Trends, by their very nature, represent the moment. They come and go and perhaps even come back again, but they are often fleeting leaving no real impact other than a faint memory. And yet, in the moment that they are active, trends are burning hot. They are all the rage—the thing everyone is talking about. The shiny new toy that everyone wants to try. That’s just as true when it comes to marketing trends. But there is a reason that trends capture so much attention in the moment. Because there is the chance that they are in fact a game-charger. Something that will not only stand the test of time but become ingrained in how we must operate as marketers, consumers, or even just people. The question, of course, is how do we tell the difference between the trends that will last and the ones that will burn out. PM360 asked 12 experts:
- Which marketing trend introduced within the last three years do you expect to continue to have an impact on pharma and medical device marketing in 2025? Why do you think this trend will still be relevant? And how do you think it will evolve over the next five years?
- Are there any new marketing trends that you expect to be introduced or just become more popular this year that will still matter in five years? What makes you believe that this new trend will stand up over the course of the next five years?
- What “hot new trend” that you feel everyone has been talking about is just not that hot and is something very few people will still be talking about in five years?
- Which trend in healthcare or the life sciences industry in general do you expect to have the most impact in the next five years? How will this trend change how marketers will need to approach their jobs?
A huge shift has occurred to a model of creating Human Experiences (HX), and evaluating new tools, techniques, and platforms through this lens. Creating a strategic HX framework that will help evaluate individual trends and tactics will allow marketing teams to choose those that will actually help drive the great experiences that will engage stakeholders. What you don’t want to do is what I call the “get me a Facebook page” syndrome where you follow a trend or tactic simply because everyone else is doing it.
The question you should ask: “How does a marketing team evaluate whether a new trend is a valid addition to their overall program and will create a level of engagement that will drive to specific goals?” Most organizations cannot answer this because they have not taken a true strategic approach to their overall program. A strategy starts with a vision, then defines measurable goals that support the vision, and the strategic drivers that drive to the goals. The programs that support the strategic drivers come next, and then the individual tactics that fit in the programs are identified. One should be able to draw a straight line from the individual tactic directly back to how it supports the overall vision.
The vast majority of organizations, however, cannot tie every individual tactic back to the strategic drivers, measurable goals, and the overall vision statement for their organization or group, mainly because they don’t have these. And this is key—if you cannot specifically state how a trend or approach, platform, or technology specifically supports the entire chain back to the vision, it’s probably not something that should be done. And the ability to evaluate the validity of a “trend” is also the key to having a successful and evolving program that continues to improve over time.
I believe telemedicine/telehealth will transform the way payers, patients, HCPs, and marketers look at healthcare in the forthcoming years. Telemedicine has created a simple, convenient way to connect patients to doctors in a matter of minutes, all by the touch of their phone.
The average patient commutes one hour and 16 minutes to get to their doctor’s appointment and waits another 19 minutes in the lobby for their doctor. The average wait time for a telemedicine patient to wait for a call? Six to nine minutes.
It’s not only about the patient, but the HCP as well. Reducing the influx of waiting time increases HCPs time efficiency, allowing them to spend more time with more patients.
It should be no surprise then that over the past five years, telehealth has grown 34.5% each year. In addition, multiple sources project the growth of telemedicine over the next six years to grow at that compounded rate, if not faster, by 2025 (Source: https://bit.ly/2v8isjH).
But it’s not all sunshine and roses. Telemedicine is—and should be—met with scrutiny as legal and regulatory are struggling to keep up with the growth of this technology. Not all telemedicine companies are created equal. Most telemedicine companies have strict guidelines and are giving patients access to legitimate doctors. However, with the growing potential revenue startups are seeing as more patients demand a telemedicine option, it is easy to see why some startups cut corners to bring their telemedicine capability to market.
Nevertheless, telemedicine is going to be here to stay. Even in today’s health climate, with the rise of the coronavirus, the ability to speak with a doctor from home rather than traveling is incredibly appealing. It is up to us in the healthcare space to inform internal/external stakeholders of the potential opportunity—and cautions—of this amazing capability.
The biggest trend will be “The Psychedelic Revolution:” Bringing psychedelics into the approved treatment paradigm for psychiatric conditions. Scientists are signaling the remarkable potential of psychedelics in the treatment of mental illness, with interest growing in the past two years.
