What is the objective of DTC marketing?

business_objectivesPOST SUMMARY: DTC marketing’s objective, in the past, was to drive new Rx’s.  Marketers ran commercials and patients went into their doctor to request the product or get a sample, but today the environment in which we market is more complex and filled with a lot of noise.  So how do DTC marketers cut through to ensure their marketing is still relevant?

In every meeting that I have had with clients over the last year there has been more emphasis on ROI because they need to show that every dollar they spend drives business objectives.  The problem with this, of course, is that today patients could care less about your message.  They have the tools and the opportunity to fact check everything you say and there is a good chance they don’t believe what you’re saying anyway.



Trust in pharma remains very low and in fact, a recent Harris Poll finds Americans favor generic prescription drugs over brand name products by a considerable margin.  Eighty-one percent of those who buy prescription drugs say they would purchase generics more often than brand name drugs. A 42% subset goes so far as to assert that they would “always” choose to buy a generic drug. Older generations are especially likely to indicate that they would always go with generics (50% Matures, 44% Baby Boomers, and 46% Gen X vs. 33% Millennials

So can pharma cut through the clutter and drive business?  At Biogen they personally contact patients on therapy to help them get through the hassle of paperwork and they offer a lot of patient support options for MS including dinners with thought leaders and other MS sufferers.

When it comes to getting patients to try new Rx’s I like to recommend a “patient mind map” that clearly shows the process that patients go through in choosing new treatments.  Once we have that down I like to determine the best intervention at each decision point and, more importantly, the clear concise message that can drive patients to doctors to ask about the product.  In addition I like to work with HCP teams to ensure that they understand our DTC marketing why and how.  I want doctors to really get why patients are asking about our product.


A new paper in JAMA Oncology tries to clear that up: The study, which examined 5,050 patient-physician encounters, found that — despite doctors’ perceptions — patients aren’t demanding medicine they don’t need.  Most patients don’t ask for more treatment — and the ones who do are asking for the right things  Why? One theory is that patients ARE doing their research before asking for about a medication.  I believe this because the constant theme running through over 3 years of research that I have led or been part of is that the Internet is the new doctor for a lot of people.

We need a multi-touch approach to DTC marketing.  No one tactic is going to drive new scripts.