I spent the early years of my working life inspired by the medical device industry. Seeing people restored to health and hearing joyful patient stories energized me, and I enjoyed the banter with physicians and learning about the junction of technology and living systems. I was also charmed by my MedTech colleagues—some of the smartest people around, with a bent toward helping others. Not everybody, mind you, but enough lively, mission-fed people that the workday was full of surprise.
Things change. Corporations mature—for better and worse. Lately, it seems the balance sheet and the quarterly earnings can too easily drown out the mission. Smart people who enjoy a challenge still work there, but it is an industry with increasingly specific boundaries.
Identify industry influences
If your agency is pitching medical device work, please be aware of these three influences that shape the perspective of the people you will be talking to:
- Legal pinioning
- Regulatory straight jacket
- Branding dead ends
These perspective-shapers sound like a bummer, but innovative agencies with a knack for operating in tight quarters can help make a difference.
The first two perspective-shapers are relatively obvious. The best medical device companies hold the patients who receive their therapies in the highest regard, and you would not want to work with a company that didn’t. In our litigious age, however, there’s money to be made from suing manufactures for all sorts of things. Naturally, medical device companies ramp up their risk-averting processes. Lawyers review nearly every outward-facing piece of communication, and regulatory reviewers—the picky cousins of lawyers—delight in ferreting out each word of potential deviation from the FDA-approved copy. And the work of lawyers and regulators is invaluable.
Branding dead ends are not so obvious, and few will admit to them out loud. These take a bit more explanation, so I’ll reserve it for another post.
Back up fresh perspectives with solid claims
In your initial approach to conversations with MedTech employees, know that most of their conversations are like walking a tightrope: marketing is always a balance between what you’d like to say and what you can say given the published, peer-review journal articles. Agencies with more consumer experience can find this deadening, but it doesn’t have to be.
Resisting the pinioning and the straight-jacket—in your own way—is one of the ways your team can add value. It’s just got to be believable. And it becomes more believable when you insist on the list of approved claims before starting work on your pitch. Since every claim must have a valid reference, basing your creative deliverable on the right foundation can make the difference between making the final cut and being dismissed as not up to snuff.