Data from clinical trials has shown that high-dose psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, and ayahuasca exert rapid, significant, and enduring anti-depressive effects. Phase 3 clinical trials are underway to test the efficacy of methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—there may be an approved treatment on the market by 2022. The FDA’s approval of Epidiolex, a medicine made from cannabis, has begun to pave the way for reducing the stigma of turning psychedelics into medicine. Study results are powerful, and Silicon Valley, traditional biotech, and pharma are starting to pay attention. For instance, ATAI Life Sciences has raised more than $100 million with a vision to effectively treat mental-health disorders by bringing psychedelics through clinical trials and gaining approval from regulatory agencies.
The Rise of Psychedelics’ Impact on Marketers
A non-traditional treatment begs for a non-traditional marketing approach. A hyper-focus on HCP education will be essential to offset fear and reduce stigma. Approaching communications with clear clinical facts, respect, and openness with the common goal of reducing the suffering and impact of mental illness. What can we learn from the opioid crisis on controlled rollout and education? What can we learn from communities that have been practicing and using this treatment approach for years? How can we market a psychedelic as a legitimate and accepted form of treatment once treatments are legally approved?
“There’s an opportunity to use relatively small amounts of money to have billions of dollars of impact and to affect millions of lives,” said entrepreneur and podcast star Tim Ferriss.
It doesn’t get much more impactful than that.
When we think of wearables, we usually think of monodirectional devices that track a limited set of fitness-related endpoints. However, as individual datasets become more robust, data science becomes more sophisticated, and sensor technology progresses, wearables will do more than monitor end points—they will directly address a body’s deficits or needs in real time. In other words, wearables are evolving from tracking to treating, creating personal, closed-loop therapeutic systems.
This wearable revolution is already in progress. Cala Health introduced a wrist wearable called Cala Trio that uses neuromodulation to treat essential tremor—and they have six other indications in the pipeline for which peripheral nerve stimulation might be effective. Companies like Beta Bionics are revisiting Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) and upping the ante on treating type 1 diabetes. Innovations like their bionic pancreas, known as the iLet, not only monitors blood glucose levels but also makes therapeutic decisions, auto-administering insulin and glucagon as needed. This self-contained, investigational device is about the size of a smartphone and is showing success in outpatient studies. For glaucoma, migraine, autism, PTSD, oncology, closed-loop wearables are coming.
As wearables monitor increasingly sophisticated end points, learn, and ultimately treat conditions, they become increasingly personal. And so, too, do the related marketing opportunities. The success of wearable therapeutics will be determined, in part, by the customer experiences these companies forge on their own or with their agency partners—websites, help lines, chatbots, packaging, apps, the device interfaces themselves—creating myriad new touchpoints and bringing point of care closer to the patient and caregiver than ever before. Carefully monitoring how HCPs and their patients really interact with these evolving technologies, while remaining mindful of privacy issues, will be key for marketers and educators to make the most of this dynamic and ground-breaking trend in service of better patient outcomes.
Hottest Trends Previously Introduced That Still Matter
Experiential marketing—or “engagement marketing”—is hot right now, and I believe it will continue to grow as an effective marketing strategy in healthcare over the next few years. It can come in a variety of forms—from traveling diagnostics trucks, to interactive booths at conferences, to pop-up events in cities. This type of marketing gives a personal, grassroots feel at a time when healthcare feels big and overwhelming. These opportunities can often facilitate moments of understanding for HCPs and patients alike.
Employing this strategy helps brands deliver experiences that allow for interaction and sharing while living “in the moment.” It gives brands an opportunity to create nano influencers—encouraging customers to show their world on social, or go old school and share around the kitchen table at the end of the day.
Hottest New Trends That Will Still Matter
Influencers are playing a key role in pharma and, while macro influencers draw a bigger audience, I believe the micro influencer will play a bigger role over the next few years as they become more credible and authentic. Micro influencers allow brands to tap into more intimate, and more specific, crowds—playing in a sweet spot between paid and earned media. Consumers want candid perspectives and experiences, and micro influencers can deliver it.
I also believe non-linear TV will grow and still be relevant in five years. Younger audiences are cutting the cord and choosing to consume media in non-traditional ways. Non-linear TV goes beyond blanket broadcast creative, representing a growing trend to deliver more targeted, customized messages to engaged audiences.
