The current state of DTC marketing

slowPOST SUMMARY: DTC marketing has changed a little, but overall DTC marketers are still relying too much on outdated marketing tactics to reach consumers who are taking a more proactive approach in health care treatments.

Let’s look at some facts around pharma marketing…

Out-of-pocket costs continue to rise for patients, despite generic medicines now representing 86% of prescriptions, and average out-of-pocket costs falling below $10 overall. (Source: IMI).
The sales and marketing models of today need to be reshaped in order to be successful in today’s “new normal. (Accenture).
Reducing costs, mastering multichannel marketing and improving digital effectiveness are the top strategic priorities for pharmaceutical sales and marketing executives. (Accenture).
Executives expect to meet their cost reduction goals by increasing their use of analytics, digital, multichannel marketing and third-party service providers. (Accenture)
Heightened patient expectations, the trend towards personalized medicine and increasing payer desire for proof of improved patient outcomes requires pharmaceutical companies to develop new capabilities. Facing unprecedented cost pressures and the need to engage with more customers in multiple countries, pharmaceutical sales and marketing organizations will need to be restructured–sometimes radically–in order to deliver the capabilities needed. (Accenture).


One in three American adults have gone online to figure out a medical condition. Thirty-five percent of U.S. adults say that at one time or another they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. (Pew Internet)

In other words, the healthcare market is changing and changing faster than most pharma companies can react.  If you were able to back in time 14 years and look at DTC marketing, then versus now what major changes would you see?  Some, but not enough to really leverage digital marketing and empowered patients.  Here are some of the things that really need to be changed in DTC marketing..

(1) Content – It has to be more conversational and it has to be developed expressly for the digital channel.  Too much rerpurposed content.

(2) Patient communities–  Allow patients to share experiences and talk to one another and don’t tell me “we can”t” because that is defeatist.

(3) Less reliance on paid search and more on new Google algorithms – If you have to wonder what this is you’re in trouble already.

(4) Multiple landing pages tied to search terms and where patient are in the healthcare transaction model.

(5) Leverage EHR’s to both provide more patient tools and information needed to increase compliance and adherence.

(6) Less reliance on TV – Come on Lilly ditch the Cialis spots already.

(7) Acknowledge that what patients need to know and what pharma marketers want to communicate differ widely.

(8) Recruit people who are organizational changers and can light fires vs. people “who fit in”.

Be the Change Banner - Slow

(9) Keep good digital marketers within digital marketing as it’s a hard channel to master and is always changing.

(10) Stop trying to measure the ROI of everything.  You can’t measure the ROI of a conversation that provides patients with information they need to go to their doctor or get an Rx.

DTC marketing can change, but frankly, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the “organization to come around.  We need more linchpins, people who put patients first and people who are willing to rock the boat a little and lead skeptics to the why and how of winning over patients.