In reading a recent Forbes post about brand and marketing trends for 2014, it would appear that there are lots of areas for Life Science companies (14 on the list) to focus on in 2014. While many items on the list have merit, let’s focus on the first two. And since the first trend Forbes writes about is more of an observation than a to-do, let’s make it even simpler by honing in on Trend #2: “Attention Must Be Paid to Brands.”

The #1 trend, again more of an observation and less of a to do, is: “Consumers Expect More. Over the past 5 years consumer expectations have increased on average 20%. Brands have kept up by only 5%, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered”

Never mind where those numbers come from—they didn’t attribute them or say how they got that data. Let’s assume the hypothesis of a gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered is accurate. The good news is that the second trend, “Attention Must Be Paid to Brands,” addresses the first and can go a long way toward addressing most of the other items on the list—if it is the right kind of “attention.”

Scientists have traditionally lagged behind in marketing and especially in brand marketing, at most focusing on product marketing with a lot of attention and dollars spent on trade shows. And as more of the buying process is done online—Google says that as much as 57% of the purchasing decision is completed before the interested buyer actually makes contact with the company—life science marketing, traditionally B2B, is moving toward more of a B2C model. Shopping online for a new car isn’t that different from shopping online for a new CRO or a new MALDI-TOF Mass Spec. What both experiences share is that there’s a real person on the other side of the Google search and that person has feelings, aspirations, associations, budget pressures, and more — and both rational and subconscious factors play into their decision-making process.

So, pay attention to your brand. The Forbes’ article says about brands, “you may be known, but you need to be known for something meaningful and important to customers.” Start with your unique, differentiated position—which is the basis for your brand/story. (Don’t have one? Read this!) What are the unique values and differentiating characteristics of your organization (e.g. we’re approachable and we get things done fast, we’re detail-oriented and results-driven, we’re the ultimate networkers and great puzzle-solvers, etc.) that you wish to express through that brand/story? Use this information to uncover your brand’s archetype—which is the personification of your brand or even your entire company. The use of archetypes is an excellent way to ensure that your brand/story has meaning.

Big consumer brands have been using this approach for years—Nike’s brand archetype is the Hero, and the company works to help people act courageously. Harley Davidson is an Outlaw, giving people the permission to break the rules (at least on the weekends). To make deeper connections with your customers and especially your potential customers, it behooves life science companies to tap into the power of an archetype. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi points out that, “Emotion, intuition, long-term memories and unconscious motivations make up as much as 80 percent of our decision-making processes. That leaves just 20 percent for logic to battle over.” And remember, scientists have feelings, too.

Unlike stereotypes, which are limiting, each brand archetype has a unique set of values, fears and desires, and each also has strengths and weaknesses. Once identified, there are countless ways you can use your archetype:

  • to guide your decision making (how would the “hero” approach this opportunity?)
  • to limit choices (we’re the “warrior” therefore that direction is too soft)
  • to communicate with your customers (as the “alchemist” we can transform your process)

I’m only scratching the surface here. There’s much more you can do to identify and unlock the potential of your brand through archetypes and I’ll be covering more in future posts. But until then, here’s a good read.