What should DTC do?

Consumers would ask their doctor about an advertised prescription drug in a perfect world. In our REAL world, that isn’t the way it happens. Is there a disconnect between what DTC marketers think will happen and what happens with DTC?

The research was straightforward. Ask current patients what drove them to get an Rx for a branded product (MS drug). The results were not what the DTC team expected. Most patients said they had done more research online or talked to other patients about their experience before asking their doctor about the brand.

Where was DTC ranked? It helped with awareness but awareness translated into conducting more research. By the way, the product websites were barely mentioned. Houston, we have a problem.

Why are DTC TV ads continually repeated even though research shows that oversaturation leads to decreased ROI? Is it because the DTC team and agency believe it will lead to more Rxs?

I’ve seen a lot of DTC presentations showing a correlation between reach and frequency and new Rxs, but most of that data is inaccurate. First, there is a lag time between awareness and taking action. Second, I can show a correlation between going to Starbucks for coffee and new Rxs. Most senior pharma people don’t have a marketing background, and agencies have been known to align data with what they want: more money.

There is another aspect of this research that you should be aware of. The MS market is very different from other DTC markets like diabetes and psoriasis. Each market has its dynamics. MS patients, for example, are very connected to each other on social media and share all kinds of information, from what supplements to use to diet and exercise tips.

I keep asking clients to develop a patient journey map from diagnosis to exploring treatment options and asking for an Rx. Unfortunately, too many are only interested in doing research with prospects, not customers. Your customers can give you great information and feedback and should be seen as a valuable resource.

The other marketing opportunity that’s being missed is the use of email. 77% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months. Patients want health information that helps them manage their health problems, but there is too much false information. Leveraging your thought leaders to write engaging details and developing an email program can position your brand as the leader in the category, but it takes time and practice.

DTC TV and online ads are not enough. We’re dealing with more intelligent online health consumers. They don’t trust your ads, and since their health insurance is going up yearly, they are acting more and more like healthcare consumers.