Pharma lags in new media and marketing

always-learning-never-failing1According to Steve Brozak via a Forbes Blog post With the advent of the Information Age, marketing has been transformed from mass distribution to targeted, individualized communications aimed at smaller and smaller demographic groups. Recipients of marketing messages are chosen based on criteria such as age, income level and the last item for which they searched on the Internet. Eventually, marketing efforts could become unique to the individual for whom it is intended.Large pharmaceutical companies have yet to catch up to the trend.  The light of the obvious burns brightest.

Mr Brozak goes on to say big pharma needs to learn to stay ahead of the marketing curve — to innovate targeted products for specific populations and to focus its marketing on those populations. Yet big pharma seems locked into the quest for billion dollar blockbuster drugs that can support large bureaucratic organizations.  He is correct of course, but what he seems to overlook is that the days of inflated drug marketing budgets are quickly coming to an end.  I refer to an Accenture report that was  that found the number one priority for drug company executives was to reduce costs.


On the HCP side said drug companies have laid off between 10-12% of their sales force and believe that digital marketing can be used to reach physicians, however even though physicians are wired they just don’t seem to have the time or reason to engage pharma companies online.  This is why pharma companies need to get better at adding value to physicians and patient outcomes.


There are also two primary reasons why pharma lags in new media and marketing.  First, the biggest drug companies don’t necessarily embrace change without months of meetings and Power Points.  Second, the exodus of talent from pharma is a huge challenge to overcome.  

Marketing is not something that can be learned following a process or by salespeople whose previous experience was detailing physicians .  In my opinion talented marketers need to stay in marketing and not be reallocated to other positions like sales or market research to “become better balanced”. This is especially true of marketers who understand how to reach today’s patients.

The best quality a pharma marketer can have today is empathy.  There is nothing like experiencing our healthcare system firsthand, especially people who really need help understanding their health care choices.

There are some pharma companies who are trying new things to reach patients, but it seems that our industry is always the laggard when it comes to innovation.

We also need pharma marketers who are willing to stand up against the prevailing wind of “doing the same old thing” and “show me the ROI”.  That mentality is going to doom pharma marketing in favor of people who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.


2 thoughts on “Pharma lags in new media and marketing

  1. With many years in Pharma marketing, including local product management, Brand Director for a launched megabrand as well as looking after development products at PhI, PhII and PhIII, I can say that the only true marketing I did was at PhI/II where one was able to modify Positioning, formulation, brand story early enough to create a brand. Everything downstream was really just cranking round the handle, supplying endless ppt decks for senior management and trying to manage large teams of mediocre commercial suits. Yet Pharma continue to put juniors in charge of ‘early stuff’ and the experienced marketers seem to queue up for the high profile PhIII/Launch jobs… which actually involve next to no actual marketing. Until Pharma realise that the biggest decisions about the companies molecule are at Phase II, marketers will continue to have a poor image for ‘putting the lipstick on the pig’ for ‘me too’ products and blamed for 3 out of 4 product launch gaffs (definition is they never repay their R&D costs)… an unsustainable situation.

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