Unsolicited bulk e-mail is competing with the messages that companies are sending. More than 80 percent of consumers deal with their cluttered inboxes by deleting all messages from people they don't know.
In 1894, a druggist named Asa Candler created coupons for Coca-Cola, a new "healthcare" product with "valuable tonic and nerve stimulant properties." After that early start in medical products, coupons developed as a marketing medium and were widely adopted by the consumer packaged goods industry. According to the Promotion Marketing Association's Coupon Council, 336 billion coupons were distributed in 2002, which were redeemed for approximately $3 billion in consumer discounts. Now, more than a hundred years after their debut, consumers are clipping coupons for prescription pharmaceutical products.
For most pharmaceutical companies, e-mail marketing is like the odd "uncle" that's only seen at family gatherings-no one is sure who he's actually related to. Product managers fund some e-mail initiatives, but they fail to integrate the online strategy into the overall marketing mix.