Jack O’Brien speaks with Haleon’s James Sharman, performance and content marketing lead for northern Europe, about the Centrum brand’s online vitamin quiz, creating a flywheel effect, and the privacy aspects of data collection. Lecia Bushak highlights some of Congress’ main legislative priorities for healthcare, and why pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform is likely to remain top of mind through year’s end. And another influencer loses their healthcare endorsements, plus two other notable items in our social media segment. Music by Sixième Son.

Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Hey, it’s Marc…

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary since Haleon, formerly the consumer health business of GSK, began life as a standalone entity.

Originally formed in July 2019 by GSK and Pfizer via the merger of their consumer healthcare businesses into a new joint-venture company, Haleon is currently the world’s second largest consumer-healthcare company behind J&J consumer spinoff Kenvue. 

Although GSK is planning to sell its $1B stake, the company is still partly owned by Pfizer.

Analysts say Haleon has performed well as an independent unit. Earlier this week, Haleon released updated financial guidance indicating that organic revenue growth for FY 2023 is expected to be toward the upper end of the 4% – 6% range. 

Haleon’s portfolio includes such well-known OTC brands as Sensodyne and Voltaren, Advil and Theraflu.

One of its most prominent brands, Centrum, is seeking to build on its brand equity in the vast vitamins, minerals and supplements space thanks to a marketing strategy centered around customer experience and supported by key data.

The brand’s latest – and as it turns out most effective marketing strategy involves an interactive Vitamin Quiz designed to gather data from consumers in a transparent way that emphasizes trust but also values patient loyalty.

My colleague Jack O’Brien recently spoke with James Sharman, the Northern Europe Performance & Content Marketing Lead for Haleon, about how the company devised this campaign, how it has performed thus far and what other lessons that healthcare brands and medical marketers can take from it.

And Lecia’s here with a health policy update –

Hi Marc, today I’ll give a rundown of some of the main legislative priorities for healthcare as Congress prepares for its August break – and only has a few months of 2023 left upon its return.

And Jack what’s on tap for the healthcare social media segment?

This week, we’ve got diminished air quality once again in New York City, Madonna’s ongoing health woes and groomer allegations causing a YouTuber to lose healthcare endorsements.

Hello, and welcome to the MM+M Podcast. My name is Jack O’Brien. I’m the digital editor at MM+M and I’m pleased to be joined today by James Sharman, the northern Europe performance and content marketing lead for Haleon. James. Thanks for joining us today.

Thank you very much. Having me on.

I know that we’re gonna get into the vitamin quiz and all the work that you’re doing on behalf of Centrum, but I wanted to start off with just a baseline question of what it’s been like at Haley on since the spinoff, you know, we’re coming up on almost a year now and obviously I’ve been following the company’s Financial reports very very robust business, but what’s it been like on your end? How’s things been at the company?

I will first of all, I’m looking forward to the one year anniversary coming up soon. Hopefully someone somewhere is put in a party on for us and it’s been great for us. I think there’s a really clear purpose for Haley on at the moment and delivering better every day Health with with humanity. And that’s a purpose that I think everyone in the in the companies really bought into and we’re starting to really see the power of that come through Our Brands now and it feels it feels fantastic to be part of what is essentially a new company, but with with a wealth of data and analytics and everything behind us from our GSK day, so it’s been a great start and yeah long may continue.

Absolutely, a lot of good momentum behind you. Why do pivot a little bit over towards the vitamin quiz initiative and if you can kind of give a little background to our listeners about what that is. I know it’s in support of Centrum, but give us kind of the lay of the land. How did it all come to be and what’s its intended purpose?

Yeah, so so we have we have a product quiz for Centrum and what we did was we we looked at a brand problem for vitamins as a category super confusing and consumers don’t know what vitamins they need.

They don’t know what product to buy within the range and obviously for us as a brand that causes that causes problems because we want to be able to direct people to the right product that the right time.

So what we did was we we worked with the company called Jeb it and to build a personalized product selector tool on the website. It consists of seven questions that we ask the the consumer ranging from basic demographic questions through to more behavior and lifestyle questions to understand more about the consumer there once and their needs and then at the end of that the consumer gets a personalized product recommendation for them depending on the answers that they’ve that have put through the quiz. So for us it was a test to see how far can we push personalization and how far can we push our data strategies and ultimately and what’s the value exchange that we can give to our consumers and that really means something to them and helps them navigate a confusing category which which we’ve heard quite a lot from the consumers.

