Direct to Consumer: Information vs. Education - Pharmaceutical Executive


Direct to Consumer: Information vs. Education
Patients need education, and pharma is in the position to provide it.

Pharmaceutical Executive

The Consumer Approach Peter Pitts, senior vice president of health affairs at Manning, Selvage & Lee and former associate commissioner for external relations at FDA, feels education should be a critical component of a well-rounded marketing approach that includes DTC advertising, public relations, and healthcare professional communications. "Brand recognition for a prescription drug does not have the same end result as brand recognition for packaged goods," Pitts says. "Consumers can choose to buy beer, cosmetics, or telephones. Advertising prescription drugs that have serious health consequences and require a doctor's intervention should be approached much differently."

DTC Demographic
On the other hand, consumer advertising still has much to teach pharma. Consumer marketers know how to extensively profile their clients to better tailor their messages and media. For example, they know that margarine is most often purchased by a woman age 40 to 60, who is concerned about heath-related issues, such as osteo-arthritis and menopause. She is also likely to have children or aging parents. She's always pressed for time, and even though she has health on her mind, she doesn't know where to start learning about it.

Here's a real-life example: Robert McNamara is a 70-year-old retired school superintendent who was recently diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a pre-diabetic condition. He lost 20 pounds and started walking daily. Measuring his blood glucose levels after every meal, however, was more of a challenge. He never properly learned how to take the measurement because the instructional brochure for the glucometer was confusing.

Many patients, faced with the same type of dilemma as McNamara, give up on their therapies. But pharma can become part of the solution, much like a roadmap, by using educational signposts, along with the targeting and specificity of consumer advertising.

Educational Marketing Educational marketing is still in its infancy, and the evolution to effective patient-centered education will be a process. But the opportunities to increase a brand's exposure and credibility make it worth the effort.

Teachable moments Companies can use a back-to-basics educational marketing approach, including useful medication-related education. They must be specific and not assume that a consumer will understand "simple" medical concepts. If meds are best taken thirty minutes before a meal, for instance, the label should say just that.

Educational marketing also includes identifying teachable moments. Consumers are most ready to learn about their medications at the time of diagnosis and/or treatment, in the hospital, or after leaving the doctor's office.

Consider the vehicle DTC educational methods must also be understood. FDA's DTC report reveals that audiences that watch a lot of TV respond best to DTC.

Novartis sponsored an educational video designed to motivate compliance with the antihypertensive Diovan (valsartan). Based on focus group findings, the video helped patients understand the terminology of hypertension and its long-term effects on organ function. Also included were medication side effects and coping strategies. The video then addressed other emotional and practical barriers by presenting a series of experiential examples.

Sean Moloney, who served as director of Pfizer's marketing and innovations group before starting his own company, Dramatic Health, believes well-produced video is a good tool for pharma marketers because it can be repurposed in many ways, such as a stand-alone for fulfillment, streamed on the Web, as frame grabs for print, or in doctors' offices on a direct-to-patient TV network.

"The power of video to educate, or to deliver a marketing message, is no secret," Moloney says. "As the best directors in Hollywood and New York have long known, the key is conveying characters and experiences to which the viewer can relate. In the pharmaceutical industry, we rarely see such video content. Infomercials and many other forms of marketing and educational videos can be as ineffective as their text-based cousins—only more expensive."


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