Will biopharma ever lead in digital marketing?

GetImageKEY TAKEAWAY: Digital leadership means taking risks to help patients chose health care treatments, but biopharma’s processes often prevent risk taking at a time when patient’s have more health care treatments and informational resources to help them chose treatments.

Processes should always be reviewed, especially when they interfere with cutting edge marketing initiatives.  Today, the brands and companies that are digital leaders are taking chances and integrating learnings into future digital marketing programs.


According to Harvard Business Review..

Operational excellence is a competitive requirement for any organization, and digital leaders have a key role in applying new technologies to achieve it. However, at the same time they must redesign their business models in order to compete in a digital world.

This requires two broad sets of skills: the ability to focus on what the firm does today and optimize its current execution, and the ability – and courage – to challenge the firm’s current model by answering fundamental questions such as “How will digital technologies change how we create value for our customers?” “What is the ‘job’ our customers are trying to do?” and, more broadly and disruptively, “What business are we really in?”

So how will digital technologies change how biopharma creates value for customers?  That really depends on the health condition and medication, but a recent survey by Twitter indicates that there might be an opportunity within social media to help direct patients to answer to their health care questions.


As for “what business are we really in?”, that question is often reflected in corporate slogans but rarely put into practice.  While there are a lot of new drugs that are improving patients lives, many are beyond the reach because of gaps in insurance coverage and costs.  I have yet to hear ant senior pharma executive come forward and say “we will ensure that patients who need our medications and can’t afford them will get the regardless of barriers”.


Finally HBR goes on to say “the integration of technology must be seamless and virtually invisible, as customers generally do not see technology as a goal in itself, but seek improvements in what the product can do for them. Consequently, digital leaders must develop a deep technology understanding. However, they must use this understanding to create offerings that, while increasing products’ technological complexity, simplify the user experience and generate increased value.”

Read that excerpt again.  Digital marketing is a long term value not a short term marketing tactic to convert patients to an Rx yet again and again DTC marketers want to place the value on everything they do in quantitative terms.  That may be a myopic way of looking at digital marketing.


Patients need reassurance that taking their medication is a path to a better quality of life.  They need to understand how other patients are living with chronic conditions and finally they need to understand the importance of compliance.  Many product websites, however, don’t provide these tools, they focus on acquiring new patients.

Digital leadership is as important as patient’s insights, but while we attend conferences to pat ourselves on the back patients are minimizing the impact of pharma DTC marketing.