And can you kind of detail that last point I was actually speaking with an executive the other day who runs a vitamins and minerals company over here in the states. And I know they talked about that. It’s kind of the Wild Wild West like there’s just not the same amount of regulatory oversight consumers, you know may come in with the best of intentions, but they can get you know, spun around with. Oh is this what I should be taking is this of high quality? Can you kind of talk about that? Because I think it’s an interesting angle to all this.

Yeah, so I think fortunately for ourselves having a long history with vitamins being a pharmacy to go background as well. I think we have an element of trust there was consumers but I do appreciate that. There are fewer regulations within vitamins as a category and that means that there’s fewer fewer barriers that entry with that as a market. So I think for us building trust with the consumers is is really key really power amount for us and making sure that they understand what goes into our product and the benefits of what goes into our product and and making sure that the especially with this this quiz that the algorithm has been tested hundreds. If not thousands of times to make sure that the outcomes for the products are the most suitable outcomes based on and the input to the quiz. So I think for us it’s it’s building trust with consumers. Trying to help them navigate an industry and and come to us as as a source of information initially for the category. So initially, we’ll just help you understand vitamins.

Once you’re into the category and once you want to test one of the products then obviously come to Central and we can we can help you through that. I think the initial part of this is to grow the category and to make sure people are coming and getting what we believe is is the best content that we can provide for vitamins.

I’m curious kind of going back to the online quiz aspect of it all we know were there other ideas that you kicked around you talked about obviously wanted to focus on the personalization front being able to make this a really customizable experience for consumers. Were there other ideas or was the kind of like, okay we’re online quiz is now we have to make sure that it’s fine-tuned enough with the algorithms that we’re gonna get the outcomes that we’re looking for.

We over the years. We’ve we’ve tried different tactics to try and understand that our audience more but most of it is inferred from some of the data that we get from our media and creative campaigns. So we might try different variants of creative or advertising. And then you’ll see that one ad slightly outperforms the other and you’re making inference that that worked because of XYZ. But it never really gave us the level of insight in the level of data into the audience that we were really looking for. So I suppose that this this project was born out of I suppose two things one, which was Let’s Help consumers never get the category to how can we build our own data stores and make it more reliable.

Within for zero and first party data storage so that we can actually use some of that data and get more of an understanding as to what’s working and why and then on a deeper level. How can we understand more about the consumer not only about their kind of basic demographic details, what does their nutrition look like? What does what do their exercise habits look like because that for us is a much richer data set than for example, having a dynamic campaign where you might have a series of different adverts and a series of different lifestyle triggers within those adverts and then just assuming the one with the best performance was the one that resonated the most with the audience you can use that and you can use it as a proxy but for us we just wanted a richer data set to be able to build.

And more and more more validated insights, then we use that data. It’s an feedback into the media and creative plans. So we have what we call a data flywheel at Haleon. So everything starts with the segmentation of the audience’s and then that feeds into the media and creative plans and then finally those media and creative plans link through to digital experiences like the Central and quiz. But the flywheel part of this becomes where the more data you can extract from the digital experiences enriches the segmentation which enriches the median creative and it creates a flywheel effect. So I think we’re trying to navigate the category. Definitely number one Focus but a strong number two was building those data stores so that we can and we can grow other parts of the media player.

It’s interesting to hear you talk about the flywheel aspect there and I want to pull on the thread as it relates to data. Obviously, there’s always concerns when I talk to healthcare Executives about like data privacy and kind of respecting consumer concerns around that obviously in the past few years where we’ve seen so much happen on that front. How did that factor into putting this all together? Because I’m sure it was we want to collect as much meaningful data that we can take action on but we also want to make sure that consumers know they can trust us when they’re handing over this information.

Yeah, yeah completely. We probably don’t collect as much data as we could because we don’t have a use case for all of the data points that we could possibly collect. So actually we’ve been really careful with the Central and quiz. So really truthfully only collect what we need. So by that, I mean, we don’t collect email addresses, for example. It it could be a use case to collect an email address and then remark it with more information and more branding but we fell at this moment in time for Centrum and the content that we have available. And actually we don’t need to and by that we’re giving more power to look consumer to make sure that they as they go through the quiz, they’ll see that only the data that they’ve given us in response to the quiz is what we’re collecting.

And so we don’t want to push it into areas where we might use it. We might not and we only collect what we we truthfully really feel we need there are other brands and other experiences within the helium portfolio where we are collecting more data. But we are very careful to make sure that the consumer completely understands the context of the data collection why we’re using it why we’re collecting it.

And the relevance to them as a consumer. So what’s the value exchange? If you’re going to give me something personal like an email address we must make sure there’s a complete CRM program behind it with really valuable long term content available. So I think for us trust is is really paramount for us and just making sure that there’s enough power for the consumer to opt in up down understand what they’re giving to us and at which times.

