Alternative Media: Interactive=Integration

Interactive technology allows marketers to keep up with the demands of both physicians and consumers.
May 01, 2006

Stephen Wray
Within The Last Five Years, nearly every aspect of the pharma industry has been re-engineered to accommodate a world of rapidly evolving technologies and increasing consumer and physician needs. Significant changes in the definitions of sales, marketing, education, and customer relationships have necessitated ongoing and dramatic revisions in the way we approach communication with all core customers. Along the way, information and an increasing recognition of the importance of communications in determining health outcomes have become critical components to the valuation of medicines.

One of the most challenging aspects of this metamorphosis is the sheer speed at which customers' communications needs and behaviors are changing. Both professional and consumer audiences have become much more sophisticated—and much more demanding—about their interface with the industry. Gone are the days when these audiences were relatively passive, waiting for pharma to bring its messages to them. Years of Internet connectivity, wireless technology and direct media have spawned an on-demand mindset in a new generation. The customers have spoken: They want greater flexibility, more individualized information, and more relevance and credibility in pharma-driven communications.

This has made the pharma marketer's job much more difficult. Media is more fragmented than ever; sales-force access to professional customers continues to deteriorate; physicians' receptivity to long-revered promotional methods is diminishing; and consumers are expressing an emerging level of skepticism regarding the promotion of medicines in the mass media. Change is never easy, but pioneers can identify solutions that are not only different, but also markedly better from those they have relied on in the past.

Silos, Silos Everywhere
In the pharma industry, such marketing pioneers have used new technologies to redefine—or "e-define"—their approach to healthcare marketing, education, and communications from an interactive core. Rather than simply creating impressions, they are gaining competitive advantage by forging sustainable relationships with their core audiences.

Interactive & Integrated

Global industries, such as automotive and retail, have successfully positioned interactive marketing and the Internet at the core of their overall communications mixes. Pharma has begun to realize the distinct advantages of this model, but many companies still face internal marketing bureaucracies that have siloed their marketing functions into various groups (see "Silos, Silos Everywhere"). Interactive marketing traditionally has been just one more of those silos, largely separated from the brand practice. This environment cannot keep up with the changes taking place in the industry. A complete overhaul of philosophy and vision will have to take place.

It begins by moving the interactive component to the core of the brand marketing strategy. This elevates its strategic role and amplifies the reach and ROI of traditional brand marketing strategies. An interactive core also improves links between consumer and professional communications, and creates a better balance between promotional and educational content. As a result, e-marketing serves to integrate formerly disparate communications channels—such as clinical development, opinion leader interface, conventions and congresses, public relations, and organizational alliances. This has far-reaching implications for the industry at large, since marketing, educational, and collaborative communications extend from Phase II product development across all stages of lifecycle management.

Forming Relationships On Demand

Healthcare professionals are caught between two seemingly incompatible and insurmountable pressures on their practices: managing their time more efficiently in order to improve productivity, and digesting an unprecedented amount of clinical, economic, and regulatory information to improve their practices' quality. Pharma marketers can help them balance these two pressures by moving to a consultative role. Rather than being viewed as an intrusion, industry communications must better align with the needs of the professional audience.

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