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Online strategies aren't monolithic; each must meet the particular goals of the brand in question, and serve the knowledge needs of a specific disease state. That said, experts agree on many of the fundamentals-the 5 "I"s of Internet marketing:
Online strategies aren't monolithic; each must meet the particular goals of the brand in question, and serve the knowledge needs of a specific disease state. That said, experts agree on many of the fundamentals—the 5 "I"s of Internet marketing:
1. IMMEDIATE SEGMENTATION
5. INVESTMENT MEASUREMENT
AMID ALL THE HULLABALOO about the rapidly changing world of pharmaceutical marketing, many an expert is declaring the Web the logical alternative to some of the marketing techniques that have helped damage the industry's image.
Bob Harrell shire
Granted, it won't take much to convince the American public that an information-rich Web site might be a tad more useful than TV commercials featuring fungal dwarves, horny devils, or sniffling bumblebees. And the role of the Internet as an educational channel for healthcare information is already well established.
But all the talk begs one question: What actually works online? It's not enough to say, "Pfizer, Unilever, and Ford are investing major dollars online, so we'd better move more of our budget into this channel." Because if pharma marketers and their agencies shift their weight online with the same dexterity they displayed with TV ads, they may well fall flat on their faces. (Making that bumblebee sneeze in Flash isn't going to do much to improve the image of drugmakers.)
So what really will help marketers reach the right people through the online channel—effectively and appropriately?
"PEOPLE VISIT PHARMA product Web sites for many different reasons," says Jeremy Schneider, senior manager of e-marketing at Forest Labs, who oversaw the design and construction of Lexapro.com, Namenda.com, and other major sites for the company. "So it's important to organize the information on the site so it speaks to the specific educational needs of each audience.
"People who are taking your medication are looking for information that will help them get the best results," says Schneider. "Other people are looking to become better educated about the disease. And still others are considering treatment and need specific product information. You don't have a lot of time to connect with each of these audiences. That's why you need to immediately make that connection on the home page, and take each audience down the path that's right for them."
Perhaps the most dramatic differences between the Internet and other media involve user choice and flexibility: On the Web, you don't have to force a visitor down a path that's not specifically of interest to him. In that sense, the Web is a medium of mass personalization.
"For me, the most important thing is dropping people into some sort of action relatively quickly," says Bob Harrell, Shire's director of e-marketing, whose team manages the US e-marketing activities for such brands as Adderall XR and Fosrenol. "Some pharma sites are very informational, but they fail to drive the user to any specific action. They're often big jellyfishes of content. Establishing clear, directed, and segmented 'action pathways' on the site is critical. We're in the middle of this process for Adderall XR, redesigning the branded site to make it more directive and relevant for visitors."
The goal for a site like AdderallXR.com is to get a properly qualified user to take a measurable action that leads to deeper brand involvement and, ultimately, a rise in prescriptions. For a patient on therapy, the action might simply be learning the benefits of staying on the medication, and—sometimes more importantly—the risks of dropping off. For someone na to therapy, the action might be taking an interactive screener or downloading a trial coupon; for the person considering switching, maybe the right action is watching a video testimonial in which a patient describes improvement in his condition since using the new drug.
For non-compliant patients, all action pathways lead to the same place: a conversation between patient and physician. And the best sites embed those pathways into the core of their Web strategies.
THERE ARE TWO kinds of integration: integration between online and offline channels (traditional vehicles, such as TV, print, and PR) and integration among a wide variety of online initiatives.
diana caldwell eli lilly
Perhaps the easiest way to leverage a powerful Web strategy is also the most overlooked. It can be expensive to drive traffic to a Web site through online-only mechanisms. Yet, it's virtually cost-free to promote a Web site in a TV commercial or a print ad. So why have so few marketers taken advantage of the obvious synergy between offline and online media? Chalk it up to a couple of all-too-human traits: habit and turf-protection.
Many marketers simply aren't accustomed to thinking about offline media as a stage in a conversation that leads to online relationship marketing. They weren't trained in the digital channel and are simply more comfortable working with media they understand. That's the habit part.
The second reason is less innocent. Traditional agencies have made millions producing high-budget TV commercials and haven't (for the most part) transitioned gracefully online. So there's little financial incentive for them to add online calls-to-action to their media creative, even if it is in the best interest of their clients.
Of course, traditional agencies argue that diverting precious seconds of a TV commercial to promote a Web site confuses the audience and may even distract viewers from talking to their doctors. But the data say otherwise. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 79 percent of Americans with Internet access research health information online, and 66 percent research a specific disease condition.
If we know they're already going online to do research, shouldn't the TV commercial (and magazine ad for that matter) acknowledge this fact and give viewers a clear, compelling reason to receive an intelligently delivered, educational online brand experience? Moreover, wouldn't informing patients of a resource that provides deeper brand information and full fair balance help to address the public's concern that pharmaceutical companies are hiding the truth about their drugs?
