Pharma’s culture is barrier to being digital

Exponential change is shaping a new world of marketing to consumers who have a very short attention span. Pharma is not organized for digital marketing. Being digital isn’t just about technology, it’s about weaving the digital thread into business, operating, and customer models and it’s about taking chances in a regulated industry because other DTC channels are becoming more inefficient.

Facebook and Deloitte created and conducted a robust study in May 2017 to assess the perceived maturity of qualities and characteristics that define digital and prepare organizations for the future of marketing.  Their key findings…


Of course pharma marketing is not built for speed .  Lengthy M L R  processes often slow down digital marketing to the point that the tactic becomes moot.   To really leverage digital, the primary channel in which patients are making treatment decisions, the organization needs to realign around patients and their need for credible, good information.

How about social media?

According to a recent survey by BrightEdgeconsumers desire honesty from brands and they want answers to their questions in Internet time not on what’s best for their internal processes.  Brand personality, on social media, has to be unique, but above all brands need to be honest”. So how can pharma be honest without first scrubbing every communication without a lengthy medical, legal and regulatory review?

It can be done if pharma thinks outside the box.  Designing, for example, an interface that allows immediate approval by legal people before responding can and has been done but it involves dollars to build and trust that it will lead to better patient relationships.

Occasionally we run into barriers from in-house IT people .  They often like to throw monkey wrenches into implementation as a form of defending their territory.  I have experienced first hand IT departments killing patient focused online initiatives because of their requirements.  One DTC marketing Director who tried to host a new website off campus was hauled into a VP’s office to “explain why she went outside the company”.  She prevailed, but it clearly showed that crossing organizational territory boundaries is risky.

Now is the time to rethink the organizational structure when it comes to digital patient marketing. Pharma companies that are willing to change to anticipate the future are going to see huge gains in the patient-brand relationship.

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