Pharma see’s digital as a strategic way to reduce costs and increase marketing efficiencies and , with some investment, that thesis can be validated. However today’s consumer and physicians have a lot of channels at their disposal when it comes to health information. Like consumer packaged goods companies pharma organizations are going to have to become a lot better when it comes to multichannel marketing.
Customer engagement throughout the product life-cycle is going to challenge any marketer because there is a fine line between engagement and intruding on consumers. Patients who take medications often do not want to be reminded that they have chronic health conditions but at the same time they need and want information on how to live with health problems and they like hearing from other patients who have similar problems.
Most pharma marketers think in terms of acquiring new patients as compliance has proven to be a very challenging nut to crack. I believe, however that strategically we all need to define key marketing strategies throughout the life-cycle of the product. For example, patients who have been diagnosed with asthma may want to better understand how their condition affects their quality of life. Therefore a strategy might be to inform patients how to live with asthma during the summer months and triggers that could make conditions worse such as heat, humidity, even ozone. In thinking about patients and putting their health information needs first we can not only get closer to them but gradually earn their trust and respect. Sure I know, there are those of you who believe that pharma has done too much damage to earn the trust of consumers but I would argue that it can be won back through open, transparent and good quality communication.
While the model of heavy TV advertising is almost completely dead there are over 400 new drugs in development for chronic conditions. If these drugs do present a clear product benefit compared to generic’s and other brand than the best way to get patients attention is through TV. However, I will also say that marketers have to measure the awareness levels of their products with their target audience to ensure they don’t over saturate the market. If you think like a patient you need to ask “OK, I have seen the ad for this new drug my next step is to…?” In most cases they probably are going to turn to the Internet for health information but is your website going to draw them in or is it just a billboard trying to sell your drug?
Multichannel marketing can be a huge challenge for pharma marketers but there are also a wealth of opportunities. The objective is to ensure that all channels are fully integrated and working towards your brand objective. Some channels are more important than others but only through good research can we really become masters of great multichannel marketing.