Breaking The Four-Minute Mile in Pharma


Feature Articles by on December 10th, 2013

Oxford, England 1953. A 25-year-old medical student named Roger Bannister faced and broke track and field’s most infamous barrier: The four-minute mile. Nine long years of failed attempts had convinced people that it was a physical impossibility. However, within two months of Roger Bannister’s historic run, two athletes broke it at the same event. By the end of 1957, 16 other runners also had beaten the four-minute mile, and, today, it is now the standard of all male professional middle-distance runners.

It is often said that pharma loves to be the first to be second, often seeking “proven innovation” to get past the challenge of the complete unknown. I like to think each company carries its own four-minute mile barrier. And like the four-minute mile, once the barrier is broken, it can become a new standard.

Celebrations of Pharma Marketing

Innovations, like the ones in this issue, show us the barriers that have been broken by trailblazers in our field. They help us set our sights on the next “impossible” accomplishment. Every year, these pioneers give us the monumental opportunity to establish a new standard for the industry.

Where We Are Today

Despite the prevailing attitude that pharma is vastly behind other industries, I have good news! When I look at what has been accomplished over the last few years, I am inspired and full of hope. We have broken channel barriers in many directions.

Sanofi Diabetes provided an excellent example in the use of blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Janssen’s Stelara showed us that we can leverage branded YouTube. The Gansevoort Hotel came alive with Lunesta’s 3D projection mapping. Vertex’s Incivek Big Yellow C guerrilla marketing campaign took over Manhattan. And Novartis’s Exjade developer challenge engaged the global Health 2.0 entrepreneur community.

But wait a sec—social media, public experiential displays, guerilla marketing, entrepreneur challenges? Are you sure this is pharma? Yep: This is the world of Pharma Marketing 2013…just in case you missed it.

This year we built a lot of apps. A lot of apps. And we will build more now that the FDA guidance has given us some breathing room. We are definitely learning from our successes and failures, and I expect more mature and robust solutions in the upcoming year. Just remember to work closely with your patients and doctors when you build them.

Where We Are Going

So with all that we’ve accomplished, all the pioneering achievements in the last few years, let’s take a look at the some of the next barriers we may soon break. There are three areas that I will be watching closely in 2014: Integration with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) systems, maturation of Behavior Change and new possibilities through Big Data.

Electronic Health Records open up. EHRs offer an ideal location to assist the physician at multiple moments around and during the point of diagnosis (POD). Now, some of the largest providers are beginning to open their platforms to valuable tools such as AllScripts’s new app store. This new opportunity can provide better access to drug-specific decision tools and reference information at the critical POD. It gives pharma companies the ability to enhance their product’s prescribing experience by providing relevant value directly to the doctor. The first companies to take advantage of this will reap the benefits.

Behavior change matures. From diabetes to psoriasis, study after study seems to prove that behavior change techniques work to improve patient adherence. Commercially, we have a number of turnkey wellness offerings and gamification has captured the imagination of the industry. But we have just begun to scratch the surface. The different successes in behavior change need to be brought together to build more tailored solutions for the distinct variants of human behavior. This acceleration of adherence adoption could greatly improve patient outcomes. And that will definitely grab doctors’ attention—exactly the kind of attention we all hope to get from our audience.

New possibilities through Big Data. The analysis of Big Data can make every tactic more effective. Some very smart people have done some very smart work in analyzing massive amounts of the data each of us generates. We can cross-reference data from so many sources—social listening, transactional data, tracking behavior, etc.—and analyze it to form remarkably accurate profiles. These profiles lead us to new insights, let us dynamically tailor our messages, and, ultimately, deliver more effective tools. In the near future, we will begin to give each customer a personalized “segment of one” brand experience. In the end, Big Data is really about us knowing our customers better and predicting how they will behave in the future. It reveals truth to the world of marketing on a scale that we never knew before. So, do you need a data scientist on your team? If you want to take advantage of smart and precise targeting of your audience, you definitely will.

Innovation is definitely coming from where you would expect—the established centers of excellence in the western healthcare world. But, it is also coming from new and unexpected places: Entrepreneurial hubs are popping up all over the world. Personally, after a recent visit to Barcelona, I am keeping a close eye on how the partial privatization of Spain’s healthcare system is driving a new generation of healthcare mobile startups.

A New Standard For The Future

I like to consider myself a student and an evangelist of emerging trends. This issue of PM360 celebrates the champions of innovation—those that pushed the boundaries and won. As the student, I think we have a great deal to be proud of as an industry. As the evangelist, I would also like to celebrate all of you who are trying on a daily basis to open new doors and create new means to reach your audience in meaningful ways. I would invite you to use the collection of barrier-breaking ideas in this issue to help bring about this new standard for pharma marketing. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. We move forward when we all try—together.

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