Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Novo Nordisk's "Race With Insulin" Twitter Page Blazes a New Path

By Ross Fetterolf, VP Digital Strategy Ignite Health

(twitter @digitalbulldog)

Novo Nordisk’s new “Race With Insulin” twitter page (http://twitter.com/racewithinsulin) represents an important development in the evolution of Pharma’s role on the micro-blogging service. This effort includes a corporate sponsorship of racecar driver Charlie Kimball, who is also a patient living with diabetes. This is the first Twitter account that aligns a patient advocate (who conceivably uses Levemir or Novolog insulin) with a specific brand (not just a corporation). This is the first Pharma Twitter page that includes safety information and brand logos as part of the page, representing a significant shift from Pharma’s typical corporate Twitter presence of setting up a corporate account, and pushing out press releases with company data (see AstraZeneca (http://twitter.com/AstraZenecaUS), Genentech (http://twitter.com/genentechnews) or GSK (http://twitter.com/GSKUS) as prime examples of the corporate Twitter presence).

Where is Novo Steering the Conversation?

The concept of hearing from real diabetes patients has been one that has been explored in many forms by Pharma in the past, including everything from photos/quotes as part of Lantus’ campaign (www.Lantus.com), Novo’s “voices of diabetes” community initiative (www.changingdiabetes-us.com/voices/), Sanofi’s Go Insulin high production value videos showcased on YouTube (www.youtube.com/goinsulin), or Novo’s sponsorship of JDRF’s first social network for T1 diabetes patients, Juvenation (www.Junevation.org). The important distinction is that these efforts still rely on the user to visit the brand website or social media destination to view this content, and experience it at a point in time. The use of Twitter represents a new direction in sharing real patient experiences, and does it in such a way that people can follow a patient and go through experiences WITH them, as they are taking place, vs. having to get e-mails or check back on the site for new updates. So what’s on Charlie’s mind? Currently he’s tweeted 10 times since June 4th about a range of topics including ADA, race preparation, the weather in New Orleans and the cleanliness of his race suit (wouldn’t want that Novo logo on the front to get dirty), but no mention of diabetes or insulin yet.

Like every other social media channel, Twitter is not right for every brand or every disease state, but clearly this is a step toward Pharma breaking out of its corporate experimentation phase with Twitter and moving toward some strong promotional potential. From a user experience/patient perspective, imagine that you were just prescribed a new medication (maybe Novolog insulin), then being able to follow a real patient on the product as they provide updates via Twitter related to common questions, side-effect concerns, basic disease information, and other topics of interest to help keep you engaged (and compliant) with your therapy.

This is an excellent example of Novo putting its foot the gas and racing to the head of the pack -- at least when it comes to social media initiatives. We’re left to wonder if some of their competitors feel like they’ve just been lapped.

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