Harbingers of Change - Pharmaceutical Executive


Harbingers of Change

Pharmaceutical Executive


Marketers Get Personal With DTC Strategies

Today, marketers in every industry are aiming for "extreme personalization," or the ability to take the right action with the right individual through the right channel at the right time. One German department store employs "smart mirrors" in dressing rooms that read RFID tags on apparel and make suggestions for complementary purchases. While there may be no immediate parallel in pharmaceutical marketing, companies are using technology and information sources to improve direct-to-patient communication.


IMS observed a significant change in the promotion strategies of the top 25 pharmaceutical companies in 2007: For the first time, DTC spending reached over 40 percent of promotional expenditures in the US. This strategy was adopted across a broad range of therapeutic areas, including specialist-oriented product classes. This shift in the industry's promotional mix was magnified by a sharp decline in professional spending made possible by sales force reductions. And combined spending on professional journal advertising and detailing efforts declined by 7.4 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, consumer spending remained relatively constant.


Brand marketers are beginning to view patients as an audience of equal value to prescribers. As a result, they are shifting from a low-cost, mass media patient-acquisition model to a more expensive customer-management approach that should lead to improved profitability.

Since growth is slowing for major brands, marketers are increasingly turning to more targeted forms of promotion, with the goal of increasing patient compliance and persistence rates. Marketers' interest is being rewarded with a growing number of patient-marketing channels becoming available. This proliferation of choices has made media selection and resource allocation riskier, since these new channels have no long-term history.


Regard for the patient as an equal promotion priority will likely continue at least for the next decade. And given a downturn in the number of product launches, look for a continuing trend toward spending in relationship programs. For the marketer, this has many repercussions:
Spending: Spending per patient will increase, at least initially, on costly relationship-building tactics. Companies will be challenged to select the right consumer mix and allocation levels—a feat more difficult than getting professional promotion right. Companies must identify and implement new patient-based insight sources, analytics, decision-making tools, and tracking systems.
Messaging: Companies will begin to focus on the lifetime value of patients rather than the total number of prescriptions. Consequently, programs will emphasize improved patient adherence. The use of health economics techniques to demonstrate product value may also become an important communication topic. Evidence-based value messages to consumers will be different from the highly scientific presentations to medical and managed care audiences.
Execution: Now that investment in consumer promotion is on equal footing with professional promotion, companies will need expanded commercial capabilities to realize productivity gains. Marketers also face the complex task of integrating patient and professional marketing campaigns to achieve spending synergy and to reinforce brand position. Companies must consider how best to calibrate payer influence on their DTC efforts; commercial organizations need to consider how to move from traditional brand-centric promotion strategies to a "whole patient" approach.
Measurement: Return on investment in consumer promotion is likely to be more variable than with professional promotion. New metrics of promotion and strategy effectiveness are required to assess how brands align with patient needs and behaviors relative to their competitors. Pharma has an opportunity to create more informed consumers, and to demonstrate the value of their products in a personalized format. Whereas personalized medicine may not come as fast as originally believed, "personalized promotion" is already here.


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Stereograms, a kind of eye-teaser, are featured weekly in many newspapers around the world. They test viewers' ability to stare at a two-dimensional pattern until a 3-D image magically appears. The trick to seeing the "prize" is a matter of training the eye to get past the visual intricacy of the pattern. Eventually, with the provisions of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA), a wealth of data on drugs' use by and impact on 100 million people will be open to groups beyond manufacturers and regulators.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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