I like to think I've seen my fair share of marketing materials for diabetes products.
In my now 31 years of living with type 1, a good number of diabetes tools have come across my radar. And since I began reporting here at the 'Mine, I've become keenly aware of the marketing materials used to promote these items.
And I have to say, I've never been so impressed by marketing materials that actually shifted my view of a particular product than I have of late with promotions for the Asante Snap insulin pump.
Last month at the Diabetes UnConference in Las Vegas, all attendees received a brown paper grocery-style bag full of handfuls of product brochures. Honestly, I didn't even peek at this stuff before leaving Vegas -- because who pays much attention to marketing materials anyway?
But when I got home and started unpacking, I finally examined the collection. Most of them were pretty run-of-the-mill product handouts. But a booklet from California-based Asante Solutions stood out, as it was a bit thicker and seemed somewhat different than the others. On closer inspection, Asante managed to raise my eyebrows in a way that none other did -- and really, in a way that no other diabetes marketing ever has before.
To be clear: it wasn't the device itself that caught my attention. I knew before the UnConference what the Asante Snap pump is all about, how it's a partially-disposable snap-together device that includes a pre-filled gass insulin cartridge and is supposedly much easier to set up than most other insulin pumps on the market.
What I found so cool was this rechargeable video booklet all about the Snap, that you can plug into a micro USB cable (like the Android phone charger I use) to view. I'd never seen anything quite like this before.
It's just a bit thinner than a third-gen iPad and a little lighter in weight, and includes a series of seven videos ranging from 1 to 3 minutes long. The videos include a product overview, a diabetes educator doing a little Snap 101 virtual training, some user comments about how easy the Snap is to use, and some specific competitor comparisons to the unnamed "market leader" pump that you can obviously tell is a Medtronic device. There's a five-button vertical panel next to the video screen where you can skip ahead, rewind, pause or even adjust the volume, and the front flap has a slot for a 25-page glossy print brochure to slide in.
I know, I know... this is still just basic marketing material you'd expect from a company. And the content isn’t necessarily anything new, if you’ve checked out the company website before. But the use of this different medium just made me think, "Wow! This is actually modern marketing for the digital age we're living in!"
Remember, Asante is the company that came up with those edgy, sexy marketing videos a couple of years ago, shocking the diabetes community somewhat with their approach. That’s when we first saw signs that Asante folk were bold enough to think about a medical product in the context of real patient lives.
Reaching out to Asante, their VP or Marketing Ken El-Sherif tells us:
"Our general belief is that people with diabetes are often forced to make an imperfect decision about insulin pumps before they buy one. They just do not have enough information about each pump and how it will work for them. Simply put, it is hard to be informed about anything if you cannot try it, especially an insulin pump...
Because of this, we try to develop materials that can explain Snap as thoroughly as possible. The video-brochure is one way to better explain Snap and how it is different from other pumps. The best way, of course, is the trial program that we have. What better way to help PWDs make an informed decision than let them try us?"
YES!! We so appreciate that Asante offers a free 4-week trial period for anyone who has access to a rep in their area; this builds trust, and shows that Asante is thinking beyond flashy marketing.
Several our friends who are using Snap are quite enthusiastic, including D-blogger Scott Johnson (who is actually in one of the marketing ads on this video-brochure).
I'm personally not in a position right now to buy a new pump, after going through that whole process in early 2014. Plus, historically I've had a couple of concerns about the Snap:
- It doesn't use Novolog, only Humalog insulin. Although I have always been a Humalog user myself, it just annoys me that in the two years from when the company received FDA approval in 2011 and they rebranded and launched this device in 2013, they didn't to do what was needed to include Novolog for all those insulin users as potential customers.
- It doesn't offer a vibrate option. I'm a huge fan of keeping my diabetes devices in vibrate mode, so I don't have to deal with audio alarms (especially in meetings or sitting in quiet places like a courtroom). But for some reason, Asante chose not to include this feature as an option at all. That's been a deal-breaker for me.
Word is, both of these issues are going to change soon. That's really what I have been waiting on, until now.
Honestly, their new marketing materials changed my mind, simply because they're so innovative. That, combined with a company-wide commitment to open-source data sharing, the customizable MySnap device design, a willingness to help fill the market gap for talking diabetes devices, and also those testimonials from trusted friends makes me really motivated to give them a chance. That will be my next task: trying out an Asante Snap myself.
Nice job using modern digital tech to change behavior and communicate your messages, Asante! I wonder how else this impressive medium could be used? Seems to me there's a ton of potential to recharge how we ALL think about medical device marketing.