How Soon is Now?
All that aside, the truth is that these new marketing tools represent less than two percent of the total marketing budgets
of most pharma companies. But how long will it be until a generation weaned on the Internet displaces the Baby Boomers as
the key drug purchasing market? Two, maybe three decades?
"Pharma is correctly being conservative right now because social media channels are the water that people under 30 are swimming
in; but people under 30 aren't your prime drug market right now," says Melanie Oates, director of undergraduate business programs
for the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. "People my age are using Facebook, but they're just now getting their
fingers into it. E-mail, however is in late majority and everyone is doing search. Pharma has to decide where it should properly
spend its money."
Oates compares the current trends in pharma marketing with Lilly's health education outreach for Prozac in the late 1980s.
At first, consumers were fearful of treating depression with drugs. But through smart conversations, Lilly was able to change
minds about the positive aspects of the treatment.
"This is where social media can be useful," Oates says. "You can put something on YouTube to raise public awareness and the
kids might see it and the adults might not, but someone in the media will see it, and then it becomes buzz and gets on the
nightly news—that's when grandma sees it. After that, it becomes conventional wisdom because its multigenerational."