Nicholas Hall’s Conference Report


Nicholas Hall sends this report from the 30th European CHC Conference, held last week in Vienna.

Well, after three days packed with expertise and insights, my key takeaways from the Vienna are as follows:

• Consumers are increasingly demanding personalisation of products and services, with digitalisation key to both driving and meeting this demand

• Digital is disrupting conventional paradigms of healthcare

• The empowered consumer expects to sit at the centre of their wellbeing, playing an active role in their healthcare choices. The role of HCPs is moving away from paternalism and closer to that of a mentor or coach

• In terms of technology, we must ensure we are delivering real added value to the consumer, using insights to generate a deeper understanding of what motivates them

• Don’t be afraid to partner with other companies and service providers to deliver the holistic care consumers increasingly seek

After I took to the stage to give my keynote reviewing the trends of the past year and outlining what is next for CHC, Tamara Rogers, SVP & Region Head, EMEA Consumer Healthcare, GSK reviewed the Consumers of the Future = CEOs of their Own Bodies.

She explained that the wealth of data available offers great opportunities to the consumer healthcare industry, but that we must have the ability to interpret it and leverage insights to better know, understand and connect to the consumer.

Tamara was followed by Luca Pagano, Group CEO, BeMyEye, who explained how the BeMyEye disruptive technology allows marketers to maximise the performance of their brands in the retail space, delivering actionable insights to constantly monitor their in-store execution. The most transformational companies are implementing new methodologies for their go-to-market strategies. BeMyEye allows marketers to respond to retail trends in real-time, enabling them to implement continuous performance improvements.

After the presentation of our Awards shortlists, Grigoris Karelos, Country Director, Greece & Cyprus, J&J, asked us “whether we create “Love Brands”? He argued that, by definition, communication about healthcare products is negative as we discuss illness and symptoms. Therefore, the way we talk about our brand is crucial. We must create emotional connections based on consumer insight to create impactful and relevant communication. It is important to have a clear and consistent brand belief if we want to create long-lasting relationships with consumers. However, the ways in which we communicate this message must evolve in order to stay relevant.

We were then lucky to be joined by Daragh Anglim, Managing Director, Prohibition Partners, to explore the Medical Cannabis landscape of Europe.

This is such a fast-paced and exciting category, yet Daragh explained there is a real lack of education for HCPs on this subject – it has been legal in the UK since November 2018, but has yet to be prescribed on the NHS, with doctors taking a risk-averse approach.

There is a need for education and clarity about the medical use of cannabis. There’s an existing user base for the product, so it’s not about educating on what it is, necessarily, but rather its safe usage, therapeutic applications and medical benefits

Medical cannabis offers huge growth potential, but independent and reliable data is necessary to drive the category forwards.

The Business of Being & Feeling Well was the next topic presented by both Dr Rodney Collins, Regional Director, EMEA, McCann Truth Central and Harjot Singh, Chief Strategy Officer, McCann Worldgroup EMEA. They argued that the notion of wellness and what it means to be well have evolved, with people today regarding it more as a state of mind, and one of the largest unmet needs is helping people to be happy and stay positive. Technology is improving peoples’ sense of wellness, but we must ensure that the technology is relevant and delivers added value, or else it becomes technology for technology’s sake.

Dr Iris Hardewig, Senior Consultant, Analyze & Realise explored Digitalisation in the Natural Health Space, and identified key areas in the natural health sphere where digitalisation plays a role, including growing interest in personalised products. Consumers increasingly want to know more about themselves, possible through tools such as tracking and genomics, and are willing to invest in personalised natural health products to supplement their health and lifestyles. Prevention has been a growing theme in recent years, albeit at a slower pace in Europe, and we see continued investment in this segment. Much of the investment in personalisation of supplements and natural products – achieved via digitalisation – comes largely from start-ups, rather than established pharma players.

Iris was then followed by a series of Innovation talks over coffee, led by Don McKernan of Impact and our partners at The CHC Innovation Connection.

Back to the main stage, the next presentation showed us How Digital is Changing People’s Relationship with Health, and was led by Milena Leone, Head of Innovation & Digital Consumer Healthcare, Sanofi. She argued that in terms of digital, pharma lags far behind other industries. Through the creation of the ÜWell digital platform, Sanofi has sought to meet the needs of consumers who are becoming more curious, demanding and impatient. She explained how the ÜWell digital health platform is designed to simplify, speed up and improve consumer access to HCPs and healthcare services. ÜWell is an omni-channel strategy that allows consumers to manage their health independently, acting as a personal digital health coach.

Our final presenter of Day 1 was Dave McCaughan, who took a lighthearted look at the “History of Underwear” to explain that we must recognise and react to social change in order to maintain a meaningful relationship with the consumer, adapting to an evolving society in order to remain relevant. Stressing the importance of recognising social shifts to create meaningful relationships with consumers, Dave stated, “we live in a world driven by emotional benefit. Science and technology are the support”.


