Patricia Corsi, Global Chief Marketing and Digital Officer at Bayer Consumer Health and a juror in the Health and Wellness category at Cannes Lions 2021, spoke to WARC’s Anna Hamill about creativity in healthcare marketing, judging highlights, and how healthcare will evolve post-pandemic.

The Health and Wellness Lion is being awarded against the backdrop of the biggest public healthcare crisis in generations. How long is the shadow of COVID-19 over these entries?

Naturally, there are lots of COVID related things, but there are also the unexpected consequences of COVID-19 that we can see coming through very clearly. For example, as people went into lockdown, we saw a big increase of violence against children and women. We can see that being tackled in the health and wellness entries – that is fantastic.

The other thing is related to how people see health. Before the pandemic, it was much more of a reactive approach. Now, it’s more from a proactive point of view. One of the things I love the most is how [COVID-19] has changed the use of technology to communicate with people, and using different mediums. These are things that I’m seeing coming through very clearly in the entries that is a big consequence – intended or unintended – of what happened with COVID.

The healthcare category has been hugely impacted by COVID. In the last 18 months or so, what are the biggest lessons you've learned as a marketing leader at Bayer Consumer Healthcare?

The first thing is simplicity. I think it’s so important to focus on simple ideas that can travel – not just geographically, but across different cultural backgrounds and levels of wealth. Even with all the good intent, it’s not very easy for people to navigate or understand everything because of the regulatory mandates.

What I’m most excited about are the simple, wonderful ideas. Also, brands are focusing more on the problem they are trying to solve versus the things they are trying to sell. I love that shift, because we are much better placed to serve the people we represent as the need is there.

What trends in the healthcare space do you think are going to be permanent? And how are you responding?

If everybody had an ‘a-ha’ moment when COVID started, it’s that good health and family are the most important things in life. But also, maybe people weren’t taking good care of their health or not spending enough time with their family. The pandemic is motivating people to open up to different forms of healthcare, such as telehealth. This is exciting – it’s giving a lot more access to people in some countries, especially where healthcare is so expensive.

It’s about bringing healthcare to people in need. This is something that is really important for us at Bayer, because we really want to honour the vision of ‘Health for All, Hunger for None’. To do that, we need to increase access. We are doing things through education to increase access to products that are within the needs of consumers, but there’s also this technology part. It’s something that is going to be a really big game changer for people.

In terms of how you operate within the Bayer marketing team, have there been any changes that you expect will continue or become permanent as we come out of the pandemic?

I came from 25 years in FMCG, where consumer centricity is so embedded, so this is something that we started doing [at Bayer] before COVID. When COVID arrived, we already had very positive momentum in that sense, because consumer centricity means speaking a simple language, connecting with consumers where they need help and where there is an unmet need.

When we’re talking about data-driven marketing, this is one of the means for me to be able to better deliver solutions for the consumers’ needs and to understand them better. It’s about using data to develop products that fit their needs, deliver solutions – not just physical products – and even how to communicate with them. Another thing we started before COVID was clearly [defining] our strategic partners. We communicate, our strategy, our goals, what are we looking for, versus just having a transactional relationship – we are true partners.

The last thing that the team did before COVID hit was a big piece of work on values and principles – from the bottom up, not the top down. We want to take all these learnings, and change. For example, experimentation is so important. Speed over perfection is one of the values of the team that didn't exist before.

What were the trends that you noticed among the Health and Wellness entries this year?

The use of data and technology, absolutely. There are some examples in health and wellness that all of us in the jury were in love with. The insight is wonderful, the idea is super sharp and simple, then you see the execution… and boom!

I’m seeing many more companies and brands putting their money where their mouth is, not just for profit, but in getting all voices to be represented and heard. There's been some amazing work in this area. One of the things that I think most excites everyone is when you see work that leaves a legacy. This is one thing that’s very special about the health and wellness category – some of the work has the ability to directly and positively impact on how people live.

What do the entries tell us about how brands are prioritising creativity and business impact?

Everyone has used this opportunity to make some changes. It’s great. The brands are really investing because this is something important, and we are seeing really great efforts on that.

One of the things that I would love to see more is brands from different companies joining forces to make a bigger impact. I think we are still in that old way of thinking, where a brand does everything by itself and gets all the glory and all the benefits. I know that it requires more effort, but ultimately has greater influence.

I like how brands in completely different areas of health and wellness are investing in education and in providing access that previously we wouldn't have had before. COVID has been a horrendous thing, but it’s galvanising many companies that wouldn't have even considered doing something [before the pandemic]. It’s a good incentive for marketers who are probably a bit more risk averse in health to get excited about creativity.

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