For years, the pharmaceutical industry has relied on established methods for introducing new products to the market, funneling billions of dollars into direct-to-consumer advertising to build brand equity. In 2016, the U.S. pharmaceutical and healthcare industry alone spent U.S. $15.2 billion in marketing.1
While this strategy has been effective in the past, times are changing. Patients today are taking a more active role in healthcare decision-making and holding providers to a higher standard when it comes to personalization and quality of care. This coincides with an industry shift toward specialty therapeutics, leading to increased costs and a growing focus on value and outcomes.
These and other forces are coalescing to create a challenging climate for pharma marketers. In addition to a growing gap between sales projections and anticipated net budget increases in developed markets, many drugs are underperforming. Between 2012 and 2016, 15 New Molecular Entity (NME) approvals missed analyst sales forecasts for two years following launch.2
To help pharma companies evolve their product launch playbook for the modern era, Accenture conducted a survey of 8,000 patients across the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France to determine how they learn about, evaluate, and select new treatments in eight therapeutic areas (immune system, heart, lungs, brain, cancer, hormone/metabolism, and eye disease).
Lead with Evidence
Our results point to several key factors that are influencing patients in their consideration and selection of new therapeutic treatments. The first is a decline in the importance and influence of brands. More than two thirds of patients said that brands matter less to them than the benefits of a pharmaceutical product. We also found that patients lack information about new products, reducing the likelihood that they’ll pursue a new treatment plan. Only 38% of respondents reported feeling knowledgeable about new products on the market for their condition. Healthcare literacy is particularly low in the U.S., where only 50% of patients said they understand the treatment options available to them.
Poor communication and lack of precise targeting also means that pharmaceutical companies are missing opportunities to reach patients who are considering switching their treatment plan. Of the 47% of patients that reported having thought about switching, 62% made a change.
What does this all mean for pharma marketers? The traditional product launch playbook can no longer be relied upon to deliver the desired business and patient outcomes.
Moving forward, pharmaceutical companies must take an evidence-based approach to developing new products and solutions, putting the target audience at the heart of the design process. This will require increased collaborative data-sharing with patients, providers, and payers, as well as a greater investment in advanced analytics capabilities. Patients are being more proactive about their treatment plans, and pharma has an important role to play in helping these individuals to make more informed, evidence-based choices.
Evolve the Dialogue
The healthcare industry continues to shift toward an outcomes-based model, and pharma marketing is no exception. When communicating with healthcare providers about new therapeutic treatments, pharmaceutical sales reps should shift their focus away from the brand and concentrate on how a product will enable better results for patients. Similarly, in lieu of relying on industry-specific jargon, pharma marketers need to deliver information in terms that make sense to their target audience.
Knowing where different patient sub-populations search for information also is essential, as is providing concrete data that is curated to address their unique concerns. Millennials, for example, tend to seek information about possible treatments from friends and family, as well as through social media.
On an organizational level, this means pharma companies will need to evolve how they educate their salesforce, equipping reps with the necessary skills and language to effectively communicate and connect. A misunderstanding between pharma and physician could be the deciding factor in whether a product is incorporated into a patient’s care regimen.
Take a Personalized Approach
Equally important in the new era of pharmaceutical marketing is making sure that campaigns are curated to meet the needs of different patient populations. In the past, companies took a uniform approach to product launches. Today’s patients, however, are accustomed to personalization in almost every area of their lives, a fact that has fundamentally changed their expectations for healthcare.
Our research revealed significant differences in how generations absorb, research, and make their healthcare decisions. For example, 41% of Millennials say they have considered switching to a new treatment plan after seeing a post on social media about a new product, compared to only 21% of Baby Boomers. Millennials are also significantly more open to trying new pharmaceutical products; 71% say they’ve considered trying a new treatment, compared to only 15% of Baby Boomers. To engage with these different groups, pharma companies must be prepared to invest in a more personalized approach.
Luckily, pharma companies now have access to vast quantities of data, allowing them to provide highly individualized messages. Understanding the behaviors of different sub-populations will not only shift decision-making around campaigns and promotions, it will also lead to the creation of new services and markets.
It’s time for pharma marketers to abandon a one-size-fits-all approach to product launches. Instead, companies should harness the abundant data and analytics capabilities at their disposal to address the unique needs of patient sub-segments. By moving away from the status quo, pharma companies have an unprecedented opportunity to gain market share and to deliver new value for patients.
1. Source Kantar Media; eMarketer calculations, 30 March 2017.
2. Accenture Research analysis of 16 pure play Pharmaceutical Companies, the $ growth of the largest product contributor to reported sales growth 2009-16 is compared to total company revenue in 2009, and an average taken across all companies. This is compared to an average across all pure play Pharmaceutical Companies, of $ growth forecast of largest product contributor to 2016-21 forecast Revenue growth compared to 2016 Total revenue. Raw data is sourced from Evaluate Pharma 2017.