The Power of Visuals in Medico-Marketing blog

The Power of Visuals in Medico-Marketing

Written By: Vivek Hattangadi

The Power of Visuals in Medico-Marketing 

Why is 2015 considered a historic year in the annals of good advertising practices? That was the first time customers, the actual users of a product were engaged in the advertising milieu and actual users spoke about the product and became its brand advocates! 

There are two common factors in all ads which go on to make iconic brands. They get noticed, stand out among the other advertisements, because of just two reasons – the headlines and tag lines and the images and visuals.  

And customers are willing to engage with them. In this chapter, I am going to speak on the benefits of good visuals, while in a subsequent chapter, I shall be speaking on headlines and tag lines.    

Coming back, why is 2015 considered a historic year in the annals of good advertising practices? That was the year when Apple iPhone 6 was launched. It ran a series of visually powerful ads with the tagline – ‘Shot on iPhone’. And that series transformed Apple iPhone 6 in to an indomitable, invincible, and unconquerable brand. 

What were the features of Apple iPhone 6? There were 39 features, all of technical excellence. Apple iPhone 6 could have easily converted these 39 features into selling points (and totally failed).  

Would the customers be interested or rather even understand these 39 features?

In this over messaged world where you and me browse or switch channels when an ad intrudes in a good program you are viewing (doctors not only see pharma product ads when a pharma representative meets them, but also see billboards when driving or walking on the streets, Whatsapp ads, email ads, ads when they try to search a medical study of interest, TV ads at home – their brains are literally bombarded with hundreds of messages every day), Without doubt, each of these 39 features of Apple iPhone 6 was distinctive (readers may visit the user manuals of the iPhone series).  

And that’s exactly what Apple did not do – it did not talk on any of these 39 features. 

They gauged what is in their customers mind. Customers wanted high quality pictures from Apple iPhone 6 and not its 39 features. 

And the series ‘Shot on iPhone’ was born and became live six months after the launch of Apple iPhone 6 (yes after six months and is not a typo) and is continuing even today after 8 years.  

Here are a few for you to see.

[And how was this campaign initiated? iPhone users were challenged to post their finest pictures on Twitter or Instagram. After a panel of judges reviewed the submissions, a select few would be showcased online, in Apple retail stores, and on billboards. Or in other words, customers were engaged and became free iPhone advocates. Apple makes use of user-generated content (UGC), transforming common iPhone users into unofficial brand ambassadors.]

This is the super-duper-zuper power of visuals. This campaign is running continuously for eight years! 

Do you know why Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms? It’s because of the visual impact. A well-thought of visual, can communicate a lot of information at a glance, making it easier for the audience to understand and remember the message being conveyed. David Ogilvy’s “Ogilvy on Advertising” is perhaps the most popular book on the advertising business in history, But to me it’s much more than that – and equivalent to the holy books. This what he writes in his book to demonstrate the power of a visual.

Most readers look at the photograph first. If you put it in the middle of the page, the reader will start by looking in the middle. Then her eye must go up to read the headline; this doesn’t work, because people have a habit of scanning downwards. However, suppose a few readers do read the headline after seeing the photograph below it. After that, you require them to jump down past the photograph which they have already seen. Not bloody likely.”

Illustrative image first, because that’s what people see first. Then the headline, to add context about what you’re leaving out in the image. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In the modern world of pharma marketing and branding, this is truer. 

My guru Tarun Gupta always said: “A great pharma ad needs to break through all the noise. Visuals are more important than ever because that’s how doctors consume information. Doctors are now more likely to remember information if it is presented visually rather than through text alone. In other words, incorporating visuals into marketing materials can be a powerful way to ensure your target audience remembers your message.”

“Vivek,” he said, “doctors don’t want to work hard to figure out what you’re trying to tell them. They do not want to burn their brain calories. So, ensure that you clearly communicate your message and that it doesn’t lead to confusion”.

Should you use live, freshly shot photographs or stock images? That a million rupee question, literally. In his visual aids, Tarun Gupta always insisted in shooting live photographs of the subjects rather using stock photographs.  He said “Live photographs tell a story and create an emotional connection with your doctors – both of which are essential for successful brand marketing. Use high-quality visuals to tell your story better”. Live photographs create a different kind of emotional impact which stock images cannot. Emotions play a crucial role in decision-making when writing a prescription. By creating emotional impact, you attract doctors towards your brand.

The investment in freshly shot photographs is far higher than stock images. Yet my guru enforced thus. This little incident which I narrate will tell you the importance of this.

Just before Covid era, on behalf of a client whose derma division I had launched, I was at the National Conference of Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (DERMACON). All leading derma and cosmetic-derma companies had put up exhibition stalls. And what did I see?

The company or the design agency had paid and downloaded stock photographs, and haphazardly, hastily, and, negligently fitted into the design. Both the design agency and the brand manager looked at final outcome of the work with a mixed sense of pride (and shame). 

Why pride? 

Because the boss and the entrepreneur loved it! It was cheaper and within the budget. 

But why shame? 

The license for the images was not exclusive – anyone could use them. Every other poor birdbrained design agency (under briefing from the entrepreneur a brand manager) has used the exact, the same photograph in the exhibition stalls. 

And if you’re really unfortunate to launch a new product in DERMACON, one of those competing birdbrained designer (or the brand manager) will derisively comment “Arey re. Doctor-sahab, us stall me jakar dekhiye. Hamare brand ka poora ka poora copy maara hai”. 

But it is you who hang down your head in shame before the dermatologists and the field force at the exhibition stall. 

That’s not all. If the stock photo you are using is for your website or microsite, and a competing brands’ website or microsite or the brand itself, has created a negative experience for the microsite visitor, when they see your brand with the same image, they subconsciously impute their negative experiences onto to your brand, reducing trust and adding friction to the process. 

What are those qualities which an image or a photograph for a medico-marketing advertisement should have? The most important are: 

Simplicity: You and the medical representative have just a fraction of a second to gain the doctors attention. Simple ads are more effective at capturing that attention than complex ones. Simplicity often leads to greater impact. Avoid overly complex images that might overwhelm or confuse the doctors.

Originality: Opt for live shooting of the images. Such images are distinctive and stand out from the competition. Stock photos are overused and possible even used by your competing brands.   

Eye-catching: The image should grab the doctor’s attention. This can be achieved through bold colors, striking visuals, or unique compositions. Like iPhone 6 did, user generated contents work the best.

High Quality: Ensure that the image is of high resolution and quality, especially for print advertisements. Blurry or pixelated images can detract from the professionalism of the advertisement.

Relevance: The image should be directly related to your brand and your message. It should instantly communicate what your brand is all about.

Visual-based pharma ads work so well because it leverages the way the human brain works. The human brain has natural inclination towards visual stimuli helps you to effectively communicate messages and create a strong brand image.

How may images should you have in a single page of an ad? Neurological science has demonstrated that the human brain is incapable of focusing on two things at once. More than one image in an ad can distract and make your ad ineffective.  That’s because your brain can focus on one thing at a time. 

So, to conclude, here are the five super-powered reasons for having visuals in your pharma branding and medico-marketing communication.

  1. Visual elements help to generate higher engagement rates.
  2. Almost eighty-thousand scientific studies attest that visual images promote retention.
  3. Neurologists say visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text. 
  4. Doctors are more likely to remember information if it is presented to them visually. 
  5. Incorporating visuals into your marketing strategy will make your brand more memorable and distinct from your competitors.


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