One trend that is closely being monitored is the effective use of data and analytics. Data is going to become a main driver for companies looking to develop and market new products. With artificial intelligence and machine learning working together to make sense of data, pharma companies will begin to leverage platforms to gain access to insights, rather than outsource to third-party companies.
Data is one of the most important aspects companies must leverage to understand markets and competitors. Being able to weed through external sources will help offer a comprehensive view of the hard-to-capture landscape with deep, relevant insights that can unleash opportunities for drug development, repurposing, and partnering.
New Class of Advanced Analytics
Over the next five years, business leaders will need to understand how to make sense of all the data available in the ecosystem as it will directly impact when, how, and where to launch a product and help inform other business decisions.
A new class of advanced analytics solutions are empowering them to independently monitor and mine a wide variety of data sources from consumer-generated content to business movements to scientific information. These data-backed insights can provide a completely objective view of the current landscape and alert innovators to the ascending opportunities that will shape the drug markets of tomorrow.
As roles shift within marketing, IT, innovation groups, and beyond, it will be essential for the whole enterprise to tap into these new capabilities in order to remain competitive.
Pharma and medical device marketing have encountered major changes over the last three years and several of these trends will still be impactful as we move into this new decade. We expect continued growth with the concept of patient centricity, in which pharma no longer needs to just influence HCP prescription behavior, but also the behavior of the 21st century patient who has become informed—and vocal. With Gen Z coming of age as the next patient generation in the next five years, we expect this to have an even bigger impact as we move towards 2025.
A growing focus on personalized health and value-based care are just some of the trends currently disrupting the industry overall. Marketers have seen a shift away from traditional B2B and B2C customer behavioral models and more towards the idea of “BtoMe”—also known as hyper-personalized content marketing to meet customers on their terms, in their “space.”
The Growth of BtoMe Marketing
Today, patients have almost instantaneous access to information. They’re able to research symptoms, learn about available treatments on the market, and then go into a doctor’s appointment with an opinion on the medication they should get prescribed. This has completely changed pharma marketing and branding. We’re now in an age where technology is changing the expectations of patients and doing so at a rapid pace.
Personalized, digital content will be paramount to successful pharma campaigns, and BtoMe marketing requires the introduction of new machine-learning-based practices to target the right person, at the right time, with the right content. A third of pharma companies will be spending more than half of their marketing budget on digital channels over the next three years. This will only continue to become more and more relevant as younger, more tech-savvy generations continue to grow as our target consumer demographic.
Artificial intelligence has evolved into a paradigm, helping brands effectively reach their audience.
AI has the ability to learn from customers’ actions, encouraging engagement, building trust, and creating deeper relationships. Because of AI’s history and entrenchment in our world, companies can invest without fear of it becoming passé.
AI Will Continue to Change Sales and Marketing
Sales teams can now use data-driven platforms to trace where customers have been on their brand journeys and use past interaction data to suggest the best approach for impending calls. This keeps customers engaged—they receive timely information, and expectations set by sales teams are effectively handled.
Display banners using AI-enabled platforms have the ability to scan surrounding content, providing contextual messaging and designs. Targeted ads based on customer search patterns ensure messages aren’t wasted on inappropriate demographics, providing three times the click-through rate of conventional ads.
Providing this level of service at every stage of customer relations was impossible before AI.
I am not sure there are any marketing trends that are completely new within the pharmaceutical industry. However, with the growth of lean startup infrastructures, I think larger pharmaceutical companies will have to go from being focused on the customer to being obsessed with the patient and customer experience. This patient-focused mindset will continue to become increasingly important towards bottom line impact and growth. To provide a better experience three core elements will need to be addressed:
- A more cohesive use of the Internet of Things (IoT) across medical and diagnostic devices—with the goal of giving patients more control over their health and data.
- A better understanding of large datasets by using cloud technology—with the goal of providing precision medicine in less time to combat evolving diseases.
- Better marketing experiences that go beyond a single touchpoint—with the goal of providing a more seamless patient experience.
The roles of marketing firms in this process is to help pharmaceutical companies, R&D, and device manufacturers gather and analyze data, as well as provide patient-centric marketing strategies that provide better experiences across devices and customer touchpoints. The pharma companies who focus heavily on understanding and obsessing about experiential solutions to their patients’ pain points will win in the long run.
