Innovation never sleeps in this digital world. There is always something that is newer, bigger and better. However, that only feeds our desire to know what’s next. PM360 enlisted the help of digital experts from across the industry to learn what to expect from digital in 2013. We asked them:

• What is the next big trend that everyone will be talking about this year?

• Is there a new social media site, mobile app, digital interface, or anything else that you think the industry should be excited about?

• What is the greatest unrealized potential of the digital channels currently out there that pharma needs to jump on right away?

• What have you learned from your previous digital experiences that will help you to improve your digital initiatives this year?

The opinions expressed by the authors in the Think Tank section are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of their affiliated companies or organizations.

Jim Dayton


Digital Strategy Lead
Intouch Solutions


Pharma should be paying attention to three trends in 2013.

1. Health Wearables: I think this is the convergence of health, mobile and social. People are obviously shelling out the money for the devices. Almost every CES 2013 post I’ve seen has a reference to a new health device. However, without the tracking services integrated with game mechanics and social elements, this crop of new devices won’t work for consumers. If pharma can find a way to get involved in this boom or provide services that use the data people are collecting on themselves, there could be a revolution in how we market to patients.

2. The .com Transition: I’ve seen a lot more sites being built on open-source platforms (i.e., Drupal), and I think this trend will continue and even move to easier to use platforms, such as Tumblr. Of course, there will always be sites, but now they will be built on platforms that easily integrate across mobile and social. For instance, there is a huge cost savings if you build your .com on Tumblr—it will inherently be mobile optimized. So, no need to spend money on that. It is essentially a CMS for social. Any content you distribute can also be distributed to your Facebook page and Twitter accounts. Couple this with something like Instagram and YouTube, and you can basically run an online brand’s reputation from an iPad with a single app. Of course, there are still some privacy and content control issues today. But, as these platforms evolve, those challenges and risks can be mitigated.

3. The Visual Web: Visual content rules social media. It is also beginning to rule mobile. I have at least four apps on my phone that are social networks based around either pictures or video—Instagram, Pinterest, Vine (short 10-second videos) and my new favorite, YouTube Capture. Mobile, social and visual are becoming big. If pharma can learn to tell its brand stories in a visual way, the opportunities are limitless.

Jim Lefevere


Dir., Global Digital Marketing
Roche Diagnostics

The big trend to look out for in 2013: Digital will start to eat TV. We are living in an increasingly four-screen world (phone, tablet, PC and TV) and people are choosing to spend more of their time online either with TV or in place of TV. That is something that I don’t think is fully understood from a media mix and planning perspective. I do think you are starting to see a better reflection of the consumer, their experience and reaching them where they go for information, but I would expect that the shift to digital media really takes a dominant rather than secondary role in media mix planning this year (if it hasn’t already).

In media terms, I think you’ll start to see a shift in media buying that is a greater reflection of the four-screen world. That means more mobile media and companies are trying to get closer to the so-called “zero moment of truth” in placing their messages at multiple points and driving a “surround sound” marketing approach when the consumer is in their personal information gathering journey.

Content and video are the two areas where the greatest unrealized potential currently exists. There is nearly an insatiable need for content, and being able to place the right message at the right time to the right customer is the key. Obviously, video engagement plays into the four-screen shift and content planning. However, one lesson I learned to keep in mind: It’s very difficult to chase every “shiny object” in digital. The key is to determine what you think are the critical areas for your business and then do them as well as you possibly can. Measure as much as you can and evaluate often. I really like to follow a consistent, continuous review and improvement model.


Steve Gransden


Vice President Marketing
J. Knipper and Company Inc.

The ability to combine social, mobile, tablets, etc., into a seamless and symbiotic value is the greatest unrealized potential of the digital marketing channels. Flurry reports there are at least 165 million active Android and Apple iOS devices in the U.S. and they are used by 78% of the adult population. There has not been a technology whose adoption rate has been so swift and pervasive since television. This apparent universal nature of mobile use provides one of the first truly holistic digital channels to network pharma, physician and patient in a highly interactive and symbiotic relationship.

For example, imagine if a pharma manufacturer creates patient starter kits. On each kit they print a quick response (QR) code. They then over-pack those kits in boxes containing five each. On each box of five they affix an inexpensive radio frequency identification (RFID) tag which can be read using near field communications (NFC) technology.

