Alternative Media: Honey, I Shrunk the Ad Campaign

Pharma companies turn to mobile technology to deliver health information and sample coupons direct to consumers' cell phones.
Jan 01, 2007

Nihal Mehta
Bigger doesn't always mean better. Thanks to the ever-expanding cellular phone market, pharma companies can now deliver product information to the pint-sized device consumers rely on the most—their cell phones.

The strategy is mobile marketing: the use of cellular technology to deliver targeted healthcare information and sample coupons to portable devices. Much like e-mail campaigns, mobile marketing is a permission-based tool that allows users to opt in (or out) to receive promotions via their mobile phone. This approach is paperless and scalable, and allows companies to build one-to-one relationships with customers.

Given that more than 210 million Americans currently own cell phones, and wireless networks have become faster and more efficient over the years, mobile marketing is becoming a viable option for pharma. Potential benefits include boosting customer acquisition and brand loyalty, and increasing customer compliance and retention.

Reach Out and Text Someone

With the push for integrated campaigns, marketers are including mobile media as part of their strategic programs. Mobile information can be woven into most advertising media, including television, radio, retail point-of-sale, billboards, and online. With the incentive of either gaining valuable information or perhaps entering a contest, consumers send a short text message to a five- or six-digit phone number embedded in the promotional materials. These messages can be customized words that relate to the company, brand, or service. Another strategy is to offer mobile coupons, or mCoupons, that can be sent directly to a cell phone.

The key to a successful mobile marketing campaign is to integrate the text message and phone number in all related advertising material, much like you would list a Web site or traditional phone number. By including the option to text for information, you increase the chance of interactivity between a brand and consumers. This strategy also drives consumers to opt in to receive future promotions and information by phone or e-mail.

A (Smart) Phone Campaign

A few pharmaceutical companies have already jumped on the mobile-marketing bandwagon.

Pfizer successfully incorporated mobile outreach as part of its nationwide integrated-marketing campaign to promote Lipitor. The company placed posters advertising mCoupons for trial drugs in more than 20,000 doctors' offices. Patients redeemed a 30-day free trial by calling a toll-free number and pressing the "1" key to request that the mCoupon be sent to their mobile phone. Once users received the mCoupon, they could present the text message, along with their prescription, to a pharmacist and receive a free Lipitor trial. Using mobile technology, Pfizer received detailed metrics, including the total number of calls received and how many mCoupon messages were sent. The data helped the company gauge the success and acceptance of the promotion.

With mobile coupons, consumers can receive free drug samples just by showing a text message to their pharmacist.
"By incorporating mobile into our larger marketing efforts, we are able to reach a motivated audience who can speak to their physicians and try Lipitor," says Pfizer marketing manager Emad Abdelnaby. "With mobile coupons we have lower costs and significantly better measurability than we would running the same program with paper coupons."

And Pfizer isn't the only Big Pharma company to engage in mobile marketing. Johnson & Johnson aired an Acuvue commercial during the MTV Video Music Awards that invited viewers to text WIN to MYEYE (69393). By doing so, they were entered in a contest to win a trip to next year's awards and receive an mCoupon for a free trial of Acuvue. More than 70,000 viewers responded to the single airdate of the ad.

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