Green Cross Health launches Living Well, becomes a publisher—UPDATED

Green Cross Health, which owns the Unichem and Life Pharmacy brands and has a range of other medical interests, has announced the launch of Living Well, an owned media channel that is being produced and published in partnership with Tangible Media. 

The first issue of the quarterly publication will be released in September 2014 and distributed by name to 100,000 households in the defined target market, which will be drawn from Green Cross Health’s loyalty programme. An additional 50,000 units will then also be distributed via the pharmacy conglomerate’s network (phase two of the project will also see digital and social elements introduced).

“With more than $220 million of sales across our pharmacy network each year, Living Well provides an unparalleled opportunity to drive awareness and sales while delivering genuine value to our consumer base,” says Brook Milbank, the head of marketing at Green Cross Health in a release (we’ve asked her a few questions* but we’ve yet to hear back).     

In initiating its own content-marketing publishing channel, Milbank says the publicly listed Green Cross Health has created a means by which to engage directly with the target audience on a regular basis in a way that allows it to control what is being said.  

“Our target market is 100,000 people in upper socio-economic households with children under 17, which we believe will provide a high-value audience to our commercial partners and pharmacy network,” says Milbank.

By taking this approach, it follows in the footsteps of several major companies that have recently embarked on their own content marketing projects.

Internationally, Coca-Cola’s ‘Content 2020’ strategy is about moving from ‘creative excellence to content excellence’ and the company aims to “transform one-way storytelling into dynamic storytelling hoping to add value and significance to people’s lives”.

This objective is akin to that which Green Cross Health has defined for its project, with Milbank saying: “Living Well goes to the heart of our ‘care + advice’ proposition for customers. The concept is to use quality content to position Unichem and Life Pharmacies as the first port of call for health, well-being and beauty needs throughout New Zealand.”

This move could prove particularly effective in the pharmaceutical context, because New Zealand is the only market in the world other than the United States to permit direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

Although Living Well requires funding from Green Cross Health’s commercial partners, Tangible publisher and director of content marketing John Baker says Living Well will be more than a simple series of advertorials peddling pharmaceutical products.

“The content and distribution strategy are closely aligned and designed to optimise reader engagement, value and retail activation for Green Cross and its partners,” says Baker. “Green Cross have adopted a ‘reader first’ approach to this initiative and collaborated with us to build an editorial framework and team that will enable us to create a genuine media property.”

In order to achieve this, the team has appointed experienced journalist Rebecca Reid as editor. She has previously worked for New Zealand Women’s Weekly, the Herald on Sunday and New Idea, and also gained experience in the health industry during a stint in public relations and comms department for the Middlemore Foundation, a charity division of Counties Manukau District Health Board.

In the July/August edition of the New Zealand Marketing magazine, Baker drew a line between advertising and content marketing and pointed out that journalistic integrity was integral to the success of the latter.

“We don’t expect journalists to tell lies [in content marketing], we’re not asking journalists to say a product can do something that it can’t, and we don’t expect journalists to do anything but what they’ve always done. We’re actually just saying there’s a commercial value on that journalism.”

But given that content marketing falls somewhere between journalism and advertising, this creates a legal grey area that could potentially fall beyond the remit of Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting System (TAPS) established by the Association of New Zealand Advertisers.

According to the guidelines provided by TAPS, there is a range of stringent rules that must be abided by when a company advertises the therapeutic benefits of a product. At this stage, it is still unclear whether content marketing would fall under the same rules or whether journalistic standards would apply.

Baker says that all content produced for Living Well will be sent to TAPS for approval before it is published. In this sense, Green Cross Health has identified its content marketing project as a form of advertising rather than editorial.

But this isn’t necessarily the approach that dictates all forms of content marketing. At a Content Marketing Conference held in Auckland in April earlier this year, StopPress asked Paul Lewis, the Herald’s director of editorial innovation, about some of the legal rules that govern transparency in content marketing but he said that it was currently being determined by self-regulation.

“There’s no legislation involved [with content marketing]as far as I’m aware, and I’m not particularly sure if the Advertising Standards Authority are involved in any way,” said Lewis. “Because of the nature of the beast, it’s an internal decision, [and]it has worked overseas … in the New York Times.”

He also added that it wouldn’t make sense for the publisher to tarnish the relationship with the reader by publishing something that was deceptive or dishonest.

As content marketing continues to grow in popularity and as more brands use it—either in addition to or in place of conventional advertising—we are likely to see regulations develop over time.

For the time being, Green Cross Health finds itself in the position where it can relatively freely deliver its marketing messages to consumers. But as with any content-based approach, the success of Living Well will largely be determined by how interested readers are in the content being delivered.    


StopPress: Why has green cross health decided to take the owned media route? Why is it that you’ve decided to become a publisher? 

Brook Milbank: We have decided to partner with tangible media, experts in the owned media space to provide our customers with valuable, relevant content that goes beyond pure product, price promotion. We believe that the owned media route is critical to the success of our re-brand strategy as we continue to add value to our customers. We would love to re-establish the links with our customers as a valued source of information and the first choice for health and wellness advice.

SP: How long has your ‘care + advice’ strategy been running? 

BM: We launched our ‘care + advice’ strategy to our group mid 2013 and have been rolling it into market since October 2013, it’s always been our philosophy, we’re just crystallising the conduit. 

SP: Do you have any other examples of it being it effected elsewhere? 

BM: Currently it sits predominantly in our pharmacy business but it is a philosophy we will run through all areas of our primary health care business. How does Living Well incorporate this? Living Well is a way we can bring ‘care + advice’ to life for our customers in a way that works for them, on their terms, not just when they are visiting us. Pharmacists are a key community contact to help people live well and now they can have a piece of this at home with them. Pharmacists are an easily accessible health professional and often undervalued as an excellent source of information. We anticipate that the Living Well magazine will start some great conversations with our valued customers and our talented pharmacists.

SP: What market share does Green Cross Health’s range of pharmacies have? How much has this changed over the last few years? 

BM: We are aligned with approximately 300 pharmacies and 42 medical centres in New Zealand and through the association with total care health there are over 120 specialist nurses working throughout north island communities. From a retail perspective we reach over 67 percent of the market and fulfil over 40 percent of New Zealand’s prescriptions on an annual basis.

SP: Given that such an extensive content marketing project can be expensive, which other marketing channels will be reduced as a result of this new initiative? How will the marketing budget be split now? 

BM: We believe it’s the combination of marketing vehicles that make our strategy a success, not one at the expense of another.  We have predominantly led with a product and price strategy until recently across five pharmacy brands.  With our clear, differentiated pharmacy brand direction across the Life and Unichem brands we know we need to be more than purely product and price to engage today’s shoppers. By providing relevant, value add content we can re-engage with our audience and re-establish the role of pharmacy in consumers’ hearts and minds.

SP: Why did you decide to rebrand your pharmacies over the last year? Why was this important at this stage? Is the Living Well project part of this broader rebranding strategy? 

BM: The Living Well project is a key component of our re-brand strategy. Previously we have been brand by default rather than brand by design and we haven’t been able to differentiate ourselves in the market from a consumer’s perspective. We now have a unique opportunity to consolidate our retail message through two distinctive brands and really build on what pharmacy means to our customers.  Our retail network has actively engaged in this difficult rebrand project and we are excited to see the physical difference as the brands roll out and start to shape the pharmacy market. We are re-establishing the role of pharmacy in the community with 2 clearly differentiated offers of which ‘care + advice’ sits at the heart of it all, it’s our point of difference that we can deliver on.

  • Disclosure of interest: StopPress is part of the Tangible Media group.

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