Connected Markets, Rob Dhoble

Jul 03, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Rob Dhoble
It used to be that pharma companies had one marketing strategy for the United States and other developed nations, a second strategy for emerging countries, and a third, mostly focused around access, for the developing world.

But the problem with that plan, says Rob Dhoble, president of Diversified Agency Services, which houses the Omnicom Group's healthcare agencies, is that it ignores how global markets are becoming more connected. While the industry has been busy playing defense to issues such as reimportation and parallel pricing, companies have largely fallen behind in maximizing the opportunities that come from working in a smaller world, where healthcare markets are dynamic and influence one another.

Dhoble's job is to help Omnicom agencies connect their clients to customers in global markets. However, he sees a fundamental change coming—where companies must learn what it means to truly think globally.

In the past, companies have had difficulty executing global brands. Do you see that changing?

I do, because the landscape is changing. I believe we will see more of a "one-world market" because it'll be harder to do clinical trials that ignore key countries, either because of genetic differences or just local policy. It'll also be harder to have different tiers of pricing. And as the market becomes more connected in those respects, the cost of promotion actually trickles down because companies will develop more holistic campaigns with the world in mind.

Recommended Reading: Oxymorons, by J. D. Kleinke
The campaigns will still require customization to make them more relevant, but companies will eventually have a different architecture for marketing—that extends to the way they are actually organized. And I think what you'll see is a more coordinated, worldwide platform not just for marketing and sales, but for R&D and for regulatory because of the harmonization opportunities that are slowly coming, primarily between Japan, Europe, and the United States.

How can companies carve out an identity for themselves in a global market?

It's hard to be at the top of any drug company today because it can be a full-time job just working the defensive agenda, justifying yourself. But companies need to know what they stand for.

I do think, one by one, companies are figuring this out. And it's not just the sum of their drugs—but rather what they stand for in terms of the larger stakeholder population. You're seeing pharma companies starting to stand up and say, "We represent the pediatric population. We represent patients' rights in the survival for cancer. We represent female health. We're looking out for you, ma'am."

Companies can certainly express this ideal through corporate advertising. But I think corporate advertising for the sake of just doing it stopped a long time ago. Instead, companies need to use it to clarify and to really engrave in people's minds the position that they want to take—and it can't just be that they want to increase the price of their drugs.

These are straightforward messages. But at the same time, it almost feels that what companies are doing and how they are organized is becoming more complicated.

Part of that is that we're seeing more partnerships as more single groups try to solve more social problems.

lorem ipsum