I’m curious to just how the results have played out in terms of this interactive quiz and anything that’s you know, positioned the brand at different sort of way. I’m kind of curious where you know you go forward from here given that you’ve had a pretty successful launch to it already.

Yeah, so we’ve had we’ve had thousands and thousands of completions of the quiz, which is is far beyond where we thought we would and because we we were we were testing this and now because we’re scaling it to other brands. We have a benchmark, but we didn’t really understand how big this could get internally. I think that the one thing I like to and compare it to is this is probably one of our company’s biggest research projects because I think we’ve had 30 35,000 completions of the quiz.

And if you think about all of that valuable Insight data that we’re getting from it and when we look at a brand tracking study, we might only get four or five 600 respondents of a brand track in and we might do that, you know, four times a year. This is a continuous and Rich pool of data. So I think that’s probably one of the best performance metrics for us is just building that wealth of insight and the consumer and then in terms of website performance the the actual page and that the the quiz sits on is our at least in northern Europe anywhere else I’m speaking about here. It’s our best performing page of any of our brand websites. Any page at all? And the balance rate is the lowest the average time on the page is the highest the engagement rate is the highest, which I think just reaffirms the point to us that this is something very engaging for the consumer. They’re finding it really useful and actually something that was started as I said was started to Branch out to other brands where we have a meaningful value exchange to offer so that again we can we can start to scale this and enhance our audience insights elsewhere.

Yeah, so interesting to hear if it works one place, why not try and test down some other brands and see if it’s capacities there James. I’ve really enjoyed having on the show. I want to give you just you know, a Parting Shot here at the end. If you wanted to pass along any information that you’ve gathered or any insights through this process you think would be meaningful for the medical marketers in our audience.

Yeah, I think the the biggest thing for me is for for personalization as a whole and which is I suppose where that the quiz was born from is that personalization without relevant is irrelevant, and we we need to make sure that we understand the context of personalization and the data that we’re connecting and likewise were giving that to the consumer to make sure they really understand.

What they’re coming into what they will get as a result of this and how to opt in and out. So I think yes something I’m quite passionate about when it comes to privacy and data collection. So yeah, just making sure there’s enough relevance in there for for the consumers.

And they’re passing definitely comes through and again, I appreciate you making the time to go over this on the show and certainly wish you the best of luck as you’re near one year with Haley on here off the spinoff. So thanks again.

Health policy update with Lecia Bushak

In about a month, Congress will break for its August recess. Upon lawmakers’ return to Capital Hill in September, it’s only a few months before 2024 – giving lawmakers just a short timeframe to hone in on any health policy priorities leading up to the election year.

In March, President Biden released his 2024 budget proposal, which included several major healthcare items – primarily, a continued fight to lower drug costs, boost future pandemic preparedness, increase mental health care access, and extend Medicare solvency.

On that front, Biden wants to secure long-term funding of Medicare by increasing taxes on Americans who make more than $400,000 per year — and by strengthening drug pricing regulation to help Medicare save money. One of his proposals involved bolstering the rule that requires pharma companies to pay rebates to Medicare when their drug prices rise faster than inflation.

But with Congress narrowly divided, sweeping healthcare legislation – like last year’s Inflation Reduction Act – has been considered unlikely.

Still, there’s been one major bipartisan push that’s emerged as a priority among both sides of the aisle in the last year.

That’s the continued interest in enacting more drug pricing regulation through pharmacy benefit manager or PBM reform, that has both Democratic and Republican support. Most recently, lawmakers have introduced bills targeting PBMs, such as the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Act of 2023, which would bar PBMs from spread-pricing, or charging plans a different price than what the PBM reimburses pharmacies.

In June, a group of bipartisan Senators including Shelly Moore Capito, Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown and James Lankford introduced another PBM reform bill – the Protect Patient Access to Pharmacies Act. That bill aims to save money for people on Medicare, by prohibiting PBMs from charging direct and indirect remuneration clawback fees. Those are just two of several PBM reform bills introduced recently.

Given the consistent push in Congress on drug pricing regulation, this issue will likely remain top of mind through the end of the year – and could play a role in next year’s election. I’m Lecia Bushak, Senior Reporter at MM+M.

And this is the part of the broadcast when we welcome Jack O’Brien to tell us what’s trending on healthcare social media.

The ongoing Canadian wildfires have led to recurrences of large smoke plumes blanketing the U.S., impairing the capabilities of major cities in the process.

