Listening to the news this morning two bulletins on healthcare reform and the rise of obesity, squashed in between a piece about Greek Debt and Banking, make me feel mildly anesthetised. Whether you’re in the business of Health or not, you won’t have escaped the (let’s be frank- quite depressing) news: we’re living longer, but not better, at an ever increasing cost to ourselves- and our governments; pharmaceutical companies are in a frenzy of restructuring, downsizing and merging – trying to work out their new model for doing business and how they can develop truly transformative medicines once again (that don’t cost $1.5bn to get to market!); governments are trying to grapple with huge public health agendas, like tackling the rise of preventable diseases which come at a crippling cost to the care system- that they can’t afford; and all against the backdrop of global financial meltdown and unavoidable austerity. These are not small issues- and they’re not going away.
I came to Healthcare nearly 6 years ago, from a world of marketing cars, crisps and customer services, where these issues seemed borderline- cataclysmic and everyone agreed that pretty radical action was needed. But as I look back– over half a decade later- lots of things have happened, but nothing seems to have really changed: both sides of the pond are struggling with health reform, Pharma has reached the peak year of patent expiries with very little to replace them, and nobody seems to have found any big solutions to our public health issues.
In all of this uncertainty I think that we can bank on two things at least: one, that the traditional way of thinking about these issues (and I include in this Innovation, Strategy, Business Design etc) is not – and will not – get anyone very far…at all: and two, that the organisations most likely to have a real impact on these issues will come from unexpected places- and will all most certainly- think like Challengers.
Fast Company recently published its list of ‘The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies’, and whilst only a handful of them were in Health, those that were had one thing in common – they all had a Challenger mentality at their heart: whether it was taking the rules of one category (technology) and applying them to transplants (National Marrow Donor Program); or rejecting the Industry expectations about how to develop cancer therapies and looking for another way to treat patients (Genentech)- none of them have realised success through mimicking the industry giants.
At eatbigfish we’re in the business of building brands with beliefs – Challengers that seek to make a difference, by doing things differently. Over the last decade we’ve studied, and worked with, an amazing array of Challenger brands and businesses across all sectors. We’ve already enjoyed some real successes helping several Health companies (including Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Health and Food companies) apply this thinking, and whilst there are some critical differences to navigate – such as the regulatory environment in Pharma – it’s only served to demonstrate that a Challenger approach really can yield different results.
So from Pharmaceuticals to Public Health, Insurance Companies to Pharmacies, we’re taking our learnings from the world of Challenger, our insights about the market, and starting our quest to codify what great Challengers need to do differently, to make a difference in Health. If you’re in the business of Health, and looking to do the same, do get in touch.