DTC marketers: Risk adverse?

riskadverseagesPOST SUMMARY: Taking risks is important for innovation yet when several hundred professionals were asked what would happen if they developed and tried “new and untested ideas,” only 17% said that such behavior would be rewarded or approved – 47% said that the reaction from their superiors would be “unpredictable.”  Nowhere is this more true than within pharma marketing.

The reality in many organizations today is that despite the public emphasis on innovation, the underlying culture may be strongly risk-averse. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is anathema to successful innovation, which does indeed require a tolerance for risk-taking and learning from periodic failure. So how can DTC marketers break out of this mode and create an environment that is more conducive to innovation?


(1) Continually push the envelope – Try new things to reach empowered patients, but more importantly, develop a process to learn from mistakes and identify barriers that have to be overcome.

(2) Recognize that decisions are going to be made based on “fear” rather than what’s best for patients – Too many people have been laid off from pharma which in turn has created an atmosphere of doing what’s best to hold onto your job.

(3) Use the right words to encourage the right culture– Language drives behavior and creates a mindset around what’s acceptable and what’s not. For example, using terms like “experiment” or “scouting mission,” instead of “successful vs. unsuccessful project,” will signal a more open attitude toward risk.

(4) Keep it nimble and small– Size matters, and when it comes to innovation, risk, smaller – and faster – experiments are often better.

(5) Keep legal and regulatory people abreast of changes in how patients are making health care decisions.  This is a continuous process.

(6) Have a culture where senior managers encourage risk, but understand how to manage and reward risk takers.


All of us are paid to take risks not to sit in open offices and wonder what emarketing tactics will work in and outside the US.