Notably, New York City recorded its worst air quality since 9/11, peaking at 486 out of 500 in the midafternoon on June 7. Most will remember that day since One World Trade Center was obscured by a thick haze of orange smoke. We can tell you all about it because we were in the office that day and it looked like a scene from Apocalypse Now.

In recent weeks, the smoke has returned intermittently and New Yorkers have adjusted accordingly by masking up outside when needed and checking their weather apps for updates. Then, in an incredibly ironic instance, the city’s AQI rapidly deteriorated Tuesday night in light of the Independence Day fireworks.

Given the obvious health risks posed by the diminished air quality and particulates released by wildfire smoke, the New York City Council is planning to hold a hearing to look at Mayor Eric Adams’ response to the matter.

The hearing is scheduled for July 12 and will examine Adams’ actions, which some lawmakers said was slow and disregarded insights from public health experts.

The one issue that they’re really taking is that the federal response was much more uniform in terms of warning people about what comes with Wildfire smoke how to protect yourself and Adams who’s basically saying, you know, if you feel that you’re at risk take whatever precautions but listen to yourself as opposed to the federal response, so it’ll be interesting to see how that all kind of comes into play less show what you know, what are your thoughts and you’ve been living this just like the rest of us have.

Yeah. I mean, I know I definitely heard some of the criticism against Eric Adams on that front. I mean, I will say that when those two were hit in June. I don’t think any of us really realize what was going on. Well into the second day of happening because we were all in the office when it happened. We saw the sky tour turn orange and I don’t think anyone was like prepared. Like I didn’t bring my mask with me that day was not thinking about it at all. So it’ll be interesting to see because I don’t think the Wildfire smoke is gonna go away. We’ve already had some this past week the air quality went back up again this past week. The Midwest was was hit really hard as well. So I think this is gonna be something that New Yorkers are gonna be experiencing well into the future. It’ll be interesting to see whether City Public Health officials are going to try to create a you know, response or sort of guidelines for people to how to handle this similar fashion to covid outbreaks or covid spikes, you know, we all know now to wear masks isolate, you know work from home those types of things. It’ll be interesting to see what Should be put in place when these wildfires happen and you know, the city gets hit hard with with the poor air quality.

And it has been interesting to see it kind of the the difference in response. Like Eric Adams again was very much, you know, take it your own pace into your point. Like we were in the office there was no sense. I think from anybody that it was going to be truly that bad. But Governor Hochul has said multiple times in her comments that we are truly the first generation that’s dealing with the repercussions of climate change. That was obviously a focus of one of our last issues. The magazine is how that then affects your health.

And were you know living examples of that unfortunately. Yeah and with the Wildfire season expected to go until October. I think yeah, like you guys said this is going to affect us all for the immediate future. I guess. It depends on how the wind patterns go. Yeah on a daily basis, but we’ll be checking our phones for that AQI.

And I’ve said this multiple times only to you know people in in reporting out these stories and stuff, but just to you know, friends and family that was something I never checked never check the air quality because I was never a concern and now I have to check it just like I do with the rain or the temperature or anything like that.

Yeah, I think you know people who are at higher risk of respiratory issues related to air quality. So people with asthma for example may have previously been more of where aware of air quality than the average person, but now I think we’re all gonna be a lot more aware of it moving forward. Yeah, not just an allergy season, but year-round.

We have to give props to them lighting off the fireworks yesterday and ruining my morning run.

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that Jamie Foxx was recovering from a sudden hospitalization that some speculated was the result of a stroke and now, another celebrity is enduring a medical malady.

Madonna is recovering from a serious bacterial infection that left her in the intensive care unit for several days.

Her manager announced that she developed the infection at the end of June and was hospitalized to treat it. In light of the abrupt ICU trip, Madonna postponed her upcoming global tour of greatest hits in order to recover.

While the cause of the infection is not known, sources have told the tabloids and mainstream press that it was linked to Madonna’s grueling preparation for the Celebration Tour, with some saying the nearly 65-year-old pop icon was trying to keep pace with the likes of Taylor Swift and P!nk.

Another update came through earlier this week courtesy of comedian Rosie O’Donnell, who posted on Instagram that Madonna was recovering at home and is “very strong in general.”

Of note, the New York Post, in typical New York Post fashion, opined on Madonna’s emergency hospital visit by deeming her the ‘Bacterial Girl.’

It is something that you know, I remember seeing Madonna when she was presenting at the Grammys and she looked very unwell or not, you know, the Madonna that we’ve come to know and love over the years, but then to see this too. It seems like it’s kind of a bang bang situation.

