Think Digital First

Apr 01, 2012

You would think that in this day and age-20 years after Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML-that digital competency would be well established in the world of advertising and marketing. But you would be wrong.

Bill Drummy
According to a study by the CMO Council, only 9 percent of senior-level marketers think that traditional ad agencies are doing a good job of evolving their capabilities for the digital age. Despite the objections of my own impatient and opinionated staff, who argue that everyone knows how important digital is and doesn't need to be told, it seems, in fact, that not everyone in the industry who proclaims digital cognizance has gotten the tweet. So I will lay out the case of why a digital-first approach to pharma marketing is dramatically more effective than traditional marketing. And for good measure, move us over the 10 percent threshold of competence.

Now, you might accuse me of tremendous conflict of interest. As head of a natively digital marketing agency, it's certainly in my interest to proclaim that a digital-first approach is superior, and that natively digital agencies like mine have a meaningfully higher understanding of how digital works than do traditional agencies who have attempted to bolt on an interactive capability to their unidirectional core competency.

But the fact that it's in my interest doesn't mean that I'm wrong. It just means that I have to work harder to prove my case.

I say "digital first"—but by that I don't mean "digital only" or even "digital mostly." I actually mean digital first in three ways:

1) Digital can give you better insights faster if you deftly use advanced technology-enabled strategy tools;

2) Digital can give you higher ROI by exploiting the medium's unique ability to reach healthcare consumers at critical consumer and HCP decision-points—so it should be the first place you spend your marketing dollars; and

3) Unlike other channels, digital makes possible a sequential conversation with a consumer, caregiver, or HCP. It is a great first step towards building a long-term relationship of value with your targets.

The Power of "Knowlagility"

Faster insight mining is an aspect of an overall approach to creating competitive advantage in the digital age that I refer to as "Knowlagility"—i.e., the agile deployment of advanced knowledge tools to gain competitive advantage.

In our digital age, particularly since the explosion of social media, it's possible to acquire a depth and subtlety of awareness about what your customers think and feel that's never been possible before—if you know how to use the digital toolbox with agility.

These technology-enabled strategic tools allow you to analyze the unmediated comments and behaviors of your customers, helping brands develop compelling, campaign-shaping ideas much more quickly than by using 'traditional' approaches. Gone should be the days when it took an agency a year or more to arrive at a differentiated positioning for a brand launch. With a digital-first strategic approach, that time horizon can be realistically compressed to a few months.

For example, for one of our clients in the hemophilia category, our digital tools uncovered a powerful insight about the target audience. The primary audience was teenage boys, and our analysis of the online conversation revealed that these kids harbored a deep, lingering resentment about the pharma industry dating back to the perception of industry complicity in the tainting of the blood supply that occurred decades earlier—before the teens were even born. This surprising insight led to dramatically different positioning than the brand had been considering, and indeed a radically bolder campaign than would otherwise likely have been conceived.

And, significantly, the value of these insights is not limited to the online channel. The insight about how boys with hemophilia relate to their disease and to manufacturers has far broader implications than simply how to go to market digitally; they apply equally to every other way in which the audience is addressed. So unearthing an insight through digital-first provided value all the way across the marketing spectrum.

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