Sales reps can then open a mobile app employing NFC that allows accurate compliance information to be captured for each sample unit and displays the sample information immediately for the prescriber to sign. As the physician provides each sample kit to a patient, they scan the QR code bringing valuable information to their tablet for discussion with patients. Once at home, patients scan the QR code to register for coupons or to download a helpful app developed cooperatively by physicians and the manufacturer to aid in disease-state management that fosters a more meaningful dialog between patient, physician and manufacturer.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the synergies that will be created through the growing mobile continuum. As technology cost decreases and mobile devices become the predominant everyday tool, simple scenarios like those described above will become commonplace. And today’s early adopters will reap the benefits of being tomorrow’s mobile innovation leaders.


Trish Nettleship


Dir., Social Media & Influence
UCB, Inc.


If I have to pick one key trend for the next year, it’s consumer driven innovation. Social media has enabled consumers to have a voice and influence others. Customers are no longer waiting for the industry to guide them, but are becoming drivers of change. This will force healthcare providers, payers, policymakers, etc., to participate in a discussion they never had to have before. The opportunity for pharma lies in mining insights from these dialogues to drive R&D, product and service pipelines, etc., as well as becoming an active participant in that same dialogue. I can envision co-creation with our customers to evolve and result in a more innovative and responsive industry. A truly collaborative approach to delivering better outcomes for our patients—where patients, industry and healthcare providers all have a voice—would be the ideal scenario.

We also have to move away from talking about digital as disparate channels. The idea is to create a seamless digital presence across websites, social properties, mobile and even our email communications. Our customers expect personalization and a seamless user experience—information must be easy to find and brand information readily available. One way you can achieve this is by becoming a publisher of large quantities of original content that is relevant, thought-provoking, personalized and optimized across all platforms and devices. Another way is more of a hybrid approach where you create some original content but also become a curator of great existing content. The next step in an integrated digital marketing strategy is engaging your audience over multiple channels. This engagement will humanize your brand and help move the audience from passive consumers of content to participants, and hopefully advocates. You then have the opportunity to gain insights from the audience directly and can tweak your approach to meet their ever changing needs.


Michael Spitz


SVP, Managing Director
Healthcare and LifeSciences


Pharma and device makers need to jump on the potential of “transmedia” immediately because HCPs, patients and caregivers are already engaging with content simultaneously across multiple screens. A recent analysis by Google revealed that 77% of the time people watch television, they do so in tandem with a mobile device (49%) or PC/laptop (34%). Online shopping reflects transmedia decision-making, as 67% use several screens, and 81% of purchases are spontaneous as a result of heightened mobile accessibility. Not only are healthcare target audiences engaging with digital in this revolutionary new manner, but the integration of traditionally disparate channels has been proven to enhance behavioral modification. In study after study, researchers assert that everything from critical brand decisions at the point of care to improved Rx compliance hinge on being able to engage with patients and their physicians repeatedly and from numerous touch points. It’s a perfect segue to burgeoning transmedia opportunities, where desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone engagement morph into a single, continuous digital experience throughout the course of any given user’s day.

The transmedia time is now for pharma and device makers, not only because target audiences are already embracing this radical approach to content consumption but because implementation is so challenging. Just as pharma had to learn the web, then dabble in social media, and most recently embrace mobile, experimentation with the transmedia landscape must begin immediately to ensure the industry stays on the pulse of healthcare communications technology. Central to success is rethinking traditional notions of form and content; rather than design and develop each channel in isolation, a coordinated strategy able to repurpose approved content for display and interaction across multiple screens and devices is vital. The transmedia train has already left the station, and pharma and device makers have no choice but to jump on board.


Brent Rose


Senior Manager, Consumer / Multi-Channel Marketing Group
Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.
Twitter: @BrentWRose


Currently, the trend we are very excited about is the rapid growth of EHR and ERx platforms. While the EHR provider market is still very fragmented and platform capabilities vary widely, this developing digital channel holds tremendous potential. In the near term, we are very interested in the promotional potential. Precisely, targeting promotional messages in correlation to workflow behavior is an obvious strength of the channel. But this is just the beginning. The EHR channel can potentially add a new twist to how we approach customer service, patient support and services, and maybe even market research.

In the near future, the real-time collection, analysis, and sharing of data through EHR platforms has the potential to better support clinical decision making. This technology, combined with a greater emphasis on proven patient outcomes, means that the “buying process” of the future could shift considerably from where it is today.

