No matter their country of origin, scientists are consumers first. They go home and have a life outside of the lab. They watch television, leaf through magazines, and browse Facebook. However, every media channel they consume inside the lab, during their commute, or sitting at home can be a potential touchpoint to interact with your brand.
Consumer marketing professionals are employing a wide variety of cutting-edge techniques to drive home their brand message and make an emotional connection with their customers. Many of these techniques have not yet migrated to the market for laboratory instrumentation and consumables. To explore how scientists might react to the use of these techniques, we surveyed 1,000 scientists from around the world to gauge their receptivity and experience with:
- Executive branding
- “Smart instruments” that share data
- Video and livestreaming
- Influencer marketing
- Experiential marketing
- Sponsored content and native advertising
- Mobile marketing
- Website design and digital touchpoints
A Demographic Inflection Point
“By far, the most interesting and perhaps most actionable results can be viewed through the filter of age,” says Dr. Robin Rothrock, Vice President, Publications, the lead analyst on our latest report. “Our data suggests that a demographic inflection point has been reached in the scientific population, and not just in North America. The Boomers are starting to retire. And the Millennials are working their way through graduate school and beginning their careers in scientific research. These differences are reflected in customer preferences for how they want to interact with vendor-created content in addition to the nature of the content they want to consume.”
One of the fundamental tenets of marketing is to know one’s audience in order to fully understand their needs and communicate effectively. Generational marketing seeks to deliver a consistent brand message to the right cohort using the most appropriate media. It is based on the concept that every generation has distinct experiences, shared memories and values that shape their expectations and influence their buying behavior.
In the US, the life science workforce is aging – a reflection of overall population trend. As older scientists retire, they make room for newly trained scientist workers who bring updated skills to the lab and new approaches to problem solving. Europe and Japan, still strongholds of life science instrument and service development, are also being challenged by influxes of fresh talent present in newer, quickly growing life science markets, such as China.
Life science marketers, who understand the different traits and behaviors of different generations, have the opportunity to demonstrate credibility, establish trust and build brand loyalty across this wide variety of touchpoints.
Much of the research and literature about generational marketing is US-centric. It describes Boomers as valuing individualization, self-expression, optimism and committed to the advancement of their careers. Gen X’ers are typically stereotyped as less traditional than any other generation, are cynical, and place individual career goals over company loyalty. Millenials are the children of boomers and thought to be self-absorbed, self-reliant and optimistic. Xennials are defined as a “microgeneration” between Millennials and Gen X’ers, and are thought to possess a mix of Gen X cynicism and Millennial optimism.
It is beyond the scope of our report to validate these stereotypes or to examine how they differ on a regional or global basis. Where generational marketing applies to the life sciences is in experience with technology, the acceptance of different forms of marketing, and the media used to consume it. Our report examines the marketing preferences of different generations and some emerging trends in marketing that have implications for the life sciences.
Is Executive Branding Appropriate For The Life Sciences?
Let’s consider for the moment the practice of executive branding. Executive branding is when senior leaders at a company elevate and promote their visibility for the benefit of the company. Their industry expertise, beliefs and commitment to their customers are highlighted across multiple media channels and become a personification of their brands.
Life science marketers are often challenged to present complex scientific topics in ways that are memorable and impactful. When executive branding is used effectively, the company’s leadership, especially the CEO, is placed squarely in the foreground to give customers a human reference point to their product decisions and the values of the brand. Marketers usually support executive branding through a multi-media campaign that highlights the executive’s thought leadership, authority, and (hopefully) personality.
When a scientist is considering a product that they have never used before, the search often begins online. When they are met with executive branding content, it enables this potential customer to see and hear a passionate voice behind the brand, rather than merely reading facts about product performance. It is difficult to think of Virgin Airlines or Facebook without also thinking of Richard Branson or Sheryl Sandberg and the values they represent.
Yet life science executives are virtually invisible to their scientific customers. Fewer than 10% of customers surveyed could correctly match the name of a life science executive with the company they lead.
Results When Scientists Were Asked to Match Executive’ Names With Their Company
In fact, most scientists consider their tech support rep to have the most credibility when talking about the company’s products. Every company, and every executive for that matter, is different. But it’s curious as to why life science companies have not sought to elevate the profiles of the highly capable individuals who lead them. We asked scientists what types of subjects they would be interested in hearing from senior executives and they want to know about new products to fuel their research, possible collaborations and funding to accelerate their research.
As with other marketing techniques cover in our report, we see a real difference between how Millennials would like to engage with life science executives compared to Boomers. Millennials are twice as likely to read the executive’s blog or follow him or her on social media than their older colleagues.
Life science marketers who employ executive branding will need to create an online presence that is respectable, scientifically relevant and consistent on the company’s website, LinkedIn and other social media outlets. It will probably fall to marketing to develop thought leadership content in the executive’s voice for distribution online via the company blog, newsletter or recorded speeches delivered by video. Marketing will probably also oversee the executive’s networking and the growth of their spotlight by interacting with other industry influencers and scientific thought leaders via social media. This can be achieved through writing guest articles on other websites and publications, through semi-scripted Q&A sessions, or simply through online conversations facilitated by platforms like Twitter. To be successful, executive branding requires the executive to be authentic in their opinion and insights while also showing a human side by discussing their other passions and interests outside of the workplace.
I’ll be writing in the coming days about the similarities and differences in content and media preferences among scientists. In the meantime, please download the Executive Summary and Table of Contents of this unique and valuable report.