Medical Device Marketers are Cautiously Adopting Social Media

The medical device industry has been hesitant to fully embrace social media platforms due to lack of direction from the FDA on acceptable usage. Well at long last the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a 7-page draft guidance policy in January 2014 ( Unfortunately, there seems to be pertinent information missing and the overall content marketing approach is truly still at the discretion of the individual company. With that in mind, we may see a modest increase in social media usage versus companies simply jumping on the bandwagon.

Important questions have yet to be answered in this draft guidance policy. The guidelines state,

“A firm generally is not responsible for user-generated content that is truly independent of the firm (i.e., is not produced by, or on behalf of, or prompted by the firm in any particular).” By including such language as “generally not responsible”, instances may arise when companies find themselves in hot water.

In spite of these industry challenges, there’s significant activity right now that seems to be working well for many companies:

  • As of July 2013, of the top healthcare companies on Twitter, only one med device company, GE Healthcare, was in the top five*
  • Omar Ishrak, the CEO of Medtronic, is on Twitter and communicating with patients
  • Stryker, Biomet and MAKO Surgical use links through consumer forums such as (The world’s leading knee and hip replacement patient advocacy organization and online community)
  • Companies participate in Medical Devices Group on LinkedIn–the largest medical device community in the world and the industry’s only spam-free, curated forum for discussions with med device thought leaders
  • YouTube is used for live sales presentations and product training by companies such as Covidien, Johnson & Johnson, and Siemens

The activity of these companies should encourage others to join. Social channels are a great place to:

  • Recruit and tout benefits of working for a company
  • Share involvement in community events and not-for-profit organizations
  • Call out milestones (anniversaries, awards, and accomplishments)
  • Share press releases on new products and research and development

The benefits to marketers of social media usage can be substantial, as social platforms work hard to serve as a vehicle to educate patients, build trust in the brand and relationship, improve products and techniques through feedback, develop brand advocates, gain inside competitive information, and uncover potential for new opportunities from real-time interaction.

The final FDA guidelines are scheduled to be released in July 2014.

* “Social Media and Medical Device Promotion: Is there anything new in 2013?” Kathleen M. Sanzo, Esq., Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, November 2013.

Four Steps to Choosing the Right Promotional Product

Start with your goals in mind: As you select a promotional product, it’s important to consider what your original motivation for offering a promotional product was. This may include driving sales volume, increasing consumer loyalty, commanding attention at shelf, efficient sampling, or creating “buzz.” Considering your goals will help you select—or eliminate—certain promotional products from your consideration set. For example, if you are trying to increase product sales, using promotional products with instant fulfillment such as a “bonus size” or a “free gift with purchase” bundled on-pack may work well for your brand.

Consider the delivery method: In addition to what you are going to distribute, you always need to think of how you are going to distribute it. Will it be passed out in person, at a trade show or other event? Or, will your promotional product be distributed through the mail? Dimensional items can be more costly to send via mail, and when considering overall cost per item, you cannot forget to account for fulfillment costs.

Other delivery methods, such as shrink wrap on pack, may have a lag time from production to shelf, depending on your distribution network. Brands that utilize two-tier distribution often have a longer time for products to travel from factory to shelf, which must be accounted for when planning a promotional item launch.

Think about the audience for the item: Just because a promotional item seems to be a “good fit” for your product doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good fit for your audience. A good promotional product will align with your target consumer, helping to build brand loyalty and equity. If you are using a promotional product to help attract new customers, you must be careful to select a product that will resonate with your new audience without alienating your current brand advocates. At in-person events, brands often go the standard keychain/pen route, without taking the time to consider an item that would connect with the audience.

Make it useful: Too often brands produce promotional products that do not have a perceived use with consumers—leading to many promotional items ending up in the junk drawer, or worse, the trash. Brands need to go beyond the standard tchotchkes and develop unique items for consumers. By finding a promotional item that is relevant and valuable on its own, you are decreasing the likelihood that consumers will discard the item, and you’re also demonstrating an understanding of your target audience. Look for items that directly relate to your product, or are complementary. For a recent trade show attended by an eye drop brand that has a product with cooling effect when used, Martino Flynn recommended handing out mints in addition to the eye drop samples.

As you consider your next promotional product, considering the four factors above will help you make a strategic selection.