Opening Day 2 was Niklas Larsson, PhD, Research Director, Probi, who took a detailed look at Probiotics and Female Health , exploring New Benefits and New Consumers.

He reviewed how probiotics for women’s health have historically focused on vaginal health, yet Probi is going beyond this and addressing other concerns that primarily affect women: anaemia (largely in teenagers and women of child-bearing age) and osteopenia and osteoporosis (in post-menopausal women). Niklas proudly reported that the products have strong efficacy, backed by animal trials and clinical trials, and offer health benefits for women throughout various stages of their lives.

Next up was CEO of Austria’s Institut AllergoSan, Anita Frauwallner, with a presentation entitled “With a little help from my friends” Or How Tiny Bacteria Helped Me to Outperform the German and Austrian OTC Market.

Established in 1991, Institut Allergosan began with a focus on innovation, employing a different approach to probiotics which included high CFU and multiple strains. Its first clinical trial was so successful that it’s still viewed as one of the Top 12 ever probiotic clinical trials in the world, according to the World Gastroenterology Association. Highlighting the importance of R&D in her business model, Anita detailed that they have more than 40 trials running currently, and research co-operations with all five university hospitals in Austria, as well as international co-operations. For Anita, research not only helps you realise what’s possible, but it builds trust in what you do.

Our data partners for France, OpenHealth Company, were represented by Nicolas Grelaud, Commercial & Marketing Director, who explored Meeting New Health Consumer Expectation: Engaging Experiences and Naturals. A complex subject by definition, we face challenges in multiple areas, including changes in demographics, culture and technology. Nicolas recognised that we must recognise the increasing demand for natural products, with 1 in 4 consumers preferring to take a natural treatment rather than a medicine. We are witnessing a shift in the consumer paradigm. Our health consumers used to be patients, and then became consumers, and they have now evolved to “Consum’actors”, who are open-minded and engaged in their healthcare decision-making process, often seeking natural and local alternatives and asking for personalised solutions. Nicolas stated that pharmacists must evolve, adapt and reinvent in light of this new healthcare consumer, becoming the place of truth that the consumer is expecting.

Our next presenter was Martyn Hilton, Chief Global Commercial & Marketing Director, HRA Pharma, who explored How the Digital Landscape is Changing the HRA Pharma Business Model. Detailing the digital strategy behind HRA Pharma’s two focus brands, ellaOne and Compeed, Martyn explained the importance of understanding the role the digital environment plays in the consumer journey today, as well as tomorrow, and also urged delegates to identify where we can look to intercept and influence consumers. We must create content that‘s relevant and in the right format for our intended audience.

Pointing to disruption in the way consumers access medicines, through tools such as telemedicine and mail-order, Martyn detailed that HRA Pharma invests in click & collect and delivery methods for ellaOne in certain markets, which have been received positively.

Alessia Scarpocchi, Market & Digital Strategies Director, Apoteca Natura, Strategic & Web at Aboca Group gave a presentation reviewing An Integrated Digital System to Evolve Customers’ Healthcare Journey: The Apoteca Natura Experience.

She explained what Abioa are doing to keep ahead in the digital age – going beyond simply providing products and services to purchase, the company instead wants to offer health solutions for people, with the individual at the heart of its mission. Digital tools are key to supporting  this ambitious positioning, with a range of training materials available for pharmacists, as well as a multi-channel approach to its direct-to-consumer communication. The company launched its Health & Wellness System 1.5 years ago, with digital dashboards developed for all stakeholders, including the possibility of loyalty system for consumers. The MyApotecaNatura app includes a number of tools and functions to allow consumers to engage in their health management, including tracking metrics, creating a health profile and accessing healthcare information. Initial result are very encouraging, with around 175 thousand app downloads and impressive levels of user engagement.

From TV-centric to Digital-led: A Paradigm Shift in Consumer Healthcare – our final speaker was Maurizio Luongo, Corporate Consumer Health BU Director for Menarini. Pointing to the evolving consumer who demands more digital tools to make personal healthcare choices, Maurizio outlined how Menarini has risen to the challenge of the shifting paradigm, with two of the key elements in the digital journey being attention and relevance. He concluded that we must combine technology, processes and organisational structure if we are to achieve digital operational excellence.

Alongside these inspirational sessions, we were so proud to host various networking opportunities, and of course to celebrate successes with our Marketing Awards. We were grateful to be joined by MSF to discuss their charitable activities, and to present them with a donation from The Nicholas Hall Group.

As I wrapped up the event yesterday, I announced that our 2020 meeting will be in Athens, where I hope to see many of you again!

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