Insights in health & wellness branding


Thinking Positively in 2020

9 January 2020   |   Jeff Berg, PhD

From a business perspective, what are you most optimistic about at the start of the new year?
There are multiple therapeutic areas in which the science is incredibly promising. I am a scientist at heart and recent discoveries in oncology, gene therapy and even Alzheimer’s make me optimistic. The future for discovery is bright.

Specific to AbelsonTaylor, what excites you most these days?
Our new business and organic growth initiatives have begun to pay significant dividends as we head into 2020.  Our Integrated Strategy Team has blossomed, and our Data & Analytics Team has made significant inroads into providing our clients with a fresh perspective on brand growth.

Another reason for excitement is that in early February, we’ll move into our spacious new headquarters in Chicago’s Old Post Office, a historic landmark.  This move has afforded us the opportunity to completely redesign how we collaborate.  We can’t wait for clients and others to pay us a visit in our new offices – they will be amazed!

What are you most apprehensive about?
I’m most apprehensive about our commitment as a nation to addressing mental illness and the opioid epidemic.  We give a lot of lip service to both, but as a society we haven’t yet made the leap to fully address these issues.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your clients going into 2020?
Complacency.  January brought the news of drug price increases, reinforcing an already negative viewpoint about the pharma industry.  The move toward significant changes in pricing and reimbursement is inexorable, regardless of the current political situation. Our clients need to boldly innovate and take greater risks, something they already do in R&D.  I believe there are several economic models that will reward this risk-taking and greatly improve public trust.

What kind of changes would you like to see in the new year?
I’ve heard American healthcare described as irrational and there’s much truth to that idea. It’s a unique model in which the decision-maker for a therapy is not the end-user. The end-user is often not the purchaser. The purchaser has a different set of rules and incentives than the user and decision-maker. The dispenser is yet another layer and let’s not forget about the distributor.  We need to better align the interests of each of these groups and increase transparency.

Nationally, we’re in an era of discord and division. Does that affect your work?
It’s hard to quantify what that affect might be in the workplace, but all of us are subjected to a constant barrage of negativity in the media. One of my goals for this year will be to “say no to negativity,” which was beautifully articulated in a Wall Street Journal article by the same name co-authored by John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister (read it here if you’re a subscriber;; request a copy from Gretchen if you’re not).

The authors describe the negativity bias – the universal tendency for bad events and emotions to affect us more strongly and enduringly than positive ones. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but just like the stress caused by the fight-or-flight response, we don’t benefit from it in a modern society. The writers recommend going on a “low-bad diet” to help counteract the negativity, heeding The Rule of Four, i.e., it takes four good things to overcome the effects of one bad thing.

I want to consciously look for and celebrate the many positive moments of 2020, putting discord and division in perspective and upping the “positivity ratio” in all aspects of my life. Read the article – you may be ready for a low-bad diet, too.

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About the Author

A PhD in pharmacology and a philosopher at heart, Jeff Berg blends an altruistic, caring side, and a competitive business nature. Fortunately, health and wellness advertising allows him to nurture both. He has more than 23 years of experience in pharmaceutical advertising, marketing, business development, strategy, and R&D. And Jeff is truly bilingual when it comes to branding—he speaks both physician and consumer fluently.