In marketing pharmaceuticals, choosing the person to pitch it can make all the difference in the campaign. Canadian drug maker Duchesnay is learning that lesson firsthand through trial and error. The company has overcome a very big error — running afoul of the Food and Drug Administration’s marketing rules — to find success by pitching the same message but in a more nuanced and compliant way. Duchesnay’s experience holds lessons for other companies drawing up global marketing strategies in a digital world.
Duchesnay is the maker of Diclegis, a drug that eases morning sickness in pregnant women. In 2015, the company landed an endorsement deal with Kim Kardashian. The celebrity actively touted the Duchesnay drug on her Instagram feed, along with other social media channels. But that free-flowing promotion of the drug sparked the ire of the FDA, which noted that Kardashian’s messages did not include any information of the limitations of the drug, nor did it list any of its health risks. The FDA issued Duchesnay a warning letter.
In 2016, Duchesnay signed on a new endorser, Emily Maynard Johnson, who some television viewers know from her appearances on ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. She was enlisted to promote Diclegis on her Instagram and Twitter feeds. In her posts, she relayed her personal experiences with pregnancy and the drug along with the required FDA information. Johnson was an ideal spokesperson because she had experienced morning sickness in previous pregnancies and was a consumer of Diclegis, explained PR Week. It also helped that she has a large and engaged social media following.
According to Dean Hopkins, general manager for Duchesnay’s U.S. operations, there are three components for a successful Instagram campaign. The campaign must fit the personality of the spokesperson; the images and their timing are key to engaging with the audience; and those messages must be genuine, he told PR Week. “If your spokesperson is sharing a true story, it will resonate with the audience,” he said.
The FDA and other regulators will keep continue monitoring pharmaceutical marketing campaigns, but Duchesnay’s experience shows how a company can learn from previous mistakes and get it right. Those lessons show how Duchesnay, and other drug companies, can promote their products in markets around the world.
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