for more of their features and benefits with a big RTB [alongside more and bigger logos]; the agency wanting to make a great, visceral, human truth film that will sell itself regardless of any overt branding. The reality? There is right and wrong on both sides.

A few months ago, we saw an excellent presentation on Neuroscience and its growing prominence in evaluating brands/communication. The talk [by Nielsen’s Dr Nikki Westoby] was part of the Museum of Brands on-going programme of talks etc.  Worth keeping an eye out for future events.

There was lots of fast brain/slow brain/behavioural economics – Kahnmann et al – and some compelling evidence for the need for communication to engage emotionally as well as rationally.

So, for the record, we totally, 100% agree with the narrative on the primacy of delivering emotional engagement.

But, thinking about healthcare/OTC it is important to acknowledge some potentially different dynamics that might de-prioritise emotional messaging – at least short term, or at key stages of brand/category development.

In all categories penetration is usually driven by relevance and distinctiveness. Fundamentally, brands/products need to meet needs – relevance – and they drive competitive advantage through doing this distinctively – they are better, cheaper or perceived as different or more ‘for me’ versus competitors.

OTC categories are not fundamentally different, but…

The ‘but’ is that, at certain stages of category development, or if you have a small, probably short term, window of ‘uniqueness’ in which to establish your Meaningful Difference it might be best to temporarily de-prioritise emotional engagement and put the foot to the metal on some rather dull, sensibly rational claims; to focus on practical relevance.

The evidence?

If you look at many of the truly mega success stories they have all been [at least initially] achieved with little interest or delivery of emotional connection. The focus has been driving relevance by demonstrating an ability to meet the consumer’s core needs either better or differently or by owning the generic benefit through a ‘killer’ claim.

Nurofen. Built its leadership entirely on a clever RATIONAL story. Targeted pain relief. With a fabulous RTB – because it works at the site of pain. You can explain its initial success through being new/innovative – but not its sustained growth. There is little evidence it has ever been truly emotionally engaging, but it is a brand to die for.

Sensodyne – now a billion-dollar brand – built itself on single-minded RATIONAL problem-solution communication – it stopped sensitive teeth. The advertising either expresses the problem or uses dentists to re-enforce the rational benefit/trust in efficacy.

Corsodyl/Parodontax – a true success story based on blood in the sink = gum problems [Symbol] Corodyl solves it. Basically, problem solution. We suspect it needs to build more emotional connection to reach the next level, but…

NB none of these brands deliberately ignores emotion. It’s just they built mega-brands without much focus on it. In fact, when they try to lessen rational relevance and increase emotional engagement… sales have had a tendency to dip.

It is fair to say that – at least briefly – they were relatively ‘unique’ solutions, so rational became more powerful. But, through sticking to the model, even when it got more competitive, they still grew… and grew.

It is important to acknowledge that in the medium term this can create issues. It’s hard to move from a simple, rational platform to suddenly turn on emotional engagement. Which, as a category grows and becomes more competitive, might be key to driving distinctiveness.

One of us (Tim) spent many years globally competing with Nurofen and knows the reality first hand.

‘We used to get endless research telling us Nurofen was ‘cold’/’clinical’ and lacked emotional connection with consumers [versus our brand, Panadol]. All we had to do was leverage this – because people need/want emotional connection and… But our real-world experience was that in many cases the same consumers who questioned Nurofen’s lack of warm, fuzziness… still bought it, repeatedly, even when our ads scored higher on emotion. They relied on it and trusted it to work!’

This article is not in any way an attempt to justify dull, insight-less, rational/problem solution communication in OTCs.  Or to question the power of emotional engagement. Heaven forbid. But, our point is, we do not see enough evidence of people thinking from both ends of the challenge.

Our simple point is that, sometimes, it might be best to focus on being best at delivering against the core needs of the category via some rational messaging [always supported by an insight or two of course] to drive your relevance. This is especially true in categories where consumers are not very interested, or at least it is hard to drive, emotional engagement i.e. all OTC categories!

Most OTCs work like this. You don’t always see the relevance of your slightly bleeding gums – it’s not a matter of life and death. You don’t care about Beechams – until you have a cold – in fact it’s invisible. But, when a cold strikes your fast brain will kick in. You anchor into the category’s core benefits and use heuristics around symptom descriptions and suffering images to find your solution. Emotion is not irrelevant – you might well feel quite emotional – but I would bet money that your fast brain short cuts are seeking functional product relevance more than ‘this brand understands me’.

