And the Oscar goes to: Neurological Disease Awareness

oscars neurological diseaseAcademy Award winners often use their acceptance speeches to make us aware of causes that are near and dear to them, and this year was no exception.

In 1993, Richard Gere used the forum to bring awareness to human rights violations in Tibet. In 2009, Sean Penn used his acceptance speech to promote same-sex marriage. Perhaps the most famous example is when Marlon Brando sent a surrogate to accept the Best Actor award for his role in The Godfather in 1973. Native American civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather accepted the award and used the occasion to make a speech intended to bring awareness to the American Indian Movement.

But this year, the content of the nominated films and that of the acceptance speeches were very much in sync, and for the best actress and best actor award winners, the focus was on neurological disease.

In “Still Alice,” Julianne Moore plays a college professor experiencing the symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. According to The Alzheimer’s Association, the disease affects an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. each year, including people in their 40s and 50s.

In “The Theory of Everything,” Eddie Redmayne portrays the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking through his younger years as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) begins to rob him of his speech and use of his body. “This Oscar belongs to all of those people around the world battling ALS,” he said during his acceptance speech.

According to The Neurological Alliance, “Neurological conditions are very poorly understood by the general public.” The FDA believes that disease awareness communications “can provide important health information to consumers and health care practitioners, and can encourage consumers to seek, and healthcare practitioners to provide, appropriate treatment. This is particularly important for under-diagnosed, under-treated conditions.”

Social media has been an important factor in the proliferation of neurologic disease awareness. Last summer’s ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” was started as a grassroots effort that soon caught fire on social media and was then picked up by mainstream national media. This year’s Oscars had the reverse effect, beginning with a mainstream media event and then exploding on social media. For example, Julianne Moore’s acceptance speech produced 64,764 social media mentions during the broadcast, including 8,040 that mentioned Alzheimer’s specifically.

With several hundred million worldwide viewers in more than 200 countries around the world, it’s very likely that awareness of these devastating neurological diseases will continue to grow.


A Highly Personalized New Year

personalized medicineWith a predicted annual growth rate of 4.8 percent, the health and wellness industry is, in a word, healthy. However, one of the segments within health care expected to grow at more than twice the rate of the industry as a whole is a specialty known as “personalized medicine.”


The simple definition of personalized medicine is “the right treatment for the right person at the right time.” According to The Institute for Systems Biology co-founder Dr. Leroy Hood, there are four attributes of personalized medicine:


It is personalized, because it takes into account an individual’s genetic profile;

It is predictive, because it anticipates health problems and drug reactions;

It is preventive, focusing on wellness and not on disease;

It is participatory, empowering patients to take more responsibility for their health care decisions.

Personalized medicine is made possible by advances in genomic testing and proteomic science that have resulted in more highly targeted diagnostics and treatment options. Supporters of this approach cite increased efficiency of treatments, reduced instances of adverse drug reactions, elimination of unnecessary treatments and improved outcomes. As individuals become more aware of their individual risk, low-tech approaches like functional foods and nutraceuticals will also play an important role in personalized medicine.


In a report entitled “The new science of personalized medicine: Translating the promise into practice,” PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts:

The U.S. personalized medicine market is estimated at about $232 billion and is projected to grow 11% annually, nearly doubling in size by 2015 to over $450 billion. The core diagnostic and therapeutic segment of the market—comprised primarily of pharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostics companies—is estimated at $24 billion, and is expected to grow by 10% annually, reaching $42 billion by 2015. The personalized medical care portion of the market—including telemedicine, health information technology, and disease management services offered by traditional health and technology companies—is estimated at $4-12 billion and could grow tenfold to over $100 billion by 2015. And the related nutrition and wellness market—including retail, complementary and alternative medicine offered by consumer products, food and beverage, leisure and retail companies—is estimated at $196 billion and projected to grow by 7% annually to over $290 billion by 2015.


By all accounts, personalized medicine is a disruptive innovation, taking place at a time when the U.S. health care system is already undergoing many changes. As a result, there are several exciting opportunities for companies within the core B2B medical industry sector, which includes pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies:

  • A reduction in the time, cost, size and failure rate of clinical trials
  • The ability to command premium pricing for drugs and therapies of proven effectiveness
  • Reduced number of drugs or devices recalled due to safety concerns


Healthcare providers who embrace this approach will benefit as well. According to the report, “the biggest opportunity in personalized medicine may lie in identifying new products, services and information targeted directly to consumers. Success in this space will require new approaches, new relationships and new ways of thinking.”


How does this relate to Armada clients and their marketing challenges in 2015 and beyond?


I believe the trend toward personalized medicine presents excellent marketing opportunities across the spectrum of healthcare businesses:


Device manufacturers are able to position their technologies to specialists for greater utilization within at-risk populations. For example, an individual at risk for stroke could benefit from enhanced cerebral perfusion monitoring on everything from complex cardiovascular surgical procedures to less invasive interventional radiology or orthopedic procedures. Marketing strategies include surgical team education, pre-op patient education and payer initiatives.

