DTC marketing is slow to change

dtcchangePOST SUMMARY: The news this week that more than half of all biopharma employees are looking to leave the industry should be a wake-up call for senior managers, but it may be too late as both digital and DTC pharma marketing continue to struggle to transform the organization from “big pharma” mindset to operating with a sense of urgency with a focus more on patients.

There were quite a lot of comments on my post about the number of people willing to leave the industry over at LinkedIn.  While I thought there would be some push back everyone agreed that the exodus of talent from pharma marketing is a huge problem for the industry.  I do agree with one person who said that he believed salary was not the issue as biopharma pays very well, rather, he felt it was frustration with antiquated processes and the barriers of trying to put patients first in marketing initiatives.

Even if you love DTC marketing, as I do, it can be frustrating when you interview with a biopharma company only to learn that they are still trying to figure out who “owns the product website” and “which digital marketing tactics really work”.  I crossed this bridge almost 10 years ago and the fact that these conversations are still happening is scary.

stuck in past

To me the most important quality for any pharma marketer is empathy.  We need to have a better understanding of the challenges patients go through, along with caregivers, when they are dealing with health conditions that derail the quality of life.  We then need to continually communicate with our peers and coworkers what it’s like to be a patient and caregiver so that we can develop marketing that really works instead of broadcasting new drugs.

Finally, something needs to be done about the recruitment and interviewing process of candidates.  Today we focus more on the initial impressions of a candidate rather than what he, she, has done in the past that is considered game changing.  Almost 4 weeks ago I interviewed with a biotech company in Cambridge and although they talk about respect for people I didn’t hear back a word for 4 weeks.  Respect, I guess, is not intended for candidates.  Today we want employees who can sit at their desk and not rock the boat, but frankly the pharma marketing boat really needs to be rocked.


If the industry continues to lose good people it will suffer at a time when it needs leaders, linchpins and pirates.  I’m not suggesting a bull in the China shop mentality, what I am suggesting is that we can’t accept that DTC marketing is slow to change and that’s just the nature of the industry.