Direct to Consumer: Direct Mail, Done Right - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Direct to Consumer: Direct Mail, Done Right
DTC mail pieces get personal to get results.


Pharmaceutical Executive


With the proper privacy provisions, it's also possible to access consumers who haven't opted in. To remain HIPAA compliant, however, DTC mailings to these patients must be distributed by a third-party "covered entity" or "business partner" such as a retail pharmacy or managed care organization to avoid any transference of personal health information. They must also focus on disease education rather than branded marketing messages. Within these criteria, third parties can use specific prescription data, medical data, lab results, and enrollment information to target specific consumer segments for sending "educational" direct mail with a response device. And once patients respond, the information they provide can be used to customize future communications.

Messages that develop relationships. Messages that are targeted can help motivate patients to action as they learn about the product as well as their disease and how to manage it.

For example, when Lilly wanted to reach women who had just passed menopause for Evista (raloxifene), the marketing team found out that much of the target audience was aware of the risk for osteoporosis yet didn't think it could happen to them. So Lilly launched an unbranded direct mail campaign to get women in the target age group to request a free information booklet called "Osteoporosis: Could You Be at Risk?" The campaign used a very personal, first-person messaging approach and a strong memory trigger—the woman in red—as a branding element.

Consistent design, varying formats. The design of a direct mail campaign should remain as consistent as possible with prior list sources and messaging. For instance, if a brand team partners with a retail pharmacy to reach consumers who use the product, the direct mail should look like it's coming from the pharmacy, not the manufacturer. And if it's going to a past responder, each piece should have similar visual imagery and should acknowledge past response. In the case of the successful Lilly campaign, the "Evista woman" also appeared throughout subsequent communications, creating a strong tie between the consumer and the brand.

In addition, using a variety of formats—brochures, Q&As, fact sheets, discussion guides, and CD-ROMs—seems to yield the best results because different consumers relate to different formats.

Response data. Direct mail response can capture additional data to further segment the target audience and customize messages. Combined with the most advanced database technologies, response information can help marketers:

  • identify and gather demographics and psychographics
  • analyze behavior, identify market segments, and rank individuals based on how likely they are to respond to a particular offer
  • use statistical models to predict the probability of response and purchase for future communications
  • evaluate and analyze the response and profitability of each offer and strategy
  • increase the quality of relationships with consumers, and by doing so, increase loyalty and advocacy.

Print-on-demand technologies can now provide cost-efficient customization that makes the time ripe for direct mail to become an integral part of the consumer marketing mix. So leave old perceptions of junk mail behind and consider the ways that direct mail can support a DTC campaign.


Jane Ames
Accounts Schering-Plough consolidated creative for its global pharmaceutical business with Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe. Palio Communications is agency of record for Cephalon's OraVescent fentanyl. Novartis awarded creative chores for four brands—Voltaren (diclofenac) and three OTC medications: TheraFlu, Otrivin, and Triaminic—to Saatchi & Saatchi.


Michael McCarthy
Awards Abelson-Taylor won 34 Awards for Excellence from the Rx Club. Palio Communications collected three Awards of Distinction at the 2004 Creativity 34 competition and two prizes at the 2004 Global Awards.


Carleen Kelly
People Jane Ames, developer of Prilosec's "purple pill" strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi, joins Torre Lazur McCann as president of its newly created Consumer Communications Group. TLM also tapped 30-year pharma marketing veteran Michael Ouimette to be president of its west coast unit in San Diego, previously known as the BioGenesis Group, and appointed Janet Conley associate creative director, copy at the California-based agency. Tina Faschetti becomes senior vice-president, worldwide creative director at Stonefly Communications Group. Carleen Kelly replaces Richard Nordstrom as president of Corbett Accel. The Lanmark Group elevated Michael McCarthy to chief creative officer. Dorland Global Health Communications named Joe Soto general manager of its San Francisco group.

Jay Bolling is executive vice-president of Roska Direct. He can be reached at
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