In the long run, the traditional agency's minimalist approach to the Web is untenable. Indeed, the industry is beginning to see cases in which integration is done right. One of the best is Wyeth's "Talking to Your Doctor" initiative, starring former Charlie's Angel Cheryl Ladd.
"For women's health, we wanted to make sure that patients had the opportunity to learn about different conditions associated with menopause," says David McGovern, Wyeth's director of consumer communications and e-marketing. "We thought Cheryl Ladd was a great spokeswoman for this audience and this category.
The resulting "Talking to Your Doctor" campaign is perhaps the most well-developed offline and online campaign created thus far in the pharmaceutical space.
"It was a really integrated approach," says McGovern. "There is so much confusion in the marketplace and women are not getting enough information. We wanted to make sure women had enough information to make decisions with their doctor. So the TV and print are designed to raise awareness and drive people to the Web site [www.talkingtoyourdoctor.com] for deeper information. And Cheryl is the common element throughout. She guides you through all the experiences, offline and online."
The second kind of integration involves weaving together the various components of a complex online campaign into a cohesive Web presence.
"Having a single brand.com Web site is not going to do the job," says Peter Espo, former senior manager of neurology marketing at Biogen/Idec, who led the development of a collection of disease and brand Web sites in support of Avonex, Biogen/Idec's multiple sclerosis medication. "You really need three different kinds of properties: the brand.com, of course, but also a disease state Web site, and also a third-party Web site, perhaps supported by an educational grant."
But what about the frequent brand manager's complaint that non-branded Web sites don't drive scripts?
"In response to people who say it's not building the brand, I say it's a continuum," says Espo. "With MS, it's a high-consideration product decision. There is a series of steps that patients have to go through. And you want to be involved with these patients very early on. They won't just go to NMSS.org [the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site]; they will also go to MS ActiveSource [Biogen/Idec's non-branded site] as a trusted source. Our messaging is very much geared towards education and resources, and not branding. But of course we include subtle ways to bridge to the brand."
Bob Harrell of Shire agrees. "It's less about a brand.com Web site and more about deploying a wide range of tactics to reach your customers all across the Web. If you do that effectively, the branded Web site can then serve as the destination for active information seekers and the home base for all your online content."
A WELL-INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN provides health-information seekers with a group of valuable, inter-related properties that help move them along the knowledge continuum toward an informed prescription request. But even the richest content Web sites won't do you much good if a critical mass of your target audience doesn't know about them.
jeremy schneider forest labs
A small percentage of your targets may take the initiative to seek out your brand's Web site. And if you've done a good job of search engine optimization (SEO), they shouldn't have any trouble finding it. But what about the huge swath of your audience that's not necessarily looking for your branded site? That's where immersion comes in. You need to extend your contact beyond the Web site itself into other online avenues; the goal is to immerse your target audiences with your messages wherever they happen to be.
One way to achieve immersion is through paid search—buying keywords on the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.) that your target audience is likely to use when searching for information about a certain disease condition or healthcare concern. So when a person who's been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder types in "ADD" on Google, for example, he would see among the search results a sponsored link for AdultADD.com—a site sponsored by Lilly—along with the natural (unpaid) results. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 62 percent of Internet users don't distinguish between paid and natural search result, so paid search is an incredibly effective way of projecting your message onto the health searcher's radar screen.
Another way to achieve immersion is by reaching out to the people who are not actively searching for healthcare information, but who are active Internet users. With online advertising, you can project your brand's message straight into the Web sites where your targets spend most of their time online.
"One of the critical steps we take with all our online campaigns is to analyze the specific Internet behavior of our target audiences," says Diana Caldwell, e-marketing manager at Eli Lilly, where she works on such brands as Cialis, for erectile dysfunction. "It's not enough just to use offline market research, because people behave very differently on the Web.
"We have to be sure we're delivering relevant messages when and where they surf the Net. If they spend a lot of time at work, they may not want to be seen by a co-worker on an ED Web site. So with Cialis, we knew it was important to place online media on portals and other Web sites we knew they were already visiting."
One of the keys to the success of this strategy was using rich media (video, animation, and interactive techniques) so that the entire brand message was delivered within the advertisement itself.
The Cialis ads took advantage of roll-over tabs, which reveal information when a user moves the cursor across an ad. Presentations about the product are available in relative privacy, since users never have to leave popular sites like CNN.com, MSN.com, Yahoo.com, or any other innocuous site on which sensitive material might be placed.
"With rich media," says Caldwell, "you can deliver a full brand message, plus answer additional questions the consumer might have."
Knowing exactly where to run the ads is another critical component to successful online promotion. "Most ads drive to a brand.com home page," says Caldwell. "But often it makes sense to link them deeper into the site, where highly relevant content exists to continue the conversation started in the banner ad."
Wherever you choose to send your banner traffic, effective online advertising enters the target's stream of consciousness, and begins an interaction that eventually turns into a measurable action.
RICH MEDIA WORKS in online ads because it pushes the brand message into the foreground and gives the Web surfer much greater information depth.
