Pharma: Innovation in Adversity

The race is on to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with countries around the world aggressively researching vaccine technologies that could help to halt the pandemic. Of the 148 candidate vaccines that researchers are currently developing, 17 are already in human clinical trials.

Truth be told, shortening the cycle from lab to high street has been on the industry’s agenda since long before COVID-19 turned our world upside down. We’ve had a front row seat here at The Croc– mapping out complex customer journeys on behalf of pharma clients trying to streamline the complexities between clinical and commercial journeys.

However, over the course of this year the industry has gone through a crash course in organisational change. The wealth of new data and insights created through intense development as well as public and political pressures will have fundamentally changed the landscape.

Most players have had to adopt to a new global reality through necessity, and post-pandemic, these organisations will emerge with a clearer picture of efficient and effective working practices, and emerging opportunities in a reshaped customer ecosystem.

As history shows us again and again, innovation flourishes in times of adversity. And the pandemic has reminded the world of pharma’s strengths—namely, its capacity to accelerate research, and develop and distribute drugs on a vast scale. Many of the big firms and scores of smaller companies are working on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies.

Even before the virus, the industry had begun to invest more heavily in R&D. In the most recent quarter America’s 30 biggest firms boosted investment by a median of 6% year on year.

Medical innovation is back in fashion. Here’s hoping it brings some much-needed relief to all of us soon.

Image credit: National Cancer Institute. Photographer: Daniel Sone

Croc launches Media Labs to accelerate learning

The Crocodile has launched Croc Media Labs, a new initiative designed to support the continuous development of people and teams, and fuel the growth of the media business.

Croc Media Labs will provide a programme of knowledge sharing, mentoring, industry trend analysis, and guest speakers to help accelerate skills and learning.

Jason Talbot, Managing Director at The Crocodile, comments: “This is an exciting time for The Crocodile. We have a dynamic media proposition that has emerged through our commitment to supporting the increasingly complex CX needs of our customers. We represent a fresh alternative to big advertising agencies and Croc Media Labs will help ensure our people stay at the forefront of paid media.”

The Crocodile’s paid media business has tripled in volume over the past 24 months, fuelled by an unprecedented run of pitch wins that has continued into 2020. Led by joint heads of department, Robyn Pierce and Paul Wright, the media team is set to double in size this year.

“We believe paid media plays a critical role in the customer conversation – ensuring brands are discoverable, nurturing connected journeys, and acting as a gateway to the next customer conversation,” says Robyn Pierce.

“Croc Media Labs complements our existing Strategy School and will accelerate skills development across the business. The aim is to create a culture of learning together to ensure we stay at the forefront of our individual specialties, and grow the best media offering in B2B.”

Jason Talbot to speak at ON24’s Virtualized Summit

Here’s your chance to hear from our MD JT, speaking at ON24’s global summit, Virtualized.

Joining speakers from Telverde, Medallia, SurveyMonkey and Informatica, he’ll be in good company, as he takes to the virtual stage on July 23rd, 2020.

In his presentation titled “The Art of Human Connections” he will be sharing practical examples and frameworks designed to unlock human insights, elicit emotional responses and deliver persuasive and memorable virtual events.

Podium: Feel-good Virtual Events
The Crocodile’s immersive virtual event design proposition, Podium has partnered with ON24 in the creation of Virtualized and is a sponsor for the event. The current registration volume of more than 6,000 people is clear evidence of the pressing global demand to future-proof virtual event skills, and an indicator of how events remain a core component of the marketing mix.

Find out for yourself, at Virtualized Summit 2020.

Ignite B2B highlights industry’s diversity problem

On 30 January 2020, B2B Marketing put out a call for Ignite speakers.

They wanted people who had “been around the B2B block” and had experience and knowledge they wanted to share. Specifically, they were interested in case studies, guidance on how to achieve vital objectives, and “visionary perspectives”.

After 25 years in B2B across publishing, PR, and marketing, I do have experience and knowledge worth sharing. Plus, I’ve spoken at Ignite before and really enjoyed it so I decided to submit a proposal.

The power of difference

My synopsis was, “The world has changed, so why hasn’t your advertising? Diversity is the new normal and B2B brands that fail to reflect the diversity of their customers in an authentic, relatable way, risk becoming obsolete.”