Professor Patrick Barwise1 has written extensively on brands. His books Simply Better/Beyond the Familiar written with Sean Meehan put forward [among other things] a persuasive narrative that the brands that win in categories [as defined by share and market value] are not the ones who are ‘different,’ but usually the ones who are best at meeting the core needs of the category. This applies in healthcare with bells on.

So, if you manage some healthcare/OTC brands before you set out to be different spend some serious, expert brainpower/time trying to unlock some rational ways to drive your relevance –defining the emergent and established drivers of your Meaningful Difference.

Make sure your agencies/partners understand this and are able to supply healthcare expert input. They need to be au fait with this rather unsexy modus operandi (the science, regulations, HCP mind-sets and all that) and be specialist enough to get the differences in behaviours and insights in healthcare. Obviously, they need to be creative too. Even, if you decide that you need to be more emotional, the exercise of defining your ‘rational core’ will deliver a rip-roaring RTB. Only a healthcare expert/agency can deliver this level of meaningful difference.

The risk? You can spend lots of time endlessly sticking tails in donkeys – eyes closed – in the search for end of the rainbow emotional engagement. Truth might be the consumer just needs you to tell them why they actually need your products…

Creative Leap is a health & wellness/OTC specialist agency. We help brands to grow and find their Meaningful Difference through expert, insight-led (emotional and rational!), brand and communications input. A conversation costs nothing, so contact David Gray on 020 7549 0700 or for Muzeable, Tim Brooks on 07802 531578

Sharing the input: responding to some of the comments on our piece on breakthrough claims…

Posted by on Oct 9th, 2017 in muzeable thinking | 0 comments

Muzeable Thinking No.25 posted by Tim Brooks 9th October 2017


Our piece[1] on new approaches to consumer healthcare claims and real-world outcomes data was read by over 2000 people, thanks!!

Several weeks have passed and we thought it would be interesting to share some of the questions/discussions and insight it generated.

Overall, healthcare marketers seem to share our optimism – the approach has legs. But, we would like more input from our clinical/regulatory colleagues, so don’t be shy! The whole point is to create collaboration across disciplines and experience tells us you will add value. Key inputs so far:

  • Hybrid approach. To the previous point, everyone agreed that it requires a ‘hybrid’ approach blending the best qualities of clinical study and data expertise alongside hands-on commercial/marketing and ‘innovation’ experience. Most also felt this was, if not unique, different from most available input. People shared personal stories of ‘clinical’ work that lacked the behavioural insight required to deliver commercial value and creative/ideation approaches that simply did not understand or failed to meet the technical/clinical hurdles the business/regulators needed to be truly  ‘usable’. Or people who offered both, but lacked the suite of skills.
  • One ‘killer’ question keeps popping up. It’s a good one, it goes like this…

‘Ok. So, I get that we can drive strong communications claims in a market like the UK, but will this approach produce data that can go on the label and therefore be used in other markets and/or go on the pack’.

  • Honest answer. This is tough!!! Given the ‘boxes’ on the standard SPCs/PILs in Europe it is hard to see where to physically put PROM-type data [another example of the regulatory approach not really matching self-medication needs given that these data could potentially be helpful to consumers/patients making choices.]
  • The Wirkungsweise box on a German label, for example, where the data that explains what the drug does is presented, could theoretically include other useful usage information on the ‘operation’ of the product in the ‘real world’ beyond the ingredient modes of action. But, we all know this runs counter to the philosophical position of most regulators.
  • That said, since the output will be robust, well produced [to clinical standards], published data and a well-run project would produce a data-set, not a single paper it has the potential to pass the basic acceptance hurdles of the regulators/clinicians and be worthy of discussion.
  • Big Pharma is not using PROM on labels, though they are using it for serious purposes with regulators/government to explain value/justify pricing and show differences/patient benefits in an attempt to influence prescribing behaviour.
  • In effect, that is similar to the aim here – to show brand difference/distinctiveness to influence choices via robust, supportable data/claims – but, we need the data be ‘publicly’ usable with people not just used in-camera with HCPs. Currently, in most of Europe, that needs it to be on the label.
  • So to be honest this requires a brand owner to run up the hill, innovate and have the patience to ‘work with the authorities’ to get relevant data on the label and build a test case. This is a long-term commitment with no guarantee of success. But, we struggle to see what the alternative is for brands? If they do not take on the challenge of changing regulations to facilitate better self-medication and more marketing they are on a long, slow slippery slope to a universe filled with Amazon own-label!!
  • The industry should [and it isn’t really] tackle the fundamental challenges around the ‘future of self-medication’. Our small innovation is at the heart of this. We [brands/own label/generics etc.] need self-medication labelling regulation etc. that is specifically designed for self-medication, not a sub-set of Rx with its completely different needs/safety issues. WE DO NOT CURRENTLY HAVE THIS… industry needs to take a deep breath and FIGHT FOR IT! Yes, it’s better than it was, but…
  • So, creating a box on the label outlining relevant, proven, robust behavioural data outlining how people using the brand/product in the pack they have bought or are thinking of buying have got best results or positive outcomes – including PROM studies – seems relevant. Dare we say… helpful even! It is part of the need to put people at the heart of healthcare and explain the benefits [not just the actions] of the product to people to enable them to see its relevance. Yes, this is marketing, but as long as it is based on good data and it all happens on a level playing field [e.g. companies that invest in the data can protect it] and own label/generics can play too, where is the issue?


