The other day I found myself helplessly engrossed in an article about brain surgery. A woman had a massive, non-cancerous tumor that needed to be removed. If this situation occurred just a few decades ago, the doctors would have had no choice but to drill through her skull to remove the tumor, leaving her hospitalized for weeks. Luckily, this particular woman had been born into our present era of minimally invasive surgery. Her doctor successfully removed the tumor through her nose. Yes, her nose. Thanks to endoscopes — small tubes with fiber optic cameras and miniature surgical tools — the doctor achieved surgical success with little disruption to the life of the patient. She was discharged the next day.

Minimally invasive surgery is the concept of using innovative techniques to accomplish a task with as little impact and risk as possible. It’s not only safer and more convenient for the patient, but the trend is saving the healthcare industry millions.

This kind of thinking is a win-win all around. So why can’t we apply a similar approach to every industry? Especially to an industry that is invasive by its very nature.

Marketing has historically focused on winning customer attention through flashy colors, loud messages and attention-grabbing stunts. The messaging has focused solely on the brand and why you should buy that brand, with little acknowledgement of the context of the customer’s surroundings or the level of intrusion.

The modern consumer has long lost patience for such dated tactics. They expect brands to fit into their lives, on their clock. As Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer of J. Walter Thompson, put it so perfectly, “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”

So how can pharma brands be what people are interested in?

When developing advertising, leverage behavior-based targeting.

Context is of the upmost importance when placing any advertisement. It’s what contributes to personal relevancy and minimal disruption. Data gleaned from digital behaviors allows us to hyper-target users not only by what we know about them — like whether they have a  specific condition — but also by identifying moments of highest impact — like when they actually search for something condition-related. While pharma is still navigating privacy concerns for online tracking, it certainly holds promise for more customized, contextual, win-win experiences.

When developing digital tools, embrace ambient technology.

The rise in wearables and mobile apps shows just how seamless technology is becoming in our lives. It starts with focusing design on the life of the user, ensuring integration rather than interruption. Initial patient research is crucial for any project, but especially in the design of technology solutions. We first must observe the context of their lives to understand how this solution will not only help but fit seamlessly into their routine.

When developing brand strategies, focus on the experience before the brand.

As much as we hope and pray for otherwise, customers simply aren’t walking around thinking about our brands. They are, however, looking for new experiences. If you can offer a compelling experience that happens to be from the brand, you’ll hit the win-win. Finding the intersection of what the brand wants to accomplish and where the consumer is, mentally and contextually, is key to making the brand relevant with minimal invasiveness.

As more and more channels emerge and endless data sources flood our screens, it often seems as though our jobs as marketers are growing in complexity. If it’s any consolation, just remember that marketing isn’t brain surgery. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.