Is DTC irrelevant?

I could argue strongly that patients have changed how they make healthcare treatment decisions based on what happened over the last three years. Research found that 61 percent of participants trusted the pharmaceutical sector, but despite this increase, the pharma sector is the least trusted subsector of healthcare. The question then becomes, “do people trust DTC marketing?”.

recent study found the drugs promoted in DTC ads are not any better – and are sometimes worse – than others on the market. They often aren’t intended as first-line therapies, deliver little value to patients, or have more side effects than other equally effective treatments. But what’s missing is that patients seldom take action based on a TV ad alone. At their best, direct-to-consumer ads could trigger an in-depth conversation with a physician that might otherwise not be held.

The biggest complaint consumers seem to have about TV drug ads is their repetition. Drug marketers haven’t learned the lesson of measuring awareness against frequency and reach. Airing more spots does not lead to more Rxs.

Yo? You got a problem?

The answer would be yes. You might often hear the marketing term “omnichannel,” but it’s more critical in pharma DTC marketing.

Of all the clients I work with, including some top pharma DTC marketers, I have yet to see market research data on what their target audience does when they see the brand’s DTC TV spot.

Anyone who believes someone will run to their doctor to ask for an advertised drug is living in the past. Depending on their health condition, they will either go online to learn more or research the product online. In measuring social media for some brands, I found that people make decisions based on what others share, even if it’s wrong. They trust each other more than advertising. But drug companies seldom use social media because they fear the wrath of the FDA.

Your DTC team should be measuring what people are saying about your drug, competitors, and health conditions on social media. While not every mention warrants a response, some require you act accordingly with content that addresses the concerns. Your thought leaders a colossal resource, and having them write a response for your website is a huge advantage.

What about TV?

Most media companies purchase blocks of media time based on value and costs. This means the brand either has to use it or lose it. Unfortunately, this leads to TV ad fatigue and consumers turning off your advertising. Your market research department must measure the awareness of your brand with your audience to maximize reach and frequency.

There is a very fine line between saying, “we have a new product to treat..” and people tuning you out because you’re annoying them.

I also believe in discovering all you can about your audience beyond their demographics. What’s the most significant factor when making a treatment decision? What’s their most important source of information? How often do they go to their doctor? I like creating marketing personas that give team members insight into different market segments.

Earning trust

The media loves to blame pharma for the cost of healthcare, and with new cancer drug costs, who can blame them? Despite the headlines, the public understands the importance of prescription drugs in keeping them healthy, and they do go to your branded website, but your branded website needs help.

Too many branded websites read like medical journals and use stock photography instead of sharing real patient stories, although some are beginning to use this approach. The challenge is having the information that PATIENTS WANT and NEED instead of the information marketers want.

Your audience trusts doctors, so why not recruit them to write content? What content? That depends on what people say about your drug and the misinformation that may interfere with your marketing. Your website should be the “go-to source” for credible medical information, but to get there, you need a feedback loop to identify what concerns patients the most.

DTC marketing is evolving as patients change because of the healthcare environment. There is no magic formula for every brand. It varies by health condition, and you’ll probably make some mistakes, but good feedback can help you focus on your brand’s challenges.