The New Four P's of Marketing

Dec 09, 2009

Until relatively recently, pharmaceutical marketers “owned” the relationship with the Four P’s: product, placement, price, and promotion. It was straightforward: Develop a product, place it through a direct-to-physician distribution channel, set the price, and promote it via high-dollar physician events.

But these P’s have shifted their nexus. While product development may still be in the pharmaceutical company’s hands, the other P’s are not. Regulatory constraints have taken placement out of the pharmaceutical marketer’s control. Price is under pressure from managed care and comparison shoppers. And promotion is no longer “directly” anywhere … it’s directly everywhere. Pharmaceutical marketers have lost control.

Merely driving demand doesn’t work anymore. The key to success in this new marketing landscape is a shift from a pharmaceutical-driven, push-based model toward a pull-based model, where desire for information and education drives action on the part of consumers and medical professionals.

Powering this shift is a set of new P’s: predictive analysis, personalization, peer-to-peer networking, and participation. These P’s revolve around the packaging, understanding, and commoditization of information.

Several pharmaceutical companies are making attempts at the new Four P’s, boldly stepping into this new paradigm with great success. Here’s how pharmaceutical marketers are using them to benefit patients, physicians, and profits.

Predictive Modeling
This statistical method of predicting future behavior gives pharmaceutical marketers the insight they need to know when, how, and with what message to “intercept” the patient, depending on where he or she is in the treatment cycle.

For example, it is understood that acne sufferers generally follow a highly predictable treatment protocol: self-treatment-OTC-OTX-prescription. Predictive modeling allows marketers to maximize patient value by understanding where the acne sufferer is in that lifecycle, and accelerate the time to prescription treatment. For pharmaceutical companies, the result is a compressed sales cycle, and for acne sufferers, the result is delivery of the most relevant information at every stage.

One specialty dermatology company’s prescription acne treatment brand uses predictive modeling to trigger communications based on a combination of behavioral and attitudinal data points: the sufferer’s demographic profile, acquisition channel, predicted behavior, and place in the treatment cycle.

Communication is customized to address all of these variables. For example, if the sufferer has downloaded a rebate, the company will remind and encourage the sufferer to get to the pharmacy. To encourage compliance, a rebate on a second prescription may include an even more attractive offer than the first.

This program has been an enormous success to date, generating 117,000 rebates in the first six-month measurement period. The campaign drove $2.125 million in direct sales during a nine-month measurement period, with an ROI of $11.30 for every acquisition dollar spent. A full 64 percent of rebate users were OTC users or non-treaters, important targets for the brand.

Personalization
Historically, pharmaceutical companies regarded physicians as their customers. Now, pharmaceutical companies are anxious to leverage brand communications to reach an empowered consumer audience.

Personalized marketing communication uses specific imagery and messaging to enhance relevance. With this technique, a pharmaceutical company can provide vital information to each patient based on demographic profile and phase of treatment, using the most appropriate language and visuals.

In addition to making the patient feel “recognized” by the brand, personalization helps facilitate patient-professional dialogue by prepping patients with relevant questions to ask their physicians. It helps extend post-visit care by reaching patients with relevant messages at appropriate times in the treatment cycle and managing their expectations. This, in turn, helps promote patient satisfaction.

Consider this example of personalization. Another popular prescription acne treatment brand strategy involves personalized online experiences based on segment: parent, teen or adult sufferer, gender, acquisition channel, and previous treatment plan. An eCRM program targeted to teens and their parents begins the cycle. Once registered on the Web site, they can sign up for an ongoing acne education program.

Because visitors identify themselves with a segment, both the ongoing communication and a content-rich Web site deliver segment-appropriate talking points, FAQs, “survival guides,” facts, and treatment tips. The point is to share information in a way that is most meaningful to the individual. Giving teens information and “talking points” alleviates some of the discomfort they may have in addressing this sensitive topic with their parents and physicians.

The site received 850,000+ unique visits in the first six months. It has since built an engaged audience of users who receive ongoing acne education, and pushed a 14.2 percent visitor-to-rebate-registration conversion rate. The organic search channel accounted for 28 percent of all rebate registrations and 78 percent of all rebate redemptions. This indicates (among other things) that the site content compelled visitors to take the desired action—to register for the rebate, obtain a prescription, and fill it.

It’s easy for pharmaceutical executives to buy into predictive analysis and personalization. They are proactive ideas based on proven technology.
However, the next two P’s are newer to the pharmaceutical industry, and are more reactive in nature. They represent an area where information and technology have merged in an exciting, but uncontrolled new way. For pharmaceutical marketers, they can be highly successful, but they should be approached with caution.

Peer-to-Peer
Pharmaceutical marketers have to realize that in this space, it’s all about the disease. It is appropriate to facilitate and monitor peer-to-peer dialogue, but not to overtake it—nor brand it. Once the brand appears, the consumer conversation is over. On the professional side, however, peer-to-peer has a tremendous upside and branding is acceptable. For example, a pharmaceutical company can align with key opinion leaders and create a peer-to-peer relationship between doctors, including specialist to generalist, to help drive understanding and education on disease states and treatments.

One pharmaceutical manufacturer has been successful using peer-to-peer in several ways. In the consumer realm, the company monitors opinion and social networking sites to keep their fingers on the pulse of the market. What are consumers saying about their brands? In what context is a brand being discussed? Are there any reoccurring issues or myths that need to be addressed?

In the professional realm, for a product launch, the company leveraged its association with a highly respected specialist to deliver its message. One very successful tactic was an e-zine in which the specialist discussed the product profile and clinical data, reaching not only fellow specialists but also other frequent prescription writers in the category.

While these programs are difficult to measure, the company is confident that its opinion monitoring is an important and beneficial way to gather consumer intelligence, and its specialist affiliation continues to add credibility to its brand.

Participation
Participation generally helps to define a brand. In the travel industry, it’s easy—share your photos taken at our resort or weigh in on your favorite day trip. In the pharmaceutical industry, however, patients don’t typically want to “participate” with a disease. Patient participation is typically limited to networking and communication built around modern “support groups.” Via online forums, chats, and Web communities, people are most interested in sharing and learning.

For this reason, participation is by far the most difficult of the new P’s for pharmaceutical companies to work with. As with peer-to-peer, the pharmaceutical company’s goal with this P must be focused on the disease state, not the brand.

A pharmaceutical marketer intelligently stepped into the participation waters by offering patients ways to participate in treatment “communities.” The company supports disease-state awareness events, surrounding them with information and interaction opportunities. This is typically done via unbranded Web sites that allow visitors to consume and contribute content. For example, the sites may encourage conversation about the physical and psychosocial aspects of a disease, via online treatment diaries or an FAQ.

The company also launched a program that allows specialist nurses to share best practices and success stories online. It essentially extends the company’s sales force into the office with blogging, roundtables and discussion.

Obviously the traditional Four P’s are still relevant. Yet pharmaceutical marketers must understand the opportunities offered by new Four P’s as well. They are not only effective, but also quick to deploy, cheap to implement, and offer almost immediate results.

It’s an exciting time in pharmaceutical marketing. Information has indeed changed the game. But willingness to play by the new rules is what will push progressive pharmaceutical companies to the next level of success.