This weekend, there was a compelling piece on the CNN website about a community leader in a small Kenyan town who was committed to improving the wealth of his people by improving their health. Take a look at the piece and if you are in the pharmaceutical industry I bet you are drawn to the drugs in the story. Kind of makes you proud, huh? The premise of his work definitely makes sense. People who are healthy are definitely more productive. Preventing diseases, especially serious ones, definitely saves society money. That is why there is such a push for wellness and preventative medicine.
A decade or so ago, I was flying back to the US with a colleague from a global task force meeting in Europe. We were exhausted from all the bickering and debate over such trivial issues as consistent branding and positioning, and we began to question whether what we did really added any value. We both decided that marketing professionals really could make a difference, but only if they really focus on big issues such as widespread product availability, making wise pricing decisions and education.
Maybe that is the biggest challenge for the marketing professional, to focus on what is really important. Why do anything that doesn’t result in better healthcare? Companies promote the best and the brightest into marketing jobs and then allow them to spend their days doing some of the most trivial tasks. What a waste. It is from these executives, who by definition should be closest to the customers, that we need the best thinking and the biggest ideas to emerge. Is that happening?
For the industry there is a much bigger message that comes out of Kenya. Health leads to wealth. Where did we lose control of the message that proper use of our products actually saves society money and when you take a somewhat higher view the health we create definitely results in greater wealth for our economy? How much discussion and fighting did we hear during the passage of healthcare reform about how much this was going to cost our country? Where was the outcry from the pharmaceutical industry? Are we not convinced of the value of what our products provide? Are we embarrassed by what we do? Perhaps, it is time for a change.
The industry could learn something about “vision” from the Kenyan trying to change the future of his community. Vision is what gets people out of their beds in the morning to go to work. If your vision is not at least as big as the Kenyan leader, perhaps it is time for a little re-examination. Maybe, we all need to commit to doing only big things that really can make a difference. So many people are counting on us to get this right.