In a simple world, pharma marketers could create one succinct message around a particular drug or treatment that would be universally received by everyone with no confusion. But we don’t live in a simple world. We live in a world of nuance and disparity, as evidenced by the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on lower income populations and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities.
Some of the reasons for this are shared across minority groups, including marginalization, access, and economic pressures. Substantial challenges stem from large numbers of individuals being underinsured or having no insurance at all. This has resulted in a lack of preventative care and unmanaged chronic conditions.
Cultural norms also drive consideration. For instance, Hispanic audiences look to trusted sources for medical recommendations: tradition, family, and friends. Meanwhile, the African American community has not forgotten how they were treated in the past. The highly unethical Tuskegee Experiment for syphilis, which goes back to the 1930s, is still cited as a reason for a lack of trust with modern-day clinical trials.
The bottom line: there is a communication gap and a great deal of skepticism towards the pharma industry among minorities. But pharma has an opportunity to earn back trust and improve participation.
Get the Little Things Right
Pharma can begin by doing the little things right, such as acknowledging the benefits of prevention, nutrition, and other natural means of preventing disease before resorting to medication. The industry can also serve as a resource to dispel truth from fiction when it comes to COVID-19 and other chronic illnesses. And they could better educate on how vaccines and medications are developed and the importance of representation from all ethnic groups in vaccine testing in order to reduce the chance of side effects. All of this requires a long-term investment to earn the trust of the consumer.
More importantly, it is crucial that pharma companies embrace a segment-nuanced approach because each minority group has their own set of challenges and merits feeling understood and valued. For example, the Hispanic community is over indexed with diabetes, obesity, blood pressure, and heart disease; and are also known for self-medicating practices that have been passed down to them.
Any marketing campaign targeting minorities needs to be a dedicated effort to them and not an adaptation. The challenge with many pharmas is they are predictable in their messaging. While it is necessary to follow strict FDA guidelines and pass a medical legal review, the industry must better connect with these audiences. Understanding the role of cultural association, language, and attitudes toward illness and treatment is crucial to successfully marketing to these disparate groups. They will only listen to you, when you have listened to them.
Helping diverse communities more fully understand the positive role pharma can play in their lives is critical to a holistic approach to health. This holistic approach helps manage disease and improve lives, bringing better health outcomes for our diverse populations and easing pressure on the healthcare system.