At first the stat looks impressive; pharma is among the leaders in percentage increases in digital spending but when you look at how much they are spending on interactive they are near the bottom of the list. While most CPG marketers have been experimenting with social media and spending more money on digital most pharma companies are still stuck in the dark ages and spend marketing dollars on marketing that is ignored by consumers.
I keep hearing the question, “why is pharma ignoring social media ?”. There is more than one reason. First the FDA has decided to act like big government and still does not acknowledge how consumers are using the internet for health. They have not issues and guidelines but even if they did pharma marketers are ill prepared to implement social media because it would take most of them too long to develop a strategy. Then there are the resource issues. Pharma is getting squeezed with key drugs off patent and the government wanting deeper discounts on top drugs.
Smart companies, like Amazon.com are investing big bucks in new technology, much to the displeasure of Wall Street, because they know it will pay huge dividends in the future. When it comes to pharma most will ignore suggestions from agencies to spend more and as a result their digital marketing will suffer.
How can eMarketing and agency people convey the importance of digital marketing to senior executives ? Data ! You need to provide a wide range of data as to how many people are online, what they are doing online and how they are using online health information to make treatment decisions. This means working with everyone from new marketers to legal and regulatory people so the light bulbs turn on.
The other challenge is to convince DTC marketers that digital marketing is not necessarily cheaper than other marketing channels. In fact it can be more expensive to do it right. Finally it’s time for agencies to get up in front of audiences and tell the truth about digital marketing. They have to stop the belief that digital marketing is just buying some key words on Google, launching a website and running online ads once in a while. It is developing a content plan to keep people coming back to the site, listening on social media so you can develop content people actually want to read and continually evaluating key words to delete the ones that don’t provide ROI and leverage the ones that do leading to separate landing pages.
There are some who understand the challenge and are experimenting and learning. They are going to have a significant advantage in an age of consumers of healthcare while others are playing catch up.