I guess you can say or one hit after another month amid the speculation as to what you know, the cause of this was, you know, I read on one of the industry trades emergency medicine physician had said that it’s likely due to sepsis, you know, if she had wound up in the ICU. So bacterial meningitis is also a possibility this episode of course being an infection that occurs. When bacterial infection becomes systemic throughout the body and the immune system is so revved up to fight that infection that it actually starts sort of fighting the body. I guess like the the papers reporting, you know, the grueling tour process. You must have left her in a weekend condition and more susceptible to this.

We hope for the best and unfortunately, it does kind of call to mind this stuff and obviously it’s it’s not an apples to oranges situation. But you know when Michael Jackson was going on his final tour that ultimately he passed away when he was preparing for that. I mean there were plenty of reports of how grueling those practices and performances were and ultimately it wore down his body it got him addicted to propofol which ultimately claimed his life but it is hard kind of being an Entertainer and then just thinking like you’re gonna continue to be this person that you were for 30 or 40 years and your body can’t keep Pace with it. No matter how hard you push it.

Right. Yeah, I mean you see people announcing these tours the Elder Statesman so to speak it’s hard to keep up with the young ones.

Yeah, I went saw Elton John last year and I loved it. But he never stood up from that piano and I can’t really blame him because he’s 75 years old.

Right, right. Yeah important thing is the performing with the hands in that case. Yeah. We hope for the best here.

This is not a typical story we would discuss on the podcast, but there is a clear healthcare connection worth exploring.

YouTube star Colleen Ballinger, creator of sketch character Miranda Sings, recently responded to allegations that she groomed a fellow YouTuber when he was a teenager. 

In an apology video posted to her page, she strummed a ukulele for 10 minutes and sang about how the claims against her are gossip and lies.

The video was poorly received and the scandal has significantly impacted Ballinger from a business perspective. 

Ballinger’s recent controversies have cost her brand partnerships with skincare company OneSkin, telemedicine brand Zocdoc, women’s multivitamin company Ritual and food delivery platform HelloFresh. 

The Ballinger saga is yet another example of the risks that healthcare brands can run into when it comes to influencer marketing.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I do remember in the early days of getting on YouTube. Miranda Sings was everywhere and it’s quite the Fall From Grace, but that aside there is an aspect here when it comes to you know, has this play into maybe how Brands approach Influencer marketing going forward.

Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. You mentioned the risk of someone an influencer getting canceled or sort of this bad publicity around an influencer had some conversations with Healthcare marketers and the last year so sort of about where they felt the opportunity lies and kind of partnering with influencers health influencers on tiktok Instagram, etc. Etc. And several of them has said that you know, they hope to kind of grasp this opportunity more. It hasn’t been as widely adopted. I think among Healthcare marketers and I think possibly some of this this risk that you mentioned could be one of the the reasons behind that hesitation that sort of lack of control over like what it influencer posts, you know can could potentially bring some negative view on them. So I think that risk is kind of what’s holding them back a little bit.

Yeah as if the allegations aren’t enough but then to see a response like that where she brings out a ukulele and things now about not being a groomer which I’m not here to make one judgment or not but that is a bizarre thing to do, I think that’s how our colleagues at PR week described. It was bizarre cringe and you can understand where brands are like, yep. We’re gonna take a step back from that. Yeah. This is an issue. That should have been handled or seriously, right? That’s something to make light of

And to that into that point too again, not an Apple store and just thing but we talked about the Biore thing a few weeks ago with the influence who brought up the school shooting that she had experienced and like again like how much control do you really have over these people when you want to give them autonomy you want them to feel at home and you know, very candid With Their audience. But then if that message goes against where your brand is trying to align itself that can be a tricky thing to to try and balance. Yeah.

Yeah, the brand safety becomes really Paramount when you’re working with these influencers, like you say, it’s it’s social media itself. You kind of lose control because it’s it’s user generated. It’s it’s it has a life of its own. It’s not like placing an ad and you kind of control the adjacencies it’s and when you’re talking about an industry as conservative as Pharma to a lesser extent I guess than some of the OTC Brands we’ve been talking about but becomes even more fraught, so, you know you value that Independence and that endorsement, you know from a younger demographic but at the same time there’s there’s real risks and this kind of just highlights that so thanks for highlighting the story Jack. We should mention that you know, welcome everybody back from the long weekend. Yes mention that at the top of the broadcast of everybody had a restful July 4th weekend, we certainly did despite the aqi. Yeah frustrations, but you know, we all enjoyed some good fireworks barbecues, right?

Absolutely the winds the winds blowing it out. So we’ll be we’ll be here back next week with fresh air and we’re hoping for Clear Sky.

That’s all we’re looking for.

Okay. Thanks everybody.