Behind the Headlines With Kipp Jarecke-Cheng
Creativity will always be what attracts consumers to brands, says Kipp Jarecke-Cheng, global chief communications officer at Publicis Health.
In this interview, Kipp shares his thoughts on the challenges healthcare brands face, adapting brand communication globally and the ways in which technology has transformed communication.
What are you most excited for in your new role as global chief communications officer at Publicis Health?
Prior to joining Publicis Health, my primary work experience had been media and communication focused on digital and design, so healthcare is a new category for me and that’s probably the most exciting aspect of my new job. Technology is rapidly transforming healthcare and communication, and I’m thrilled to be working at that intersection.
Personally, I come from a long line of physicians. My father, uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather were all doctors, so I’m delighted that I’m finally able to explain to my family what I do for a living.
What do you see as some of the biggest communication challenges facing healthcare brands today?
I think the two main challenges that brands face in healthcare communication are 1) increased government scrutiny and regulation and 2) overcoming the general public’s perception that “Big Pharma” is working against—instead of for—the people.
From the perspective of government regulation, 2016 has been an interesting year, especially as we’ve seen the presidential primaries play out. Depending on who ultimately makes it to the White House, the public policy and regulatory concerns that the healthcare industry will face could be quite daunting.
And now that the threat of eliminating the business tax deduction for advertising expenses—specifically for healthcare marketing—has reared its head once again, brands will continue to push agency partners to do more with less.
On the reputation side of the equation, healthcare brands, particularly pharma, will need to show that the Martin Shkrelis of the world don’t represent the entire industry. Communicating brand stories to consumers is just one piece of the puzzle. Authentically demonstrating life-changing and life-saving value to consumers who are more fixated on #yolo than the benefits of health and wellness is, perhaps, the greater challenge.
How do you adapt brand communication for a global audience?
More than any other marketing category, healthcare communication is extremely personal and culture-specific. The ways that we talk about disease and treatment in North America is different from the ways that health and wellness are addressed in other parts of the world.
Adapting brand communication on a global scale requires more than mere translation. It requires fine-tuned cultural competency and cultural literacy that goes beyond words and images. Having boots on the ground as well as respecting and listening to the needs of audiences outside of the American English-speaking U.S. is critical to global success.
You have almost 20 years of experience in marketing communication. How has the industry changed over the years? What are brands doing differently today that they haven’t done in the past?
Communication has evolved from one-to-one, to one-to-many, to many-to-many, and back to one-to-one. I could argue that concurrently there has been the development of many-to-one communications, if we consider “one” to be corporations or individuals in power.
Certainly, technology has facilitated much of the changes in marketing communication, and media—especially social media—have accelerated and transformed the ways that we consume content. Brands used to be held captive to the content that was created about and around them, but brands today not only create content for and about themselves, brand experiences have become content.
At the macro level, consumers are much more empowered than ever before and brands are doing a better job at listening instead of simply broadcasting messages. At the micro level, whether or not individual consumers are motivated to change behavior or preferences based on the enormous amounts of data and information they have at their disposal is another issue altogether.
How do you envision the future of marketing communication?
It’s a cliché because it’s true, but marketing communication now and into the future requires much greater transparency than in the past, that’s for sure.
There are two main principles at play: 1) the transformation of media has forever impacted how messages are created, delivered and received and 2) consumers themselves have changed, driven in large part by the influence and POV of millennials, who are incredibly media- and tech-savvy.
The other cliché about the future of marketing communication is that creativity always will emerge as the defining differentiator between what resonates with consumers and what doesn’t. And not just creativity in the sense of visual creative or style over substance, but thinking about creativity as it relates to strategy, behavior research and human-centered design.
What are some of the biggest mistakes brands make in their communication?
I think brands and those who shepherd brands have necessarily become quite savvy about communication in general, but where things fall apart sometimes is when a brand is tone-deaf to the needs, feelings and expectations of consumers.
Whether it’s a wayward tweet or a campaign that’s designed simply to court controversy, brands do themselves a disservice by trying to be too clever at the expense of representing authentic, relatable values.
The truth is, in our reality TV, Snapchat, short-attention-span culture, brand mistakes are often quickly forgiven and forgotten—for good or bad.
What advice do you have for brands looking to improve their communication?
Brand equity is built on a foundation of trust, and that trust is developed through the accumulation of small gestures over time instead of through isolated grand gestures. This is something that my boss, Publicis Health CEO Nick Colucci, told me when we first met, and the idea continues to resonate with me.
Effective communication requires consistency, honesty and humility, and brands need to embrace the reality that while trust takes time to take hold, trust also can be destroyed in a heartbeat.
Plus, if you have something to say, say it. If you don’t, it’s OK to keep your trap shut.
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…a full-time stay-at-home dad.
2. My dream vacation would be…six months traveling around Vietnam with my family.
3. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…my son, Beckett, because he has extraordinarily refined tastes for a nine-year-old.
4. My favorite social media platform is…Tumblr, partly because it’s where the cool kids hang out (and who doesn’t want to hang with the cools kids, amirite?), but mostly because my personal Tumblr blog has nearly 70,000 followers, so I’m kinda sorta committed to that platform.
5. My biggest pet peeve is…people who put two spaces (instead of just one space) between sentences. It’s a dead giveaway that they learned how to type on an IBM Selectric typewriter and not on a computer keyboard. Or they are terrible typists. Or they don’t understand that applications like Word and Google Docs automatically kern characters to fit properly. Don’t get me started on kerning, sheesh.
6. My hobbies outside of work include…in no particular order: quilting, cooking and sleeping.
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