Left to our own devices

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The fine spring weather we've been enjoying here at MM&M has really put us in the mood to break out of the box and explore one or two fresh pastures. The result is a June issue (and supplement) bursting with feature articles on topics that, while not new to us, we rarely get to write about—like devices and diagnostics, multicultural marketing, pharma's image and mobile communications.

Adorning our cover this month is Zimmer marketing whiz Ayaz Malik, who presided over the company's groundbreaking and award-winning Gender Knee DTC campaign, created by AbelsonTaylor in 2007.

I'm wondering if there is anyone out there who still thinks that marketing devices and diagnostics is easy compared to selling drugs because of the general lack of side effects and the presumably slacker regulations?

I remember this particular allegation arising from the audience after I had moderated a panel of MM&M Awards winners at the 2008 ePharma Summit in Philadelphia. On the panel was a marketer from Siemens, which had scooped the MM&M Award for Best Integrated Campaign for its “Win an MRI” effort.

“This is all very well,” said the delegate, “but it's clearly much easier to market machinery than it is pills.” The Siemens panelists' response was to laugh, but with just enough tell-tale frustration to say that she had faced this charge probably a thousand times before.

Of course, the challenges facing devices and diagnostics marketers are plenty and unique as Matthew Arnold's article, “Out of the Box” (p.30-34), chronicles.

For example, oftentimes in sectors like prosthetics, surgeons are trained in working with particular brands, and switching can incur a lot of expense and take a lot of valuable time.

Not only that, but how do you make your product stand out? “In the device space,” says Malik, “I think the biggest challenge we have is differentiation of product technologies and how we tell our story.” Zimmer's Gender Knee campaign certainly did that, breaking the mold and spurring a host of often-celebrity-fronted ads from competitors—you might call it a knee-jerk reaction —and paving the way for exciting consumer-facing opportunities in devices and diagnostics.

And to throw it back to Siemens for a moment, certain diagnostics represent a massive investment for the institutions that buy them.

“When somebody purchases a piece of imaging equipment, that's a decision they're going to have to live with for 10 years, and it's a cost of $100,000 to well over a million dollars, so you really have to get people's interest,” says Tom Treusdell, director of product marketing, radiographic and fluoroscopy at Siemens.

It's clearly a set of skills that Treusdell and Co. have honed impeccably over the years because Siemens went on to repeat its success, winning gold for the Ysio auction campaign the following year.

Talking of MM&M awards winners, if you're reading this online, you might just have a few more days left to get your submissions in for the 2010 program. If you're reading the print version, then… well, good luck with what you already entered. I'm looking forward very much to the judging session next month in New York.

But before that can take place, we have the small matter of compiling our bumper annual Agency Issue. You won't want to miss that one.
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