The pharmaceutical market has shifted as an industry from one based on blockbuster drugs to one based on smaller, niche medicines. Throughout 2013 we continue to see that pharma companies are looking at marketing strategies earlier in their pipeline, with drugs in their mid-stage development rather than waiting until the late stages as they did 10 years ago. Continual budgetary pressures are leading to more stringent justification of money spent. Pharma companies look to reach their audiences in an ever more fragmented market, while maximizing the return value of every dollar invested. With the ACA upheld by the Supreme Court and President Obama re-elected, Medicare rebates remain and it is ever more important for the drug companies to be a significant player in the healthcare formulary.

Relationship marketing and digital solutions are becoming even more important as a key means of solving some of the most important challenges pharma marketers face, including reductions in the sales force, sales force support, patient support and adherence, and ultimately the increasing need to develop a 360-degree view of their customer. Pharma brand managers are however, increasingly more willing to explore new and innovative solutions from other verticals that tie back to their brand strategy. There is a distinct lowering of the guard as it relates to their willingness to participate in mobile, social, gamification and personalized marketing, within their med legal teams.

A key area that is growing in importance in order to drive higher ROI is cracking the code on the best way to leverage branded content within the pharmaceutical multi-channel marketing mix. In order to drive acquisition and adherence, you want to develop strong connections with customers by providing them with information directly suited to their needs and interests.

Content is King

The convergence of media has opened up doors of opportunity to create distributed content that reaches a wide audience. The cost/benefit ratio exceeds traditional advertising and marketing by a wide margin. Branded content blurs conventional distinctions between what constitutes advertising and what constitutes entertainment—or information. And it has the ability to create an emotional link in consumers that the industry greatly needs today.

Branded content needs to reflect the strategy of your product, have a distribution plan in place, and have a strategy for how it fits into your marketing mix. Today, 54% of companies using branded content use it for education, 25% for customer retention and 21% for brand loyalty.

Content is already being used quite successfully by forward-thinking pharma companies. In a recent survey, 36% of companies stated that they plan on using mobile health content to gain customer insights, 31% to interact with customers, and 29% for recruitment and use for brand promotion. On mobile platforms, Novo Nordisk is providing injection tutorials. Depuy has orthopedic product apps that integrate video and 3D graphics to demonstrate complex structures in a simple way that contextually illustrate the benefits. Allergan’s Juvederm Treatment Visualizer App meshes patient-friendly interactivity with compelling graphics technology to help people imagine what they would look like after using the product.

Gamification is also being more widely used as content, yet video remains the king of content in today’s world. GE Healthcare and Sunovion have both launched successful video content initiatives and with 6.3 million lifetime video views and more than 5,500 visitors converting to subscribers, Johnson & Johnson has, by far, the largest following on YouTube. By harnessing the timeliness of video, Johnson & Johnson released 11 videos educating visitors on the H1N1 virus and how to protect themselves during the outbreak.

At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that today’s customers have different channel behaviors. A new generation of customers has grown up in a digital society. They have developed radically different ways to communicate with each other—and with brands. Your customers expect choice and multi-channel options with consistent experiences. If you connect with them, they will be your advocates.

  • Jeffrey D. Erb

    Jeffrey D. Erb is President at Healix. Jeffrey leads the healthcare division of IPG Mediabrands. For over 16 years, Jeff has defined new strategies for clients in both HCP and Consumer marketing from media and analytics to digital and pricing strategies.

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