Medtronic uses events and media to enhance awareness, reposition itself in the marketplace

Situation Analysis
In the span of a single year, Medtronic would celebrate a major anniversary, its founder would retire from active involvement with the Company, and the one-hundred thousandth Activitrax pacemaker -- the world’s most widely prescribed and advanced pacemaker at the time -- would be implanted. In addition, Medtronic was underwriting a significant exhibition, “Bionics and Transplants: the Science of Replacement Medicine,” that would travel to sciences museums in eight U.S. metropolitan centers over a three-year time period. The Company wished to leverage these and other events to enhance its worldwide awareness.

Medtronic was also repositioning itself in the marketplace -- changing its product mix so that non-pacing products would account for at least 60 percent of its business. At the time, the Company had a 40 percent market share in pacing, which brought in 80 percent of its revenues. Other products included neurological pain management systems, prosthetic and bioprosthetic heart valves, angioplasty catheters, vascular grafts, drug administration systems, and heart monitoring services. The program we developed would also support this pivotal company business strategy.
Strategy and Tactic Highlights
We developed a series of messages to be contained in all company communications to ensure consistency and reinfocement of the company’s repositioning program. A worldwide media program would be designed to take those messages to a constituency that included: customers (cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, neurologists and other practitioners); third-party payment organizations, government and private; regulatory agencies; employees; and consumers of its products.

Representative tactics designed to advance the program included:
  • A campaign to gain a Presidential Humanitarian Award for Earl Bakken (an appropriate vehicle to honor the man who developed the first implantable pacemaker.)
  • A special awards program for employees who most contributed to the corporation during their tenure based on peer nominations.
  • Placement of Bakken interviews in tandem with conventions attended by the Company, e.g., the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” Newsweek’s “My Turn,” etc. on the subject of “An aging society and its implications for medicine.”
  • The creation of a video news release (VNR) announcing the implanting of the one-hundred thousandth Activitrax, in which Bakken and C. Walton Lillehei (at whose urging Bakken developed his pacemaker) discuss the trajectory of pacing.
  • The development of a media kit that would feature a visual depiction of the evolution of the pacemaker, the background of the Company and Bakken, reprints of significant speeches he’d made, patient statistics and case studies, fact sheets on other Medtronic products, photos, slides, video “B” rolls.
  • Setting up editorial board meetings for Bakken and Wallin (then President/CEO) with influential general business media.
  • Provide media training to company spokespersons.
  • In addition, we proposed a “Physicians On-Call” program, in which we would provide media training to selected physicians throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico, and gain broadcast and print media interviews for them regarding a new development/product, etc. at Medtronic.
The program continued over a two-year period of time and the media coverage and awareness generated by it were widespread -- both here and abroad. The video news release (VNR) was picked up by television stations across the U.S. The same was true of a radio spot we developed. Through broadcast and print placements concerning Medtronic’s new-generation pacemakers and neurological devices, medical practitioners and consumers became aware of the company’s leading industry position, the quality of its products, and ways in which it could help them alleviate pain, eliminate the effects of crippling palsey, and more.
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