  • Evidence Portfolios. The idea of building a brand specific [owned] data set versus a single study approach also resonated – we call this evidence portfolio   creation.[2] It is what R&D plans to do anyway, yet, when we review our own experience of OTC clinical work (infrequent as it is) we have seen little evidence of the approach we propose. We rarely focus data creation on the end user outcomes and using that to build a multi-layered portfolio of evidence seeded in public domain and cross referenced to maximum effect. Data is usually targeted against a specific need. Nothing wrong with that, but it might not be optimising the opportunity of the investment. We are perhaps most excited about the potential to repurpose and add value to this existing data – it seems a cost-effective shot to nothing!
  • Many people felt this was a big behavioural change for brands/marketing who see communications as an ‘FMCG’ consumer/emotional engagement task – and it is – but this usually positions data/claims as ‘content’ to improve their ads. Since we usually advertise our NPD this can make it very short term. To start with a consumer experiential model to drive relevance and distinctiveness is a big change requiring investment decisions/changes. That said, real world outcome claims around NPD sounds like a good idea.
  • Social media? Lots of cynical questions about the use of social media data to build a quantitative frame of reference. What the discussion showed is [apologies to anyone who thinks we might mean them!] how little marketers understand about the potential of these data. Clinicians understand even less. Done properly this is a massively valuable input. Don’t imagine this would be a bit of blunt, possibly interesting, but completely unactionable slice of social-listening data. We see lots of this, and apologies to clients who do it, but save your money. Clever people with proprietary approaches, mashing together multiple data sources and using/analysing the data and connections are producing some of the most powerful insight, influence and targeting work we’ve ever seen[3]!
  • Methods? Lots of questions on methods etc. firstly, it isn’t off the shelf, so it is hard to put into a box. But, since none of the basic methods – sample creation; mobile data capture; questionnaires; product use; statistical analysis etc. etc. are ‘new’ – it’s the packaging up and outputs that are innovative – we don’t see this as the area for debate. If we set up and agree outcomes the study/trial will behave in a similar way to other work you’ve done. It’s the outputs that are different, based on a fresh way of looking at data and how they work.
  • How much will it cost? Lots of questions on cost. How long is a piece of string? As said, definitely much cheaper than full scale clinical work and with a better PTS; more expensive than a few workshops for sure. Two comments… the journey can be started slowly [i.e. proof of principle before a major study] and the ‘pre-work’ gives you a milestone to say go/no-go before the button is pressed whilst building a powerful input on your existing claims potential/landscape. You can even write up and publish the pre-work! In the end, having done claims work for a few decades now, we have a reasonably high confidence on some ROI.

Again, we think the answer is to talk about this stuff in the context of specific needs vs theoretical constructs. We’d rather jump through a few hoops to demonstrate the value than write articles; in reality a few documents and blogs are frankly irrelevant versus a SPECIFIC exploration/discussion of your brands and categories.

Contact us… you know it makes sense.

[1] Join the revolution: new ways to deliver breakthrough OTC/healthcare claims 21/07/2017

[2] Tom Kenny blog on evidence portfolios.

[3] We work with Four Engage. Check them out, it might just change your life…


‘I wouldn’t start from here!’ – Efficiently Creating an Enhanced Evidence Portfolio.