In terms of looking back at the past to improve the future, the adjustments we will make to our digital approach this year is less about one singular lesson learned and more about the combination of multiple layers of data. It’s a process of continuous improvement, testing and refinement. While we must continue to improve our current practices, we also need to foster new growth. This requires us to take an investigational approach purposefully designed to power cross-brand learning while reducing risk amongst our brand marketing groups. This doesn’t mean we will simply try anything new. We need to focus on meaningful areas that have potential across the portfolio. Moving forward, our goal is to increase our organized approach to digital experimentation to gain consistent learnings that can be leveraged across the entire organization.


R.J. Lewis


President & CEO
eHealthcare Solutions


One of the trends gaining steam is the use of feedback loops and the “quantified self.” This is where people wear and interact with technology on a constant basis in order to record and track all (or many) aspects of their lives. Some of the examples of a quantified self are quite extreme, such as wearing a camera around your neck 24/7 and recording everything you see, forever.

But the concept of cheap technology that can easily measure and record key indicators, and then share those indicators with others and create a feedback loop, has great implications for healthcare. For instance, there are weight loss apps such as “Lose It!” and diabetes glucose tracking apps such as “Glucose Buddy” as well as apps that can even be combined with a medical device to read and monitor glucose levels such as Sanofi’s iBGstar. Tie the impact of those apps together with the sharing capabilities that the Internet and social media facilitate and you’ve got a powerful social feedback loop—one that both measures health outcomes and more importantly, creates social pressure to improve one’s health.

The greatest unrealized potential for digital channels today is informed targeting. There is a growing chasm between what technology is capable of doing from a targeting standpoint, and how pharma leverages these capabilities. Solutions exist to take advantage of the best targeting technologies, and do so in a manner that meets the key concerns of medical/legal review while delivering the best, most relevant message to the ideal target audience at the right time.

The channel matters less than the marketer’s willingness to use it to its fullest potential and find a way to move the company forward through advancing the knowledge of internal stakeholders—and turning obstacles into champions.


Shwen Gwee


Vice President, Digital Health


Over the last few years, social media, location-based services and mobile (a combination commonly referred to as “SoLoMo”) have been the hot digital trends that every industry (including pharma) has been jumping onboard. Partly propelled by this exponential adoption of SoLoMo, I believe 2013 will be the year we see the rise of “content marketing” and “real-time marketing” as the new digital trends.

Content Marketing refers to the rise of original content being generated by companies through digital channels such as social media (e.g., at an event) versus traditional press releases, pitching media, static advertising, etc. For example, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), companies such as Verizon had their own staff acting as content creators and aggregators for their online content hubs and social media channels, creating fresh content “on the fly.”

The ability to publish content and engage in “real time” also directly ties in to the notion of Real-Time Marketing. This refers to advertising/communications done during a live event by engaging with the audience using real-time conversation channels, such as Twitter. You only need to look at the recent Super Bowl 47, to see Oreo’s “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark” tweet/image (in reaction to the blackout) to see how something so simple stole the show from all the Super Bowl ads (

As real-time content creation trends continue to rise, organizations have already started setting up “Social Command Centers” to monitor, measure and react/engage with everything that happens online as it is happening. Some examples include: Cisco’s Social Media Listening Center (SMLC), the Salesforce Social Media Command Center (seen at CES), and the HootSuite Command Center (used for 2012 elections and 2013 Super Bowl).

So, are you ready to get real (time) in 2013?


Hans Wernke


Vice President Business Development, Biomedical Division
Inhance Digital


While this might be a strange response coming from someone working for an interactive agency, my sincere hope is that—at least for this year—we will focus less on the latest awesome technology or channel and more on the best ways to make the solutions currently available to us actually work. New channels and opportunities are becoming available at such a rapid pace that it is hard for marketers not to constantly feel that they might be falling behind unless they sign up for… [fill in the latest trend]. As a result, brands sometime fall in the trap of wanting to do it all, signing up for tactics that seemed so cool when the agency presented them, but that in hindsight really did not help accomplish much at all. It seems that many companies could greatly benefit from a breather, an opportunity to lean back and say: “What was it again that we were trying to accomplish, how can the current solutions help us get there, and what should we consider distractions for now?”

Lessons Learned

Integration is key. Where campaigns often go wrong is when brands approach the market with a series of tactics, and it is not clear—to the audience and often times the company itself—how the tactics are connected and help the brand communicate a coherent story. The exciting channels currently available to marketers offer great potential but only if they are anchored to the broader marketing strategy. This is not exactly a breakthrough idea, but, as an example, brands often use different content assets (some legacy, some new) to communicate the same message across multiple channels. Ideally, a physician should be able to recognize the consistency within the information seen at a conference exhibit, presented during a detail session or found online.


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