David J. Winigrad, The Hal Lewis Group

Nov 03, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive


David J. Winigrad
EVERYONE IN OUR INDUSTRY risks being left behind by the revolution already underway as digital media enables new and different conversations between companies and different stakeholder groups.

It is tempting for us, as medical marketers, to lament what we perceive as a loss of personalization as sales forces are cut back and detailing budgets are slashed. But we needn't mourn the loss of the personal touch; rather, we should acknowledge that technology is redefining what is personal—and creating new and exciting opportunities for conversations.

We are doing our clients a disservice if we aren't actively considering the implications of emerging communication channels like YouTube, text messaging, and instant messaging; virtual worlds like Second Life; and other platforms that we haven't even imagined yet.

Pharma's focus is, rightfully, not on expanding the frontiers of emerging communication technologies—the industry has other frontiers to pioneer—but we, as marketing consultants, can create value for our clients by helping them understand the new ways in which their stakeholders are communicating, and will communicate in the future, and how they can leverage technology to achieve their objectives.

NEED TO ADDRESS NEW PARADIGMS

Pharmaceutical companies who don't recognize that technology has completely changed the paradigm that once governed the way they communicate with physicians and other stakeholders will be putting their futures at stake.

We used to wonder if and when physicians would adopt the Internet and related technology. Now one is hard-pressed to find a practice that doesn't use a Web site for communicating with patients. And more than 70 percent of US physicians surveyed by Cap Gemini Ernst and Young reported that the information they find online influences their knowledge, diagnoses, prescribing habits, and patient interaction. The convergence of physician acceptance of the Internet and the pharmaceutical industry's need to allocate resources efficiently and effectively, combined with the exponential growth of bandwidth, has created an inflection point from which there is no turning back.

Pharma used to ask: "If we build it, will they come?" But that is no longer an operative question. Rather, it is: "Now that they've arrived, are we giving them what they need from us?" The industry has no choice but to seize the many opportunities that new technology represents.

THREE MAJOR BUCKETS

The pharmaceutical industry is facing challenges that, broadly speaking, can be divided into three major buckets: economic, technological, and political. Here are a few of the major trends we see in each area:

  • Economic The cost of bringing new drugs to market has never been higher, and will continue to rise. Concurrently, we are entering an era of specialty medicine during which we'll see far fewer new blockbuster drugs brought to market. Those two forces will put pharma ROI right between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
  • Technological Digital communication is revolutionizing the way pharmaceutical companies communicate with their stakeholders and how those stakeholders communicate with each other. Pharmas will see their ability to control messaging continue to weaken. At the same time, technological advances are providing nimble, low-overhead niche players with drug-development tools they can use to go up against the big players.
  • Political If a Democrat takes up residence in the White House in January 2009, we will see renewed attention to healthcare costs, and pharmaceuticals in particular.

VALUE AND TRUST

The foundation of a successful relationship between a marketing consultant and client rests on the twin pillars of value and trust. Value will be realized if the collaboration has the desired impact and outcome; long-term trust then will be built on mutal respect.

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