If Science Can Evolve, Why Can’t, or Isn’t, Pharma Marketing?

While new treatments focusing on personalized medicine, biosimilars, and targeting specific proteins have come to market, the creative opportunities for raising awareness and educating target audiences about them have stalled. For years, pharma marketing has followed a set of highly defined processes and plan executions, usually following the brand’s lifecycle. But in today’s marketplace, “tried and true” won’t cut it.

It’s ironic, given the new technologies, channels and vehicles available in the mar/comm toolkit that more marketers don’t try something new. But given the hurdles many marketers face in leveraging these new technologies, it’s no wonder that so many brands fall back on the path of least (internal) resistance.

Test Tech and Tactics—Continually

Still, pushing the brand to continually test both new technology and tactics is critical. Take, for example, the Dove campaign for Real Beauty, cited time and again as one of the most innovative approaches to deliver brand messages to its audience. The campaign could easily continue to turn out the same style of ads, but instead the team is looking at how their audience is digesting messages and using technology—and adapting. Most recently, this led to identifying an opportunity in the emoji world. But all had straight hair—leaving out women with naturally curly hair. To promote their Dove Quench products, the company released emojis with curly hair.

Another example is retailer REI’s decision to close its doors and pay employees on Black Friday—the holiest day in all of shopping—and sharing that business decision with its audiences. The story demonstrates the brand’s empathic understanding of its customers’ priorities, and uses that understanding to create experiences that customers value. The lesson here: The importance of paying attention to your target audience and adapting to how they are communicating and what they are telling the world—explicitly or not—they need.

Patients Want to Interact

In the healthcare space, we know that patients are getting their health information from peer-to-peer conversations, both on- and offline, extending those conversations through their own research and then discussing this information with their healthcare professionals. The change to which pharma now must adapt is this: Patients and caregivers no longer want to simply find information; they want to interact and discuss information with the company too. Having a meaningful dialogue with customers, as opposed to continual messaging, surveying and feedback requests, shows greater transparency and builds trust. Remaining open and accessible helps customers feel heard by the company—and creates a new point of connection.

Today, customers are more skilled and have better technology for managing their many brand relationships. They will weed out or ignore companies that fail to sufficiently understand their needs and deliver value against them. For pharma companies, finding a way to match the innovation in medicine with innovation in marketing is key. Salix Pharmaceuticals’ Apriso Mission is an example of storytelling that illustrates what a person might gain from Apriso—looking ahead to a life beyond the condition. The goal is to adapt tactics beyond the tried-and-true, to reflect fundamental empathy and to demonstrate how the company is taking action to help patients live better lives.

  • Laney Landsman

    Laney Landsman is Group Vice President at Makovsky Health. Laney helps clients develop integrated campaigns that align with company objectives focusing on clients within the pharma and biotech space. Follow her on Twitter @lanes0220.


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