Trust: The missing ingredient in DTC marketing

screenshot_277KEY TAKEAWAY: For most pharma products trust is an essential element of DTC marketing that seems to be largely ignored.  Breakthrough therapies will always find a market, but for the vast majority of other drugs pharma is going to have to earn the trust of a skeptical public.

Yesterday, as I was reviewing the final report on some qual research, the moderator reminded us that in addition to all the key findings one current trend was that “that there seemed to be a high level of mistrust in content within pharmaceutical websites”.  We could have pontificated about the reasons for this, but to ignore it would be a serious mistake according to everyone on the conference call.


Are there things the industry can do to start down the long path towards regaining the trust of a skeptical public?  Yes…

1ne: Accept that there are people who see the industry as “evil”.  Don’t try to get into a debate with them, instead focus on being as transparent as possible to people still on the bubble.

2wo: Understand that trust is not given; it’s earned continually through actions.

3hree: Don’t continually use “facts and figures” that show the benefits of prescription drugs because too many people mistrust the messenger and these numbers can be debated.

4our: Target and win over influencers. When was the last time any pharma company invited members of the online press to their HQ to talk about their products and how they are developed.  A great example is the news website Vox.  They have been a critic of pharma for many years, but their authors are often young journalists who are misinformed about the drug development process and the fact that prescription drugs only account for 10% of every healthcare dollar spent.


5ive: Address “buzz” around your product/condition/treatment options when the buzz level is still high.  If you wait for your approval processes to kick in you’re going to lose out on share of voice.

6ix: Senior executives need to make their companies more transparent and focus more on patients’ needs rather than Wall Street.  What’s the public supposed to think when they read that Gillead’s profit margin is now 60%?

7even: Deep link the content on your website.  Users are going to go to competitors’ sites anyway, so why not provide them with the best links to the best content?

8ight: Stop selling. If you think that ANYONE is going to ask for your product because of a visit to your website there is a bridge I would like to sell you.  Give consumers the benefit of being smart about their condition and treatment options and don’t always try and sell them.


9ine: If you do make a mistake, say you’re sorry.  With all the ambulance chasers out there this is sometimes hard to do, but a strong debate is needed if it gets into the media vs. saying “we are sorry”.

Finally, everything DTC marketers do and say should be reviewed for a trust factor.  If you’re trying to make a claim that few are going to believe, then why the hell are you doing it?