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Creative Solutions for Pharma Marketing

Greg Kirsch

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Let’s face it, people who aren’t in our industry might think pharma marketing lacks creativity, but these people probably haven’t faced the same challenges we face. Ask any copywriter or designer in the pharma industry, “What’s the most challenging part of your job?” and you’ll probably get an answer that goes something like this: “Getting concepts past the medical/regulatory review board!”

At Intouch, we have a history of developing cutting-edge concepts for our clients — despite the regulatory constraints — but we can all push ourselves to come up with even bigger and better ideas by implementing these 3 key elements of the creative development process:

  • Information
  • Stimulation
  • Incubation


  • Seeing common things in uncommon ways
  • New associations
  • Combining disparate ideas to form new concepts

All of these definitions of creativity assume there is raw material to begin with. You can’t put two disparate ideas together to make a new one if you don’t have the original ideas to start with. So it stands to reason that the more ideas, thoughts, concepts and information you already have to work with, the more new combinations you will be able to muster.

For us that means reading trade publications, subscribing to pharma blogs (Intouch’s Wendy Blackburn has an excellent pharma-related blog), and staying abreast of the latest pharma and marketing news. The more you know, the more you’ll grow — and the more creative you’ll be.


“If you do the same things you’ve always done, you’ll get the same things you’ve always got.” I’m not sure who coined this pithy bit of wisdom… but it’s true. Being informed is only part of the equation. You also need to stimulate your thinking.

A “creative rut” is formed by following the same patterns again and again. Just as you must take a different path to get out of the rut in the road, you must take a different path to get out of a creative rut

A rut in a road is formed when vehicles take the same path over it again and again. Likewise, a “creative rut” is formed by following the same patterns again and again. Just as you must take a different path to get out of the rut in the road, you must take a different path to get out of a creative rut. Bottom line: Expose yourself to different stimuli.

Patterns are comfortable, but to be creative you must get out of your comfort zone. Listen to a different radio station. Take a different route to work. Take a different person to lunch. New and different experiences are part of the stimulation you need to spark the various pieces of information in your conscious mind together to form new ideas and strategies.


Where are you when you have an inspiration — that “spark” of creativity? When I present that question to groups I inevitably get:

  • “When I first wake up”
  • “In the shower”
  • “On my way to work”

These answers are so common that they’ve been coined “The 3 B’s: The Bed, The Bath, and The Bus." Accepted theories of creativity claim this phenomenon is due to incubation. Creativity is a 24/7 endeavor — even if you’re not consciously working at being creative, your subconscious is. This is why when you’ve lost your keys, you usually remember where they are after you’ve given up looking for them. Your conscious mind stopped working on it, but your subconscious didn’t.

Teresa Amabile, head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard University School of Business, has devoted her career to the study of creativity. In a great article in Fast Company magazine, Amabile’s research dispels the myth that “time pressure fuels creativity.” In her words:

“People were least creative when they were fighting the clock. In fact, we found a kind of time-pressure hangover — when people were working under great pressure their creativity went down not only on that day but the next two days as well ... Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up.”

Creative Solutions for Pharma

So what does all this mean for pharma marketers looking to boost their creativity? One obvious conclusion is to avoid procrastination. Don’t put off doing that big project until the last minute because you may not give your subconscious time to work out the best solution. Another conclusion: Actively take time to reflect (something Steven Covey and other self-help gurus recommend). Meditate. Be still. Not exactly something that’s easy to do in our fast-paced industry, but one that will pay dividends in terms of enhanced creativity.

To learn more about creative solutions for your brand, contact your Intouch representative or e-mail


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