I laid out some benefits of attending the talk, focussing on how a more inclusive approach can help deliver better customer and brand experiences, improve engagement levels and conversion rates, and build brand relevance and trust.

I even had a case study up my sleeve about how one of our clients – a global tech company – achieved 54% higher CTRs in MEA and an 11x increase in leads in Japan when more representative and inclusive imagery was introduced into campaigns.

On the face of it, the perfect marriage of commercialism and progressive, relevant ideals.

Source: Google/Ipsos, Inclusive Marketing Study

I didn’t hear anything back but saw the agenda was filling up, so I assumed I hadn’t made the cut. It happens. Fair enough.

Then on 3 June, I got an email thanking me for my submission and explaining that it didn’t fit with the event programme vision for Ignite.

It’s pretty hard to miss the significance of that timeline. Between the invite on 30 Jan and the email on 3 June, the world changed.

In that short time, we were hit by a global pandemic and witnessed the murder of George Floyd, sparking the renewed rise of Black Lives Matter protests around the world – on a scale not seen since the American civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Adland commits to action

In response to the protests about systemic racism, and on the same day I received the rejection email from B2B Marketing, The Drum published an open letter, co-ordinated by Creative Equals, from UK adland bosses pledging to do more to support black talent.

B2B Ignite took place three weeks later, clashing with Cannes Lions’ virtual offering, Lions Live, and The Drum’s Can-Do Festival. The twin pandemics – Coronavirus and racism – were all over the Lions Live and Can-Do agendas. Less so at Ignite.

Of course, these events are built to serve different agendas. Cannes Lions is a festival of creative marketing and Can-Do was launched this year to explore how brands and agencies are transforming their business models in the current climate.

Ignite is dedicated to learning and development, and the evolution of disciplines like ABM, Sales Enablement, and Martech. But Ignite also has streams for Engagement, Brand, and Leadership – broad themes that offer plenty of scope for exploring the business case for diversity.

Ultimately, any event built on foundations of learning and development should be inclined to search out future-facing or “visionary perspectives”, with a view to debating the question “Where are we – as an industry and a community – going?” Truly effective B2C and B2B marketing is built on an understanding of who consumers are and what makes them tick – what matters to them? The answers exist in a state of constant change. It’s our job to keep up.

Leading brands recognise that fact. Big names like Verizon, Diageo, HP, General Mills, and Unilever have been calling for faster progress on D&I for years. The speaker line-up for Ignite was filled with smart, qualified people. But it also reflected how little progress has been made in B2B. At 96% white and 64% male, the speaker line-up was seriously out of step.

The 2019 Agency Census from the IPA found that diversity improvements were “marginal at best and too slow in pace”, with data revealing that the number of employees from black and ethnic minority backgrounds had actually dropped over the prior 12 months.

As well as making up a smaller proportion of the UK agency workforce, staff from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds had seen C-suite representation drop too, with less than 5% of C-suite roles held by people of colour.

Following Ignite, I saw a post on LinkedIn calling out Marketing Week for peddling the tired old cliché that B2B stands for ‘boring to boring’ and asserting that B2B is an exciting place to be right now. I’d agree wholeheartedly, were it not for the paucity of diverse voices and views. Make no mistake, the roster of Ignite speakers is filled with brilliant thinkers and worthy perspectives. But it fails to represent the increasingly diverse audiences we seek to influence – and the diverse talent that exists in our industry.

B2B is a fascinating and exciting world right now. Technology has brought about dramatic changes in how modern B2B buyers engage and there is a growing understanding that just like in B2C, B2B purchase decisions are led by a combination of rational and emotional thinking. People buy from (and champion) companies that align with them on shared values – like diversity and inclusion.

2020 hindsight

Looking back at my pitch to B2B Marketing, I should have done more to spell it out: diversity really is the new normal.

In the US, millennials represent 73% of B2B buyers, and only 56% of them are white. In the UK, millennials make up 25% of the population, and over 20% are of an ethnic background other than White British.

We’d do well to bear in mind that these millennials aren’t just B2B buyers. They’re employees. Innovators. Near-future business leaders. They want to buy from and work for companies that prioritise diversity and inclusion in a real way.

I believe those of us who have “been around the B2B block” have an obligation to hold ourselves accountable – to the board, to our clients, and to our teams. B2B brands that fail to reflect the diversity of their customers and drive genuine equality within their organisations will become obsolete.

Robyn Pierce
Head of Social Media

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