Biomedical testing companies can work with primary care physicians to better identify personal risk within broader patient risk categories. For example, a test that determines the effect of aspirin resistance can lead to a more personalized approach to reducing cardiovascular risk that may result in adjusted aspirin doses or alternate medications to achieve therapeutic goals. Marketing can capitalize on this with increased physician education through direct marketing and public relations targeting print and online media read by PCPs, as well as strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

Genetic testing improves the identification of cancer risk, and genomic tumor profiling results in more targeted and potentially less toxic cancer treatment with fewer side effects. For example, a hospital or diagnostic center specializing in breast health can embrace these technologies and differentiate itself from other providers in both referring physician and direct-to-consumer marketing, such as television, print, radio and digital advertising in order to attract and maintain loyal customers.


These examples represent the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” in marketing opportunity, and as history has shown, adoption can be accelerated through direct-to-consumer marketing approaches—even for companies that have previously focused exclusively on provider marketing.


Knowledge is the New Pink


As many of you know, our agency works with several companies that specialize in either the diagnosis or treatment of breast cancer. Our unique position has given us insight into the mindset of women and their physicians on the subject of this terrible disease that is taking the lives of 40,000 women each year.

While the “pink ribbon” campaign has made women aware of breast cancer and the importance of screening mammograms, this has led to a degree of overconfidence with regard to knowing their true individual risk. Women also mistakenly believe that their doctors are up to speed on the latest advances in early breast cancer detection and treatment.

Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action, recently wrote that pink ribbon culture “distracts from meaningful progress on breast cancer.” She claims that pink ribbon products that spread “empty awareness” have failed to address and to end the breast cancer epidemic.

Then there is the disinformation spread by women themselves. Growing up on Long Island, NY, I was constantly exposed to the notion that above-ground power lines caused breast cancer.  A decade-long study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology showed no correlation whatsoever, but the rumors persist. Other dispelled rumors include the notion that breast cancer is caused by underwire bras, implants, antiperspirants, fertility treatments, abortion and caffeine.

Here are, in my opinion, the most important facts about breast cancer that most women—and many of their doctors—have never heard of but need to know:

While family history is an important risk factor, more than 75% of women who develop the disease will have no known family history. In fact, age is the most important risk factor (over 50), and because women are living much longer than they did 100 years ago, it makes sense that breast cancer would be more prevalent today.

  • Annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40 are recommended by the nation’s leading medical associations and institutions, although many women are still confused by the 2009 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation and the subsequent announcements by the Canadian National Breast Screening Study (CNBSS), both of which recommend screening every two years and starting at age 50. Major professional medical societies publicly denounced the new guidelines, saying they will cost lives, not save them.
  • Let us dispel the myth that radiation is more damaging to women than mammograms themselves. Not only do the benefits of screening far outweigh the risks, but the amount of radiation exposure has been greatly exaggerated. A modern mammogram exposes a woman to 0.4 millisieverts (mSv), a measure of radiation dose. To put this into perspective, the FAA considers a dose of 20 mSv per year an acceptable level of radiation exposure for flight crews working on commercial airlines. In fact, simply living in the United States for a year exposes you to 3.1 mSv per year from natural sources such as the sun and foods that we eat.
  • While mammograms are important, they do have limitations, especially when it comes to women with denser breast tissue. Breast density, as measured on a mammogram, has been revealed as an important risk factor for breast cancer. Dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to spot cancer on a mammogram, and women who have denser breast tissue may benefit from a supplemental form of screening. Fifteen states have now passed breast density notification laws and many more are sure to follow.
  • Speaking of supplemental screening, there are some exciting new developments in this area. Automated Breast Ultrasound and FAST Breast MRI are two relatively new techniques that are now being used across the country as adjunctive tests to mammography…and with excellent results. While these tests are not typically covered by insurance, the cost is low enough so that they are affordable for most women.
  • For women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, Genomic Tumor Profiling is being used by progressive oncology practices to characterize the nature of their breast cancer and create more personalized, targeted therapy. Oncology and hematology professionals who are using this approach are achieving survival rates that far exceed the national average.


Awareness is a good thing, but up-to-date knowledge is even better. It’s important to spread the word to friends, family, physicians and colleagues. Even though this information can be readily found, women are not getting it through regular information channels. Sadly, the national news media these days serve only to confuse the issue by gravitating toward more “controversial” stories, whether or not they are medically substantiated.

There is a great amount of research currently underway, looking at both the causes of, and treatments for, breast cancer. Each year brings new, clinically validated information to light so it makes sense to stay informed.

As always, the best defense in the fight against breast cancer is knowledge. Therefore, let knowledge be the new “pink.”


