The changes in pharma marketing

KEY TAKEAWAY: Why is most DTC marketing so ineffective?  Primarily because DTC marketers are not willing to acknowledge that marketing has changed dramatically in the last five years.  

1ne: [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The line between awareness and action has been interrupted[/inlinetweet].  The old model of DTC was that your target audience would see a DTC commercial and ask their doctor about/for an Rx.  That isn’t true anymore.  Today, according to the Eyeforpharma survey more people are going online, talking to others and seeking more information before requesting an Rx.  Higher physician co-pays have also delayed patients going into their doctor to ask for an Rx.  DTC marketers need to think more like patients and address the barriers that are preventing them from getting an Rx.  Conduct market research with patients who did not choose to ask their doctor about your drug to learn “why?” and address the challenges.

2wo: Insurers have more power.  So you drove a patient into their doctor to ask for an Rx but they failed to fill the R because their co-pay was higher on your drug.  Think this isn’t happening a lot?  Talk to pharmacy techs and listen to the complaints they hear from patients when their co-pay has gone up.  GSK has addressed this issue by offering their BREO at zero copay via a coupon online, but too many other products cost too much to cash strapped patients who are often seeing raises in their salary get eaten up by higher health insurance premiums.

3hree: [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Inexperience in the marketing department has become a liability[/inlinetweet].  We spend a fair amount of time educating clients on digital marketing and in marketing in general.  Too many, for example, don’t measure awareness of their brand message with their target audience(s) and ignore marketing segments like caregivers and nurse practitioners.  Too often pharma has been willing to let good marketing talent leave the company and doesn’t do a good job recruiting people who are “game changers” but rather look for people who will “fit in”.

4our: The organization is not aligned with patients needs & wants.  There is a serious disconnect between what marketers want to communicate and what patients want and need to hear to take action.

5ive: Continued underinvestment in digital marketing.  [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Only spending 15-18% of your DTC marketing budget on digital is myopic[/inlinetweet] yet it continues to happen year after year, even though patients are using digital to make health care decisions.


There are solutions to these challenges, but they are different for every drug/health condition.  You can’t take what works for diabetics and apply it to MS patients, for example.  Marketing in pharma needs two elements to be successful: empathy and willingness to take more risks to launch patient centric solutions.

Those of us who have been in pharma marketing for a long time have seen a steady decline in the effectiveness of DTC marketing.  DTC marketing will either adapt or become more irrelevant to the point that budgets will be significantly cut.