Posted by on Oct 4th, 2017 in muzeable thinking | 0 comments

Muzeable Thinking No.24 posted by Tim Brooks 4th October 2017


This is a guest piece from Dr Tom Kenny of Dune Consulting. Muzeable has had the pleasure of working with Tom and find the mix of his expert, clinical perspective and our marketing/brand views has the potential to deliver genuinely fresh thinking. Thanks Tom.

Using finite resources and the available data to build a compelling story that creates and defends a value proposition or tries to deliver distinctive claims for a medicine (POM or OTC) is one of the most important – and difficult – tasks for anyone managing a healthcare business.

Yet, we are repeatedly shocked by the poor use of evidence companies make when it comes to constructing a value story for their healthcare brands.

Too frequently the company who are aiming to promote a medicine do not put enough energy into seeing the world from the perspective of a payer (and that includes people shopping for medicines) at the beginning of their clinical trial programme – the focus is single-mindedly on the regulator and the ‘hurdles’ they need to jump.

We understand the pressures that drive this, but as they say, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” and at the late stages of your positioning around pricing and reimbursement, or creation of a value proposition, or a setting of marketing or promotional messages it is a little churlish to be wishing that some deeper, or different, thinking had been done earlier. At this point the more appropriate saying often appears to be “beggars can’t be choosers”. It is was it is, we need to work with the evidence portfolio that we already have…

…or do we?

Our experience is that, unlike the old saying, you actually can ‘start from here’ i.e. with the data you have. An evidence portfolio/framework can actually be enhanced relatively simply, quickly and cost effectively. These thoughts come from a long experience of working with, often imperfect, data sets in order to design care pathways, choose between different medicines or make a reimbursement decision. All of this is equally applicable in the self-medication environment, even if the scale of the data and clinical investment might be smaller. In fact, it is particularly relevant to the competitive world of differentiating OTCs with evidence beyond marketing spin and in the absence of large clinical investment. But, firstly a couple of, perhaps, obvious things to remember about clinical studies and real-world research:

  1. It is rare that any single study provides ‘the answer’. Even when beautifully designed, bias, chance and simple errors can, and do, occur.
  2. There is no such thing as a perfect study design. A well-designed study will set out to answer a question and be specifically designed to do just that, this will mean it will have strengths and weaknesses. Pose a different question and these strengths and weaknesses will be different. The weaknesses, especially, become obvious and magnified when it starts to consider answering multiple questions.
  3. A study lives or dies on its methodology. We may or may not like the results, but whether we trust them or can use them depends entirely on the methodology used to get them. Research is often designed in such a way that it undermines its own results. For example; multiple outcome measures and designs that allow for a multitude of explanations of the data.

So, here are 5 things that you should consider when you are faced with a weak portfolio, generic data or when you want to build a data-set to differentiate or support your brand and you lack the money – or time – to run a large study program:

  1. Trawl & Steal. Systematically draw together the other work that has been done in the same field; the work that has asked similar or related questions. This is by far the most cost-effective way to get a large number of robust enhance insights and a clear data baseline.
  2. Polish. Prospectively re-analyse a study’s results; this can yield valuable insights without the cost of setting up and running a whole new trial. Get relevant associated/secondary data in the public domain [gray papers etc.] and use it!
  3. Strengthen. Run simple studies in parallel to provide a basis for comparison and defend against alternative explanations; this maximises the insights from the investments and supports the production of great claims. It’s like a puzzle and the creativity comes from how you fit the pieces [data] together.
  4. People first. Use simple studies of Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs) to uncover outcomes that are meaningful for patients and compelling for payers; data that enhances the proposition/claims. To date PROMs have been poorly understood and little used for OTC medicines.
  5. Build a context. Capture the natural history or epidemiology of the condition to provide comparisons data that are often otherwise lacking.

This is not a tick box exercise. This approach needs to be wedded to practical, expert input to pull together a roadmap to evolve and build stronger evidence in a finite resources environment. A hybrid commercial/clinical input model is at its heart. And start small. A few weeks of analysis could quickly confirm the potential and define the benefits/outcomes.

If you would like to talk to Tom and Tim about building an evidence portfolio to drive claims and growth please contact us.

Dr Tom Kenny started life as a GP, he then moved into NHS/Public Health Medicine. He is expert in clinical drug/data evaluation and building real-world data/studies to enhance patient/consumer experience & outcomes. As well as running his own consultancy, Dune, he leads the core team delivering clinical research programmes at Spoonful of Sugar the behavioural data consultancy at Imperial College, University of London.


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