Pinterest Isn’t Just for Parties: Why Medical Companies are Prescribing Pinterest for Social Media

Armada Medical Marketing on PinterestWhen most people think of Pinterest they think of recipes, fashion tips and party planning. However, before you dismiss Pinterest for your medical or health care business, think again. The image-bookmarking site currently has 70 million users, and the bloggers over at Digital Marketing Ramblings tell us those users spend an average of 98 minutes a month on the site.

Pinterest works by allowing you to create virtual bulletin boards where you post or “Pin” links to individual boards that you create based on various topics of interest. Pinterest saves the link on your bulletin board as a “Pin,” highlighting any images that go with it, essentially acting as a visual virtual bookmark. Just like Facebook, you can “re-pin” or repost pins, as well as “like” pins. This is similar to sharing or liking a post on Facebook.

The numbers behind the value of a pin are worth noting on this relatively new social medium for businesses. The average pin generates two website visits and six pages views, according to Site Pro News. The potential to increase your search engine optimization (SEO) with Pinterest (i.e., getting your website to show up higher in internet searches) by pinning content from your company’s website is huge. Business Insider found that Pinterest drives more than seven percent of all web traffic back to websites; that’s second only to Facebook and more than Twitter and Reddit combined.

The other big reason health care companies should consider a presence on Pinterest: health care consumers are engaging in buying conversations on the site. A powerful example of this is to do a search on Pinterest for the word “cancer.” Everything from scholarly published research papers, news coverage about cancer studies and treatments, practical advice and inspiration for patients, and products for cancer patients all pop up. Patients at every stage of diagnosis and treatment are forming online communities and talking about multiple aspects of their illness and how to manage them. Most people facing a disease diagnosis are seeking information; Pinterest gives health care companies a way to visually demonstrate to current and potential patients how their test, service or treatment center is best qualified to help them meet their health challenges.

Patient education is another major benefit realized by sharing relevant articles, blog posts and videos on Pinterest. Health care companies can effectively segment their audiences by creating boards with content that specifically appeals to each audience. For example, radiology practices offering both self-referred (vein) and physician-referred (mammogram) procedures could set up Pinterest boards for those respective audiences.

The bottom line on Pinterest: this new social medium is a great way to start and continue key conversations with interested consumers. The formula for success on Pinterest isn’t vastly different than Twitter or Facebook. It all comes down to regularly sharing quality content that’s relevant to your consumers. Pinterest just achieves engagement in a slightly different and more visual way than other social media platforms. Need some ideas on how to get started? Check out how we’re using Pinterest here at Armada Medical Marketing.


Armada’s On the Move

Armada New Building Exterior

We’re on the move at Armada Medical Marketing! We packed up the office we’ve occupied for the past nine years on 29th Avenue in Denver and we’ve gone ten minutes up the road to a new office in Arvada. We’re still in the process of unpacking, but we are quickly settling into our new space.

Our new address is 6385 West 52nd Avenue, Suite 2A, Arvada, Colorado 80002. Our phone number hasn’t changed; we’re still just a ring away at 303-623-1190. Rest assured while we settle into our new space our commitment to seamlessly serving our clients at the very highest level is still our number one priority.

We remain fully operational, and we would love to hear from you about your medical marketing needs.


Dr. Seuss and Medical Marketing: Not Odd Friends Indeed!

Armada BoothSpring at Armada means we are gearing up for some of the annual industry conferences at which we attend or exhibit. Our preparations for these conferences had all of us asking, “If we were our own client, what marketing recommendations would we give?” And, then a funny thing happened. A quote from Dr. Seuss found its way into our brainstorming meeting and took hold. Or, to put it in Dr. Seuss terms, we “Thought left and thought right and thought low and thought high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if you only try.”

The question of, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” inspired us to design a new marketing campaign for our agency. Using the genius and simplicity that Dr. Seuss’s words and characters embody, we decided to creatively position our brand and have a little fun while doing it. Once we nailed down the central theme, our art director got busy creating original Dr. Seuss-inspired characters. Sketches of those characters then became the basis of a new trade show booth we designed, complete with a very Seuss-ical banner display that lets passersby know at a glance that Armada’s core competencies are branding, social media, digital marketing, advertising and public relations.

Direct mailerTo support our new trade show booth, we designed two different pre-show mailers using our original Dr. Seuss-themed artwork and Dr. Seuss-esque language. We also designed posters that serve as tabletop displays of work from our portfolio. The tabletop posters use the same color scheme as the new trade show booth and the Dr. Seuss-like font for an overall coordinated look. We chose teal and lime green as the primary colors on all of the marketing collateral we created to reflect Armada’s new, more modern visual branding launched at the beginning of the year. We have even committed to making our clothes tie-in with the Dr. Seuss theme. What can we say? When we commit, we commit!

We like this approach to marketing ourselves because it is different. It’s eye catching and engages the audience with humor. And, just like Dr. Seuss, meaningful and serious messages are delivered. But in a way that’s creative enough to garner our brand top-of-mind awareness. Or, to quote the poet yet again whose famous words and images have been captivating people for generations, “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed).”



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