FiercePharma - Janssen gets help from Hero in reaching the Black community

Back in 2020, Johnson & Johnson’s pharma unit Janssen declared racism a public health threat. Rather than just slapping a Band-Aid (albeit, an inclusively colored one) on that problem, Janssen went all-in to try to really tackle the issue. One of the most important moves it madee is working with Black-owned and -operated media marketing company Hero Collective.

In fact, it was those (finally) diverse colored Band-Aids that brought Hero to Janssen’s attention. When J&J were launching the multi-skin tone line of Band-Aids, Hero, which has a specialty healthcare division, took part in the RFP and won it with the amazing “Our Tone” campaign.

“J&J wanted to engage a Black owned agency to help them launch it. Obviously, they wanted to make sure that they were developing the right campaign and the right communication strategy, as this was one of the first times they were talking directly to the Black audience, and obviously given the timing with the BLM Movement in the wake of George Floyd. I think it was imperative to bring on a subject matter expert like us,”  Hero’s CEO and founder Joe Anthony said.

The campaign was hugely successful thanks to the authenticity and understanding Hero was able to bring to the work. This resonated across J&J and then to key stakeholders in Janssen, which was also strongly focused on its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“In 2020, we declared racism a public health threat. And so we launched our Race to Health Equity, which is our multiyear commitment to help close the racial health gap—so that the color of your skin does not determine your access to care, your quality of care or your health outcomes,” Isha Williams, Janssen’s head of culturally inclusive and relevant marketing, said. 

“We looked to partner with authentic members of the community, like Joe and his team, who can help us to infuse the right level of insight and working with the Black community as well as others who could help our teams understand how to actually build programs and communications and build our capability to be able to execute against that, and then to ultimately help us accelerate outcomes for the community.”

Since that first work, the relationship between Janssen and Hero blossomed with mutual respect for the mission on both sides. As part of Janssen’s goal of health equity, Williams said the pharma looked to three pillars: people—ensuring its own staffing reflected the communities it wanted to reach—healthier communities—creating culturally relevant and inclusive information that will make a difference and enduring alliances—and working with the right partners, such as Hero Collective.

It was the same on Hero’s side. Anthony stressed the importance of working with companies that reflect its target with its diverse leadership team: “One thing that I was extremely excited about was the amount of diversity and diverse roles and people who look like me that were staring back at me on Zoom.”

More recently, in September, Janssen worked with Hero on the “Talk That Talk” campaign with pro football Hall-of-Famer Shannon Sharpe aimed at promoting prostate cancer awareness and the importance of screening for early detection among Black men.

Up next for the duo is “That’s my Word” for multiple myeloma. Although it may feel like a slow start to really affectively target this important community healthcare-wise, Anthony says, “there’s never a wrong time to start.”

And it’s a good start with a strong future.

“The goal is to make sure that there’s a cultural and inclusive and relevant strategy on every medicine that has a large, diverse patient population or community that it affects,” Anthony said. “Our goal as an agency is to try and make our way across the entire portfolio, to ensure general market communications are more inclusive in and of themselves.

“We know that brands now have to work harder from their macro communications to ensure that those are inherently inclusive. Then they have to become very surgical and have another layer of communication that drills down and speaks to the audiences that over index or or or may disproportionately be affected by that particular disease state.”

Originally appeared in FiercePharma here.