One trend gaining traction in pharma and med device marketing is distinguishing between upstream and downstream marketing, including appointing separate managers to oversee each. This is because the skill sets and management processes required to be effective at upstream and downstream marketing are unique.
Downstream marketers focus on maximizing sales of existing products, supporting the sales team with advertising, social media, tradeshows, and collateral material development. While these activities are critical, they are primarily “downstream” in nature as they enhance the acceptance of a product or service that already exists. Upstream marketers are responsible for identifying new market opportunities, lifecycle management, and product portfolio planning. This takes place at a much earlier stage by developing a clear market segmentation map and then identifying and precisely defining which customers segments to focus on.
Upstream marketing in healthcare was historically associated with where the disease or condition started, though over time has broadened to include a structured approach to uncover and pursue strategic opportunity areas. Four questions that must be answered for upstream marketing to be effective are:
- Where to Play? Define strategic choices regarding where to compete and where not to compete (which categories, markets, channels, etc.).
- How to Win? Confirm winning value propositions and brands to maximize customer relevancy and competitive distinctiveness.
- How Might We? Use a proven process, including strategy sessions, focused ideation, and customer research to inform strategy development.
- What Must be True? Define strategic implications and business conditions that would have to be in place to succeed.
Understanding how to address these issues requires expertise in uncovering and then meeting patient and professional needs. Rather than taking a “jack of all trades” approach, separating upstream and downstream marketing helps focus the organization and maximize revenue via all opportunities.
Within biopharma, oncology continues to be a dynamic and exciting area. Given the emergence of an abundance of new modalities and treatment approaches, we’ve seen significant changes in how biopharma marketers approach their jobs.
To set some context for the adaptations necessary for marketers, let’s do a quick flyover of four factors that are becoming increasingly prevalent in oncology. First, competition continues to increase: More (complex) therapies and more companies with commercial capabilities. Second, the wealth of data that’s becoming available from both public and proprietary sources is increasing exponentially. It can be tough to keep up with it and even more challenging to use for decision-making. Third, the market is becoming increasingly segmented, driven in part by an array of biomarkers and diagnostics. Finally, the customers that biopharma must address extend far beyond oncologists and patients and are increasingly complex and interconnected, each with different needs and expectations.
Adapting Marketing to Advances in Oncology
Given these complexities, marketers will have to become more sophisticated in how they (and others across their organizations) engage customers. They’ll need to focus on several key areas. For one, customer engagement models—potentially across a range of customer-facing roles—will be critical: Exquisite coordination between marketing and colleagues across the organization will be necessary to ensure that the people, capabilities, information, and tools are in place to address a highly complex environment. And they’ll need to differentiate on customer experience, not just the clinical profile. This means a right-sized suite of programs and services that address the range of stakeholders, across the points of interface with the product/company (from diagnosis, through prescription, access and reimbursement, follow-up, and patient support). Finally, messaging will have to become much more precise in order to “cut through the noise.”
The use of mobile, voice, and IoT are part of a universal move to the “transparent interface.” Although desktop computers may always be tucked away in offices, the trend is toward a world in which most “online” interactions that consumers and professionals have will be through their environments.
The benefits of being “always connected” and the attraction of speed and simplicity are undeniable.
A world of transparent and seamless interfaces will enable us to move easily between applications and environments without skipping a beat. IoT sensors will track our personal health status and movements; two-way voice and audio will become the new browser, content presenter, and push notification application; and mobile, whether in our pocket, on our wrist, or embedded in our fashion, will be our personal, multi-application platform.
What the Transparent Interface Means for Life Sciences Companies
In a world where interfaces become transparent and seamless, there will be a clear divide between commodities and non-price-based value. Drugs that are not differentiated will be driven to a low-cost model. In a consumer-driven economy in which discretionary decisions such as healthcare will still be made based on trust and familiarity, brands that are not present in this seamless interface world simply won’t exist.
Companies with a chance at winning in this new world will be those that can thrive in a heightened environment of authenticity, transparency, and customer value.
The secret to succeeding will lie in our ability to anticipate, suggest, and fulfill customer needs. This will only come by building the capability for data learning and the commitment to providing personalized content, services, and products as they are needed, seamlessly and transparently.