David mcgovern wyeth
But this underlying insight need not be applied only to online promotion. Now that broadband access has reached over 50 percent of home users (and over 90 percent of office workers), techniques that were once considered impractical are beginning to pop up on brand sites all over the Web, for one simple reason: They give Web sites much greater impact.
"Rich media apps are going to become more and more important, because they tie to how people really learn," says Peter Espo. "Not everyone learns from black and white text. We're going to see more video, more Flash, delivered in more compelling ways. The days of having just an image and text on a Web page are over."
"I think rich media approaches are extremely under-utilized," agrees Shire's Harrell. "We have the ability to use Webcasts from thought-leaders, patient testimonials, educational videos, and 3D animations. All of these techniques—if used properly—can make the user's experience much richer."
One of the most significant trends developing within both branded and non-branded sites is the surfacing of rich media elements to the home page. In the past, if a site contained a patient video, or a mechanism-of-action animation, it might be buried three levels deep on the site. But marketers are now realizing that these assets should be prominently displayed on the home page. "It's important that you quickly and effectively illustrate the value within the site," says Schneider of Forest Labs. "From glancing at the home page, the visitor should get a good idea that this is a site with real value for me."
That said, there's a limit to how far pharmaceutical companies should go in using rich media. "The question for me is how intrusive the rich media elements are and whether they are seen as useful—and not annoying—by our customers," says Harrell. "Does it serve a particularly valuable purpose? For example, demonstrating an MOA or a patient testimonial is probably of high value, but recycling the 30-second TV ad? Maybe not so much. The danger is people using it just because they can, not because they are serving a particular marketing goal or user need. There needs to be some reason other than, 'Hey, that's really neat.'"
"From a consumer perspective," says Wyeth's McGovern, "the surge in broadband gives us the opportunity to better educate about the condition, about various therapeutic options, and about compliance and persistence. It allows consumers to quickly find the information and education they need."
IRONIC, ISN'T IT? The Internet is the most inherently measurable medium ever invented (it is, after all, all running on those ultimate measurement machines called computers). Yet, e-business people are forever being asked "How do I prove my ROI?" Marketers have no reliable way of measuring the ROI of their TV commercials or print ads, yet somehow these media seem to be held to a less rigorous standard. Alas, being the new kid on the block, the Web has to prove itself again and again.
peter espo (former) biogen/idec
In response, plucky Internet experts have developed a number of techniques to demonstrate the value of their companies' Internet investments. The most advanced method, known as PBM Matchback, measures the rise in prescriptions among a sample group of Web site visitors. Here's how it works: Third-party companies track the online behavior of panelists who've agreed to have their online activity monitored. Those panelists who've visited a brand site can then be tied to prescribing behavior by means of a PBM match.
The panelist/PBM match technique can be quite effective, but it is also quite expensive. Studies can cost $100,000 or more, and when pharmaceutical companies are spending sometimes only a few hundred thousand dollars on their Web initiatives, it may be hard to justify investing six figures on measurement alone.
Besides, not everyone is convinced that such techniques are entirely reliable. Even with relatively large panels, the data are meaningful only if the brand Web site is receiving relatively high traffic. "It's still difficult to get to that definitive measurement point where you can say the site is driving X dollar volume to the brand," says Schneider.
Instead, Schneider and other practitioners increasingly use other techniques to measure value. "We are implementing intercept studies," says Harrell. In an Intercept study, a random selection of Web visitors is asked to fill out a brief online survey. "We capture self-reported data on 'intent to act' and then re-contact a sample of the survey takers to see if they actually took the action, such as visiting the doctor."
Lilly has employed similar techniques on Cialis.com—and seen the return. "Of course we can't reveal exact results," says Caldwell, "but we've learned that a well-designed and integrated online campaign can definitely have a positive impact on the brand."
Several experts point out that it's important not to look at just the quantity of site visits. "I would like each patient or potential patient to find the necessary information that will help them have the best dialogue with their healthcare professional," says McGovern. "What do I have to do to maximize the relationship for the benefit of the doctor and the patient?"
Rounding back to the first four principles (immediate segmentation, integration, immersion and impact), investment measurement really comes down to how well you can determine whether the right people are taking the right path leading to the right action. "In the end," says Harrell, "there are just a few key actions we're trying to drive. So we need to focus on measures of success that capture how effectively we are driving those people to those actions."
As these marketers have learned, a cleverly executed Internet strategy can be extremely effective by the measures that matter.
"The online channel," says Schneider from Forest, "provides a marketer with the ability to target detailed information to the patients and caregivers who really want the knowledge, as opposed to a TV spot, where you may get 30 seconds with a far broader audience. Online is extremely efficient."
And how does that efficient, well-measured online strategy fit into overall brand strategy?
"You have people," says McGovern, "who run in different directions: 'This is my strategy in this channel. This is my strategy in that channel.' We don't do that. We say, there is one brand strategy, and we need to accomplish that strategy in the Web channel."
Bill Drummy is chairman and CEO of Heartbeat Digital. He can be reached at email@example.com