Spend Trends: A $20 Billion Bill and Plenty of Change - Pharmaceutical Executive


Spend Trends: A $20 Billion Bill and Plenty of Change

Pharmaceutical Executive

While it's tempting to navigate by a single number, say, ROI, there are no mechanical answers. It's important to remember, as Gascoigne says, that "different forms of promotional activity have varying impact in different markets and at different times in the product lifecycle." The optimal strategy uses every available element as part of a unique solution. "Pharma marketing," he says, "is about total brand communications—all forms of promotional activity working together across disciplines to develop synergy for the brand. It's important to continually leverage and coordinate every communications channel to maximize awareness and reinforce key messages."

Hey,big spenders
This is a tall order, and with budget constraints, Gascoigne says, "there is greater pressure to get the promotional mix right the first time."

This places a premium on comprehensive data, analytic brainpower, and a holistic perspective. McLaughlin says the pharma industry is "looking for help from third parties to put the various data streams together to make sense of things." She believes the industry needs "an end-to-end solution that puts the pieces together in a systematic way, one that doesn't exist now in a turnkey solution. So you're going to see, on the vendor side, people trying to figure out how they partner with other people, how they cooperate to provide multiple data sources from multiple companies to pharma."

You'll also see greater and more sophisticated "application of the behavioral sciences to messaging," Devereaux says. "If you understand which of your segments you're never going to reach—who is so far at the beginning of the adoption curve that getting them to where they're willing to talk to a physician about a drug is not worth your spend—then you're going to be able to home in on truly receptive people." Another goal would be "understanding what small moves we need to get people to make to get them over the fence." McLaughlin agrees: "The industry has to better understand the attitudes and values of its customers. That means better segmentation, not just of physicians but consumers." She says there's a tremendous opportunity to segment physicians psychographically, that is, by how they perceive different types of promotion. That could be the way to make sales forces more effective. "You could have a much more complex and targeted delivery." The issues are: "How do we get that information to reps without overwhelming them? And how do we measure it to see if it's resonating and turning into actual prescribing?"

What might help, McLaughlin says, is "continuous tracking of metrics so when you find a problem, you can dig deeper and take immediate corrective action, particularly on things like physician attitudes and messaging." Marketers should be able to know moment to moment whether such metrics are believable, important, or relevant. Until recently, she says, not many companies monitored these kinds of data with the same fervor with which they collected prescription data. Says McLaughlin: "We spent a lot of time in the '80s and '90s perfecting physician-level data. Today that's very robust. The industry understands who, what, where, and when. Now it's about why."


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