Traditional pharma marketing is not as effective as it once was. Patient experience is driving a change in expectations, and calling for a diversion from the traditional marketing methodologies of the past. We’re in a time defined by digital, innovation and technological advancements, and there are more ways to reach the consumer than ever before. As cutting-edge tech continues to allow marketers to pursue innovative strategies across a variety of sectors, why aren’t we witnessing boundary-pushing strategy in pharma? And what can we do to catch up?
Addressing the Causes
The reality for pharma marketers is that every program, strategy or piece of content produced has to be meticulously reviewed, risk assessed and approved before it’s put in front of any patients or healthcare professionals (HCPs). When patient livelihood is part of the equation, there is no room for trial and error when it comes to strategy. In an industry abundant with strict regulations, patient protection laws and country-specific policies, it can be difficult for even the most digitally versed professionals to keep pace with the creative and innovative marketing efforts of other industries.
'How optimistic are you that your organisation could deliver the digital strategy you hope for?'
Digital Pharma Advances survey, February 2020
I recently attended the Digital Pharma Advances conference in London, where a live survey revealed only 20% of attendees were optimistic about the ability of their organisation to deliver the digital strategies their marketing teams hoped for. At the conference we observed some real cutting-edge approaches to delivery, from utilising virtual reality for medical education purposes to working with advanced artificial intelligence to support sales strategy. These adoptions of tech didn’t wholly represent the current pharma landscape, however, and the underlying theme of the event was clear: there is still a need for pharma to push digital and promote disruptiveness.
Closing the Gap
The key to embracing innovation is to put the patient at the forefront of your strategy. In our industry we are swimming in real world data, and it has the potential to provide companies with insights on how patients react and engage with their treatments and products. In terms of closing the innovation gap between pharma and other industries, segmenting our marketing efforts by separating the methods used to target patients from the methods used to target HCPs is where we’ll observe the most traction.
Patients, while often not the key decision makers, are showing increasing interest and participation when it comes to decisions about their own healthcare. Where HCPs largely respond to traditional marketing techniques, patients (particularly younger generations) expect digital engagement and require a contemporary approach.
Those at the forefront of change recognise this, and are channelling efforts geared towards education and awareness rather than sales; adopting marketing techniques we wouldn’t typically associate with life sciences such as Celgene’s influencer marketing campaigns and J&J’s content-lead Care Inspires Care.
While we are still observing frustration from those within the industry, the trends are positive. We are breaking new ground when it comes to marketing and digital strategy in pharma. While there are still strides to be made before we can compete with our unregulated marketing peers, we’ll continue to observe contemporary initiatives making their way to the forefront of pharma strategy in the months and years to come.
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