Marketers looking to exploit the iPad’s “wow” factor are taking the wrong approach. The real keys to an effective iPad marketing plan are creating a message that respects the audience, device and brand, and building a system that lets you easily (and cost effectively) deliver that message.

As anyone living through the last 35 years or so can tell you, the problem with technology is that we are not always certain how a new technology will be used and if it will have lasting value to those who use it. Sometimes it comes down to how creatively the new gadget is applied. Remember 8-track tapes in the 1970s? Vastly superior sound fidelity to the cassette (in my opinion). Which technology won out? The one that fit into a car dashboard of course. How about VHS vs. Betamax video tapes? Both offered good quality, but the one with the two-hour tape won the day. Why? Manufacturers of both products didn’t know when they started that we were going to use them to play movies—30-minute tapes just wouldn’t cut it.

Fast forward to today’s pharma marketers looking for a way to communicate their brand value to HCPs and we have a new disruptive and potentially valuable technology in a gift from Apple— the iPad. We’ve seen early adopters benefit from the halo affect by implementing basic content on the device only to realize that what HCPs and reps were excited about was the device itself. Once the device became table stakes the effectiveness waned. Marketers began asking themselves what was next. I can’t count the number of conversations where the words “we’re looking for WOW” were uttered in anticipation of the next iPad app. The trouble was “wow” turned out to be difficult to execute and a bit more elusive than you would expect with such a great new device to display it on (see figure on opposite page). Going beyond the basic print to digital and developing content in the form of apps became the next wave of effort for early and middle adopters.

The Problems With APPs

For those who were able to find strong technical and creative partnerships, effectiveness and interest soared. Unfortunately, managing these complex and completely custom apps to display “engaging” content can be expensive and often takes too long to meet the pace pharma needs. And many pharma marketers, along with their IT department support teams, found the work of managing the apps difficult and time consuming. Operating system changes by Apple and mandatory changes to content created the need to redevelop content, retest and redeploy—adding to time and cost.

During late 2011 and early 2012, there was the release and pilot implementation of various platform systems to manage the content delivery to field sales teams. Pharma companies are learning that an investment in iPads for the sales team comes with a need to manage the device and the content in a way that makes it reliable and available, secure and fresh. This means investing in systems that were not readily envisioned before the iPad came on the scene. Finding the right system to allow for the easy administration and control of brand messages is the foundation for long-term brand success and truly empowering professionals.

Building An iPad Strategy

Brand teams that have significant content and have begun using iPads with some success, or are just beginning their iPad journey, should consider building a strategy which first incorporates the implementation of a system for managing the message prior to committing significant spend on new content. Being able to control and segment content to users based on role, easily changing only portions of deployed content, managing updates that are mandatory, and assuring the remote team’s access to content with intermittent access to the web are all possible with the right system. For the IT team supporting the marketing effort, having one application to manage is key to collapsing both time and cost in deploying new content.

In addition to considering a system for easily controlling and managing the message, we’ve recently begun to work with clients to help them think through how to build great messaging. And, as I already mentioned, it’s not easy. Marketers do not have to be reminded that the tyranny of the urgent often works against plans for a great solution. We’ve been witness to many brand leaders who are under siege for delivering an app that has to be ready for the next national sales meeting. Often, the value of the content being ready for the conference is diminished by the trade-offs that had to be made to get it completed. Short cutting the creative strategy, compromising on the use of the new capability to engage, and leaving out integration or tracking for expediency’s sake are all too common in the real world of competitive messaging for HCPs.

Creating Content for The iPad

Content must be built by starting with a creative process, which respects the audience, respects the medium (the device) and respects the brand. The process of building creative strategy should include those three key areas as a foundation for thinking about what content support will be delivered to the field. And we’re starting to see smart brand leaders helping their own cause by getting out ahead of the next call for content. We’ve been working with our clients to build an engagement plan that includes several discrete releases of content and function in an orchestrated fashion over a period of 12 to 18 months. The work of defining and incrementally releasing content is admittedly more difficult, but we’re seeing great payoffs in the field.

We’ve also learned that not all content is created equal, and each content module or group will have a different lifetime value in the HCP/ sales representative conversation. Certain types of content (and use of device functionality) can potentially have a very long duration of value that stretches out for years. An example might be a patient application that assists in the onboarding process for a recurring injectable protocol. The HCP could use this assistance utility every time they bring a new patient on board. An example of a piece of content with a shorter lifetime value might be a mechanism of action video or a new piece of original research. The reason to build an engagement cycle is to drive your business, sales, creative and marketing strategies by orchestrating which content is delivered and when it is delivered to the sales representative/HCP in order to be compliant to your overall strategy for engagement. In summary, we think of an engagement strategy approach as a way of avoiding the HCP’s reaction to a sales representative visit by saying, “I saw this information last time you visited; what else do you have to show me?”

Another innovative way of thinking that is gaining traction is using the device to deliver value in the clinical workflow rather than delivering a classic brand message or scientific study. Obviously, this is not always possible depending on the indication, disease and other factors, but it’s worth some cycles to try to come up with a tool or utility that the HCP can use in their interactions with patients. Think about helping the physician accelerate the conversations they are involved in over many interactions with patients and family members; replacing anatomical models, payer access solutions, data collection tools and other practical aides is now possible with the iPad.

Success for brand leaders in building great messaging for the iPad comes down to realizing that this new opportunity to create is just that; an opportunity to be seized by marketers who want to drive value, build brand equity and are willing to lead the way in showing their industry how to leverage the new delivery device to help HCPs help patients live better. Meanwhile, I am going to go see if I can find the tapes for my 8-track player now that I’ve wedged it out of my 1973 Chevy Vega.

  • Ron Kane

    Ron Kane is Vice President of Allora Health, an Intouch Solutions company. Allora is an innovative mobile platform solution for the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry. With his focus on cutting-edge technology, Ron is building ideas that will change the way brands engage with HCPs and patients. Ron boasts years of digital expertise as both a partner and a consultant, joining the Allora team in July of 2011.

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