Digitas Health LifeBrands' Susan Manber on telling a healthy story



It boils down to storytelling, said Susan Manber, who was recently promoted to chief planning officer of North America for Digitas Health LifeBrands.

Storytelling is tied to health and wellness; the more effectively you can tell a story, the more you can engage with your customer, she said.

“When you find the intersection that is true, that's when the real power of a brand is born,” said Manber.

Growing up in a family of journalists, Manber always thought she would follow the family career of choice. But when she entered Vassar College in 1981, the field of cognitive science was just being born. Understanding the science behind different perspectives and how people made decisions intrigued her, and she soon got into account planning and research at Ammirati & Puris.

“I went to a creative agency when people said 90% of all creative fails because it's not based on solid strategy,” said Manber. “That fundamentally goes back to the art of asking better questions [and] never accepting what is just expected.”

One of the most provocative questions she remembers being asked was: Why do you think what you built for a consumer can also be built for an HCP?

“Time and time again, we've shown by using interesting, engaging techniques across the entire healthcare spectrum that it is not just doable but preferred and is more productive and fruitful,” said Manber.

In her broadened role, which includes working with Evolvr and Publicis LifeBrands Medicus, Manber said she will be using these techniques across the group. She joined Digitas Health in 2010.

“Continually as the world evolves into social and mobile, all these changes need to be merged and brought together into more contemporary ways of understanding the people [and] the conversation, so that we can more effectively impact behavior,” explained Manber.

Manber strongly believes in hiring people who are smarter than you and letting them thrive by not getting in their way.

“The only thing I ask is that my team bring [their ideas] back to share,” said Manber. “Having that unstructured open dialogue for us to feed each other — people tell me that's different.”

Besides taking on a new role, what she is most excited about is working more with a broader array of health and wellness clients, including makers of beverages and fitness companies.

“They're beginning to recognize that they need this teeth of strategy, particularly some of the businesses that are perceived as not contributing to health and wellbeing,” said Manber. “We like to say healthy is the new green.”

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