What We Can Learn From Martin Shkreli: The Importance of Your 3 Cs

By Bill Coletti, CEO, Kith


Critical Takeaways:

  • Do you know who is in your 3 Cs?
  • How does your messaging resonate with each group?


On Monday of this week, a media firestorm erupted over Turing Pharmaceuticals’ decision to raise the price of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill, a 5,500 percent price hike.


The majority of the vitriol being spewed has been focused on the company’s CEO, Martin Shkreli. No amount of message handling could have saved Mr. Shkreli from the outrage he has received, but a certain understanding of stakeholders could have at least softened the blow, or led the company to make a decision that would not have drawn the ire of so many.


Mr. Shkreli took to cable news outlets and his own Twitter account to defend himself. In all of his communications, he completely ignored his 3 Cs: Communities, Customers and Critics. Each of these groups has important opinions in any conversation, each of these groups is connected in the digital space, and each of these groups can be very vocal.


Mr. Shkreli’s arguments focus on one community: those in the boardroom and his company’s shareholders. However, messaging focused on this community ignore several other communities, such as healthcare workers, advocates and observers. These communities are well aware of the cost of adequate healthcare in the United States and everyone involved agrees that something should be done to mitigate some of these costs. Arbitrarily raising the cost of an important drug is obviously not helping.


The customers in this situation are people who need this drug. They are enduring a life-threatening situation and quite frequently have other health factors as well, such as a difficult pregnancy or complications with HIV/AIDS. The treatment they desperately need has just seen its price jacked up for no reason other than to raise revenue.


Mr. Shkreli’s critics would not only be people critical of rising healthcare costs, but any person who is outraged by the phrase “corporate greed.” Whether they identify with Occupy Wall Street, are vocal about executive compensation or still fuming over the 2008 financial meltdown, Mr. Shkreli’s actions are indicative of a corporate culture that puts profits above the wellbeing of anyone else.


Mr. Shkreli’s actions actions in the wake of the decision have only stoked the flames. He defended himself on television saying, “we know these days in modern pharmaceuticals, cancer drugs can cost $100,000 or more, rare disease drugs half a million.” That argument falls flat with anyone trying to make ends meet while not dying. He also has shrugged off critics by quoting Eminem lyrics and labeled detractors as “socialist and liberal outrage” while maintaining a social media presence that glorifies his lavish lifestyle.


We should not begrudge Mr. Shkreli for trying to be a good businessman, that is his job after all. The problem comes with how egregious the price jump is, coupled with an extremely poor outreach plan that ignores the most important groups in the conversation: communities, customers and critics.