Throughout the first half of 2024, several drugmakers have adjusted their marketing strategies to be more science-oriented. First there was Pfizer’s oncology-focused ad during Super Bowl LVIII, then AbbVie weighed in with its Case for Big Bets strategy.

These blue-chip brands hope to accomplish a tricky task: making science ascertainable and, to a certain extent, cool.

Earlier this month, Moderna joined this ongoing trend by way of coffee breaks. 

Born out of a marketing team brainstorm and shot on an iPhone, the biopharma company has rolled out three Coffee Break Science episodes on its YouTube channel.

Each two-minute episode features company scientists describing their work. The decision to make them bite-sized was intentional, according to Moderna’s chief brand officer Kate Cronin.

Cronin said that the campaign represents a concerted attempt to educate the public about vaccine science in a casual setting as well as demystify biology ahead of the fall vaccination season.

Making science relatable again

While virology can seem like a daunting subject, few places are as casual as the neighborhood coffee shop. 

Cronin noted that Moderna sought to clarify the most misunderstood aspects of vaccines, which remain a touchy subject in the wake of medical misinformation disseminated during the pandemic. To do so, it brought in the company’s ultimate subject matter experts: the scientists developing the vaccines.

“If you’re living and breathing in the vaccine space like me and my team, it’s obvious why you would get an updated vaccine,” she explained. “But education is needed to understand that the virus mutates every year, and that means that you need a new vaccine that actually fits the new mutations. Coffee Break Science is about pulling back the curtain, if you will.”

Moderna plans to keep publishing Coffee Break Science episodes on a weekly basis over the coming months. The company may expand its scope to cover oncology or RSV.

Evaluating Moderna’s brand evolution

Making science accessible is a focal point of not only the Coffee Break Science series but also Moderna’s broader brand pivot. Once a household name for its development and distribution of its COVID vaccine, Moderna is eying its next act. To that end, the company has broadened its horizons.

In April 2023, the drugmaker welcomed people to the ‘mRNAge’ as part of a global campaign launch touting the promise of its mRNA capabilities. A few months later, it reupped as a sponsor of the U.S. Open as part of its Here’s to the Changemakers campaign.

Despite lagging top-line financials, Moderna reaffirmed its full-year product sales outlook and reiterated its focus on having an RSV vaccine on the market by the fall. The company also received some support from third-party players this spring.

First, Moderna announced it had struck a $750 million development and commercialization funding deal with private equity firm Blackstone Life Sciences to bolster its flu pipeline. Then it unveiled a partnership with OpenAI, the AI company behind ChatGPT, to support its effort to launch multiple products over the next five years.

Cronin said she is encouraged by the transition in Moderna’s brand perception, from strictly a healthcare organization to a more consumer-facing entity. The video series, she believes, has helped differentiate the company from its competitors by showcasing its versatility across therapeutic areas.

As feedback pours in, Cronin said Moderna may adjust its social media offering. It doesn’t plan on tweaking its special sauce too much, though.

“As we continue to do more episodes, we’ll learn what’s working and what isn’t working,” she noted. “It’s never going to be super polished – that’s not the point. It’s about telling the story in an interesting way and in a way that’s accessible.”