Digital Summit Preview: Improving Brand Engagement

March 18, 2014
Michael Christel

Michael Christel is Pharmaceutical Executive and Applied Clinical Trials' Managing Editor. He can be reached at mchristel@mmhgroup.com.

Pharmaceutical Executive

It’s no secret that the use of digital marketing in the life sciences industry has evolved considerably in recent years. The tools and strategies necessary for pharma brand teams to effectively engage with an increasingly more educated and informed consumer pool are seemingly advancing, or at least being modified, regularly.

It’s no secret that the use of digital marketing in the life sciences industry has evolved considerably in recent years. The tools and strategies necessary for pharma brand teams to effectively engage with an increasingly more educated and informed consumer pool are seemingly advancing, or at least being modified, regularly. Throw in other factors such as changing regulations and converging technologies and it’s easy to see the importance of keeping pace and, better yet, gaining an advantage amid these evolving dynamics.

To that end, the upcoming digital marketing forum, iPharma2014, slated for May 8-9 in New York City, will bring together more than 40 of the top minds in the field to share fresh insights and innovative approaches in area such as brand engagement and patient/physician interaction and relationship management. For a preview of some of the issues and topics that will take center stage, the PharmExec blog will present a series of brief Q&As with a few of the speakers leading up to the event. This week’s discussion is with Dr. Augustine Fou, digital consigliere and founder of Marketing Science Consulting Group Inc. Dr. Fou will be speaking in May on “To D2C or Not to D2C? Examples of Successful Brand Campaigns.”

 

PE: Given the choice of title for your session, is there increased recognition in pharma today of the importance of using D2C over not using it?

Fou: Companies that have historically been B2B – meaning they sell to hospitals or physicians – are now increasingly doing D2C. The main reason for that is consumers are getting more involved in their own healthcare, and so they’re tending to research drugs or hip joints, for example, a lot more than they ever did before. They used to just rely on the opinion of the doctor. Now they believe that they can go do more research themselves.

Those companies that have historically only sold to surgeons or doctors still need to take into account how to educate the consumer about either the procedure, the drug, or the med device that they or their family member is about to get. There are some direct benefits to that. Because traditionally these companies would rely on their channel partners to give feedback to them on what’s working and what’s not.  Now, if they have a direct line to the consumer, they can get that feedback directly right away. That helps them do better planning and better serve their customers.

PE: Part of your talk will focus on the different audiences who can be considered pharma’s customers and what their needs are. Is it increasingly challenging to identify these audiences?

Fou: For sure. The reason for that is now we can get into finer and finer grain and segmentation of customers – just because we have so much more information about them. Before, we would do basically broad buckets – male vs. female, old vs. young, etc. – and that was very typical of advertising as well.  Now, we can no longer so neatly fit consumers into a small number of finite buckets. They have many different characteristics and they care about different things. As those needs and behaviors get expressed online, it’s starting to point to the term “long tail segments” that we need to communicate with.

The evolution that we’ve also seen is that with using traditional forms of media – a print ad or a TV ad – you can’t make dozens of versions of those ads. It’s just the nature of the medium. But in digital, when each of those different segments starts to come online to look for information, you can actually deliver the information that that particular segment is looking for or make sure that they can find it on your website. The best analogy I’ve seen is on your phone. Even if you have the same iPhone as millions of other people, the collection of apps that you have on yours would uniquely make it yours. Your collection of apps might be different from the next person. I think of those as pieces of content on your website. Each person will now be able to come research the things that are of interest to them.

With digital, we can not only identify these new segments, but also better serve them. Even though it may sound counterintuitive – we have so many more new segments, how could we possibly serve all of them? – we now have different tool sets available to us and content that allows us to better serve them. Some of it is almost like self-service; they’ll come on (to a website) and find the stuff that’s of interest to them.

PE: What ultimate message or takeaway do you hope to get across in your presentation in May?

Fou: That D2C is not just a nice to have. It’s really something companies need to proactively jump on right now. Because it’s going to help them further differentiate themselves. Some of the conventional wisdom would be, “Oh, well, because we’re in a regulated industry, we really can’t do it.” To me, that’s kind of a lame excuse now. You got to go do it; it’s going to be an essential part of creating competitive advantage. It could be as simple as creating content that serves the patients’ family members. You typically don’t see that when you’re, say, a med device company. But if you get out ahead of the curve and start creating content for those family members who you know will definitely be looking for more information to inform themselves and the patient, that’s how you can start to differentiate.

It’s almost not (the decision of) to DC2 or not to D2C. It’s that you better D2C, or you better start proactively creating programs that address these additional audiences. Obviously, you’re not going to address all of the audiences overnight, so you still have to prioritize. But it has to expand beyond the typical target that these companies are known to go after.

For information on registering for iPharma2014, click here.

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