To learn more about Martino Flynn’s promotional marketing capabilities, contact Rose Feor at

Putting Your Brand in the Hands of an Entry-level Employee

For my husband’s recent birthday, I decided to buy him a new laptop PC. I did some brief research online and headed to my local Best Buy to make the purchase. As a Mac user,  I recognized that I needed the help of the Geek Squad to identify the best product for his needs. I got help; in fact, I was handed off to four different people during the visit, but every single one of them made different product recommendations—not one of them the same. That got me thinking, what happens when retail employees are asked about categories that I work in? And, what could be done better when we put our brands in the hands of entry-level employees?

Understand Their Role

The first step in this process should be to do some mystery shopping. Visit local retailers, go down the aisles, and ask for help. Determine whether the employees are there just to help you locate where the product is on the shelf or whether they are knowledgeable about the category and able to provide recommendations. Probe about their process, training, commission structure, and other factors that may be affecting how they support customers. Determine what else they are being asked to do—clean, stock, ring, etc.


Once you’ve had time to think about this person and their responsibilities, ask yourself how you can educate them about your product. You want them to know more about your offering than any other on the shelf. Consider how you can leverage technology to make the learning process simple and informative. Phone apps, eBooks, and other tools can facilitate the process. Use infographics to let the numbers do your talking. And for smaller retailers, don’t forget to share planograms that illustrate the best ways to display your product for optimal sales.

Reward Engagement

The best way to turn salespeople into credible representatives is to reward their engagement. This may mean offering a commission, but there are other ways to incent and acknowledge good behavior. Consider an online scavenger hunt that sends people to your website to find out more. Even a simple delivery of lunch or snacks can make all the difference in gaining positive regard for your brand.

Maintain Awareness

Programs that generate the best results aren’t those that are one-and-done. Instead, brands that maintain ongoing communication with the people on the sales floor do the best over time. That’s why it’s important to maintain ongoing communication with retailers. Consider providing salespeople with buttons, pins, and apparel that will keep you top of mind for them and their customers. And be sure to keep a steady drumbeat of communication going through the use of follow-up mailings, POS materials, training events, and more.

So don’t sit back and let your brand languish in the hands of a disinterested retail employee. Get started on a plan to turn the frontline into your own brand ambassadors.

The Role of Creative in Medical Device Marketing

Not too long ago, the economy was doing great. Venture capital was plentiful, and medical device manufacturers and doctors were best friends. Today’s reality is that the economy is a bit disheveled, investors are holding on tight to their monies, and the relationship between medical device manufacturers and doctors is heavily regulated. Marketing of medical devices has changed.

What hasn’t changed is how the purchasing process works for medical devices. It’s a complex process with multiple stakeholders. However, doctors are the gatekeepers. The aim should be to convince them that your solution is a significant improvement over what they’re currently utilizing. But you may ask, how is this possible when doctors are so incredibly busy?

The answer is in the creative that you choose to convey your message and your product. Remember, you have a nanosecond to get their attention and entice them to look further. Don’t waste it. The way your message is crafted is really all you need to get and hold their attention. Make it clear, believable, relevant, important, and true, but most importantly, make it compelling.

But how? Here are few tips for developing the creative that you need:

  • Communicate the value of your product clearly and succinctly while keeping in mind that it doesn’t have to feature “product shots.”
  • Forget about fear, uncertainty and doubt. Take a risk and develop creative that might “push the envelope.” When met with resistance, suggest involvement of key opinion leaders to broaden the perspective.
  • Educate, don’t manipulate—you’re speaking with an intelligent, highly skeptical audience. Teach the benefits of the science and let the doctors make the determination whether it’s better than what they’re currently using.
  • Be different—fight the natural desire to make your product look like it “belongs” in the category. Your product is better; make the creative reflect that.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Consider a mix of traditional and online media to get your message in front of the doctors. Be where they go. Measure the effectiveness of each effort and adjust your strategy accordingly.

In this new world of medical device marketing, the key to being successful is the development of sound brand strategies and a return to the fundamentals of marketing: a clear understanding of your target audience, effectively communicating the unique value that your product offers, and creating a distinctive brand that separates your product from those of the competitors. Great creative should reflect those sound brand strategies and marketing fundamentals, giving you a distinct advantage in marketing medical devices.

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