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2014: The Year of Digital Pharma?


2014 might be the year that pharma finally has to get really serious about digital, at least if the analysts are right. Peter Houston reports.

2014 might be the year that Pharma finally has to get really serious about digital, at least if analysts at Forrester Research are right. Peter Houston reports.

A Forbes outline of Forrester’s top technology trends for 2014 and beyond says digital experience delivery can now make or break a firm. The report says, “A great digital experience is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a make-or-break point for your business as we more fully enter the digital age.”

So what do you really need to be doing next year to deliver a great digital experience?


There may be something of a Big Data backlash developing, but you need to get beyond that because data isn’t going away any time soon. Quality data helps marketers target their messaging, and the trick next year will be to focus on the insights you can derive rather than simply collecting numbers to crunch. As Martin Rennhackkamp, CIO of South Africa’s PBT Group puts it, “Businesses need to get smarter with their data.” What does that mean? More data visualisation, more accurate analytics, more user-friendly presentation of results for commercial users. Remember that NewVantage C-suite survey reported in Forbes showing big data spending going up and up? The burning issue for those executives was analytics; 70 percent highlighted the need to “accelerate analytical processes” and develop “more sophisticated analytics”.

This year, content marketers struggled to make enough content. Next year they need to think harder about making sure the content they create is actually seen by the right people; a subtle shift in the idea that content marketing is primarily an inbound marketing discipline. In ‘Put Distribution At The Heart Of Content Marketing’, a Q4 report by Forrester senior Analyst Ryan Skinner, brands are told they could actually get better results by creating less content and spending more time on distribution. To make his point, Skinner quotes Buzzfeed’s Jonathan Perelman: “Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.”

Building your brand’s digital personality will continue to be important as the online audience gets to know you, but what you say will matters as much as how you say it in 2014. Brands are now looking to lead with education, not conversation. Having figured out that to build audience and extend brand reach, it's better to focus on delivering targeted educational content on a regular basis. For Pharma marketers trying to develop engagement with patient and HCP communities online, just being on social media isn’t going to be enough next year. You need to get back to thinking about creating educational content that will engage beyond the Tweet or the Pin.

Wasn’t 2013 the year of mobile? Yes, and every other year since the launch of the iPhone. 2014 won’t be any different – even with US smartphone penetration at 60 percent and one in three UK households owning a tablet, growth is set to continue. The big change is that mobile advertising is maturing. Less people will be doing apps, just because; too many downloaded, but unused apps will focus marketers back on user need rather than the do-it-to-be-cool ethos that has predominated in the last couple of years. And it’s not just apps you need to worry about – ‘Queen of the Net’, Mary Meeker reports that 13 percent of all Internet traffic now comes from a mobile device, up from 4 percent two years ago. You need to make all your web content mobile friendly if you haven’t already.

Expect video to be bigger in Pharma marketing next year, but only in dollar terms, not attention spans. Mediapost recently reported “analysts are beyond bullish about digital video in 2014” referencing a Magna Global forecast, which put video at a 20 percent CAGR in ad dollars through 2018. New mobile devices and internet-connected TVs are driving the growth. But make sure you keep your videos brief. On tech analysis site memeburn.com, Mark Saunders offered up his seen top digital marketing trends to watch in 2014 and he led with the rise of short video noting that he always looks at the length of the video before deciding to watch. “Anything more than three minutes and I am not usually interested.”

Real-time marketing
Next year’s big marketing buzz might very well be Real-time. If you haven’t heard of RTM yet, it’s basically all about breaking out of the campaign mentality and marketing in response to, and anticipation of, customer reactions. Sound scary? Well for Pharma it probably is; words often associated with RTM - agile and nimble - don’t sit easily with the sector’s traditional campaign-led approach. That’s probably why Ash Rishi at UK agency Couch couldn’t find any examples of Pharma RTM this year. But now that he’s written an introduction to RTM for the sector, you can be first in 2014.

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