by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Mandi Fine (@mandifine), the CEO of strategic consultancy F/NE Group Global, speaks to us about the changing shape of marketing and communications — generally and in healthcare, her speciality.

Q5: You believe that science is transforming marketing and communications. Could you elaborate on that?
Mandi Fine: As the world we live in becomes more and more about data and analytics, marketing is becoming more personalised, sophisticated and scientific in nature. We are going to have more data available to us as marketers which will tell us, for example, what our customers consume, what they choose to read, what media they engage with, and when and how they make certain decisions. This means that marketing to them will increasingly become more about data and analytics. That said, consumers are human, and human decisions are very often about a gut feel, as well as who and what we trust. This means that, data aside, the most-important part of differentiating in marketing is about building authentic relationships with customers.

Q5: Data is everywhere. How can we use it optimally?
MF: Differentiating what is important in a data set is crucial. The more data we have, the harder it becomes to understand what the marketing “hooks” are. When analysing data, the art and science of analysis will need to come into play to create meaningful, differentiated messaging.

I remember, when F/NE launched Viagra in South Africa more than 15 years ago, there was a lot of data and information about the product and how it worked. We built the launch campaign around one piece of information in particular, namely: “40 % of men over 40 have erection problems”. This piece of information was crucial to launching this product. It was important because, for men, it played into the insight that they “were not alone” and the problem was common. It spoke to a human truth about not seeking help, because men feel that they are different and unusual if they have erectile dysfunction. The crucial information that plays into a human truth is the art and science of using data in marketing.

Q5: You have built your business as a “strategic hub”. Could you explain this model, and how it works?
MF: This has been one of F/NE Group’s key success factors and is a core reason for the longevity of the business. A “strategic hub” means that only specialist strategists and account managers are hired by the organisation, while we call on a network of partners who are brought in on a “best of breed” basis for design, content, and implementation. Strategy is at the core of what we do. Over time, as media channels have evolved, we have been able to work with cutting-edge creative partners who have assisted in taking us forward. This operating model has created flexibility and agility for us, and also means we are channel-agnostic and can work with large and small budgets alike.

Q5: Sketch out the skill-set of the ideal marketing and communications employee for us — what’s on their CV?
MF: We believe that candidates who have a mix of skills (science and art) are best placed to succeed in our fast-evolving world. Life skills, grit and multiple skillsets are an asset in today’s competitive environment. The ideal marketing professional should have an appreciation of the arts — be it music, drama or design — and be scientifically or analytically minded. They should also have a love for creativity and travel, and be inspired and engaged by the world around them.

Q5: What trends can we expect to see in healthcare communications in the coming years?
MF: Artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and new technologies are redefining healthcare and the practice of medicine and care. I was very honoured to be a judge at Cannes Lions in the Pharmaceutical category in 2017, and again this year at Dubai Lynx, as it was inspiring to see how technologies are being used in amazing ways in healthcare communication. The use of VR and AI can take patients and doctors to places they have never been before. Imagine using VR to reduce the pain of highly invasive therapies like chemotherapy or MRIs.

While algorithms will revolutionise diagnostics, AI cannot replace the caring part of healthcare. Nurses and care workers will still be as important as ever, even as machines become more important in doing the more-predictable tasks.

Storytelling is as relevant as ever, while purpose-driven marketing is most relevant for healthcare brands, as they have the ability to really change and save lives. We really work in the most-exciting category.


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diversive fields.

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