6 Lessons from the World Cup for Medical Device Companies

July 24, 2014
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Medical device marketing and the World Cup

I am not a regular football/soccer fan. But I am an avid World Cup viewer. It is a social event for friends and family to meet and watch 22 people chasing a ball. I saw a lot of parallels between the World Cup and medical device marketing. Surez’s teeth remind me of off-label use, for example. Here are my additional takeaways for medical companies from the World Cup:

Medical device marketing and the World Cup

I am not a regular football/soccer fan. But I am an avid World Cup viewer. It is a social event for friends and family to meet and watch 22 people chasing a ball. I saw a lot of parallels between the World Cup and medical device marketing. Surez’s teeth remind me of off-label use, for example. Here are my additional takeaways for medical companies from the World Cup:

What can Suarez’s teeth teach about off-label promotions?

Suarez in the worldcupYou are penalized if you do not play within the allowed rules of the game. Suarez of Uruguay, nicknamed “The Cannibal” even before this World Cup, sunk his teeth into the shoulder of an Italian defender and was heavily punished.

That’s what happens when you promote off-label use. The FDA is currently cracking down on (pharma) activity in social media following the release of two social media guidances. In a recent warning letter to Zarbee’s Naturals, for instance, the FDA didn’t just scold the company for claiming to treat conditions like coughs (supplements cannot make these claims, otherwise they would be drugs and regulated as such). But it also came down on the company’s Facebook “likes” and tweets. “Liked” comments are considered an endorsement and since several comments were about cures or uses that the supplements are not approved for, the “likes” are not allowed. Ensure the marketing communication of your medical device stays within the allowed boundaries, and don’t bite the FDA’s shoulder.

What can amazing goals teach about presentations that wow investors?

article-0-1EBF208500000578-229_634x536Football is built on anticipation for that magical moment when a goal is scored. Unique goals scored with perfect execution will be even more memorable. They’ll take your breath away. There were a record-tying 171 goals, in this tournament. For me, the most memorable ones were goals by Cahill of Australia, van Persie of Holland, and the goal that sealed it for Germany, by GotzeI am sure you have your own.

You must create your wow moments when presenting to physicians, investors, or healthcare staff. You must find the right place to entice the audience so that they remember your medical device, days after the presentation. What could be your wow moment? Is it the story of a patient that was treated with your device? The surprising result of a study? A testimonial from an unexpected key opinion leader who endorses your product? A live demonstration that shows the simplicity of your medical device? You must figure it out.

What can Germany’s patience teach about medical device time to market?

I was amazed to see the patience and composure with which the German squad played. Passing the ball back and forth from one player to another across the field, holding the ball patiently until the conditions were ripe and the opportunity was evident. Medical device marketers should have such composure.

I know of quick a few companies that storm the market too early with too few resources. They spread their budgets too thin over too many territories, instead of building a strong business case in a small area before expanding to others. Alternatively they might use traditional off-line medical marketing methods instead of modern online medical marketing techniques and expect instant results. Take a deep breath. Results take time. Optimize your resources while you get there.

What can the team (dollar) value teach about bringing a medical technology to market?

This is the value of the most expensive teams that played in the world cup:

  • Brazil ($718M)
  • Spain ($674)
  • Argentina ($654)
  • Germany ($622)

Did you notice that three of the above reached the semi-finals? This means that you probably need more money that you think to succeed in the market and really become a leader.

If you are medical device or technology company that is planning for an exit, you can easily need $50M of funding. You should take this into account in your planning. If you want to lead the market (and I have yet to see a business plan when a medical device company doesn’t claim they do), account for even more. In case you haven’t yet, please see our infographic, Medtech Start-up Exit Myths Debunked.

What can football fans teach you about building a medical device support group?

Brazil fans and medical marketingThe chanting fans, many of whom were willing to pay a lot of money to root for their teams, are a huge team asset. Creating solidarity takes time and effort. It pays off as crowds can help push players forward, making more of the game, even helping them win. Yes, I remember that 7:1 of Brazil to Germany on Brazilian soil. But I remember that Argentina –that played a mediocre World Cup in general– reached the finals with the backing of its fans (and I will get some heat for this from my Argentinian friends…).

Are you building your private medical device fan club? You can start years before your medical device reaches the market. This is especially important if patients are involved in the decision-making process for use of your device. One of the things you can do is start your own blog or engage with patients on social media. You must communicate with your audience, so they can cheer you on – before device launch and as it grows. Building relationships and enthusiastic supporters for your device takes time. Start ASAP.

What does the relationship between the players of rival teams teach about how to work with your competitors?

It was a winner-take-all battle on the field. But I loved seeing the brief conversations between rival team members. The pats on the back, the reaching out to help an opponent you’d just tackled, or the empathic hugs between players at the end of the game.

You can communicate, collaborate and share information within the industry to build bridges between rivals. It never is a zero-sum game. And you never know in which situation you’ll meet a person who you were up against a short while ago. Wouldn’t it be great to have laid the foundation for collaboration?

Additional thoughts

Maybe you didn’t think of medical device marketing and communication when you watched the World Cup. But I did, because while we compete hard, in an increasingly global marketplace, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from those players, teams and matches. My single request: No red cards!

What did you learn from the World Cup?

Pictures by Republic of KoreaPaul TownsendPeter Fuchs

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