The Evolving World of Pharma Marketing


Pharma companies that shift their attention to what providers, payers, and patients are asking for will profit from the growing worldwide market on preventative care.

Pharmaceutical marketing today: It’s about the drugs, not the user

Pharmaceutical marketing is big business and it continues to grow at a rapid rate. In fact, the marketing spend in the pharmaceutical sector has increased by nearly 70% in the past 20 years and now totals nearly $30 billion dollars.1

The question is whether the current approach to pharma marketing will continue to work in the evolving new world of patient advocacy, preventative care, and strong proof of outcomes demands? We believe the future of pharma marketing looks bright.

Those businesses that embrace the power of digital innovation and a customer-first business model will succeed in building more effective interactions, deeper loyalty, and lasting brand preference. Despite the squeeze of cost-control, regulatory restrictions, and global competition, the marketing world of pharma will adapt going forward to focus on the user, not the drugs.

The one-size-fits all approach won’t work anymore

Traditional marketing strategies in this industry have revolved around vigorous product marketing of the prescription drugs that the decision-makers think will make money. Commercial success is attributed to aggressive digital marketing and promotional activity—usually targeted to the physician.2 Responding to the needs and expectations of patients, providers, and payers hasn’t typically been the top goal, but that’s about to change.

The current state of pharmaceutical marketing is complex and usually takes 1 of 2 paths: direct-to-consumer or direct-to-provider/payer. Pharmaceutical firms today don’t normally differentiate between these 2 channels.

They tend to take more of a one-size-fits-all approach. This runs counter to today’s way of thinking, which is all about personalization, customer experience, and targeted omni-channel marketing of the right product, at the right time, to the right user, and using the right media.

The shift to value-based health care has arrived

Our fast-changing market demands more value than ever before from pharmaceutical manufacturers. In this case, value means more cost efficiency, proven patient outcomes, and greater contribution to the overall health care experience throughout the value chain.

Those pharma companies that shift their attention to what providers, payers, and patients are asking for will profit from the growing worldwide market on preventative care. The key will be becoming a key player in the integrated health management model that ties traditional pharmaceutical marketing into mobile communications, and other online platforms for diagnosis and marketing.3

The tight regulatory environment surrounding pharmaceutical marketing continues to be a challenge to providing value-based health care. Notably, there is no evidence to suggest that the regulatory landscape for marketing pharmaceuticals will become clearer and easier any time soon.

An alternative to the heavy regulation of mass-marketing advertising might be found in less traditional, more relationship-focused digital marketing channels that better align with the new environment of patient/provider/payer control, values-based outcomes, chronic disease prevention, the internet as an information gathering tool, and specialized marketing of specialty information to a targeted pool of relevant patients.3

Changing the consumer experience

By 2050, there will be 2 billion people around the world who are over 60 years of age. As well, the number of seniors (65+ years of age) in the United States is expected to double to 100 million by 2060.4 This aging demographic will boost the market for prescription drug treatments to approximately $1.2 trillion by 2024.4 Without a doubt, demographics is a powerful driver of change.

A multi-disciplinary approach to health care

The health care system is responding to the evolving trend toward integrated health management by implementing a multi-disciplinary approach to health care. Pharmaceutical companies are responding with personalized and improved offerings that have been fine-tuned to address patients’ specific needs throughout the health care value chain.5

Health care technology is the key to enabling a patient-centric approach. This approach could perhaps be achieved using predictive analytics tools, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning to help determine which patients are at the highest risk of hospital readmission.

Or it may be mobile apps and wearables to help monitor patients’ at-home recovery. It could be something as simple as packaging information better and more consistently online to accommodate the evolving ways patients research and consume drug information.6

Regardless of which technologies are used and how they are levered, those pharmaceutical companies who insert themselves into this value chain in a meaningful way with patients, providers, and payers, will build value, trust, and loyalty with their constituents. In doing so, they’ll be miles ahead of the pharmaceutical companies who cling to in-person physician visits and sales sampling that worked in the past.

The advent of personalized, omnichannel marketing

As the outcomes-based approach to health care grows in popularity, now is the time for pharmaceutical agencies to benefit from a new personalized, omnichannel approach to marketing. This means enabling different strategies for marketing directly to consumers and in detailing to physicians, as well as payers.

Advanced pharma marketers are moving into precision marketing, which is all about targeting on digital platforms with custom messaging for a specialty segment of consumers who need the information most.6 Others are experimenting with programmatic advertising, which is a marketing tool that automatically optimizes digital campaigns using machine learning, which serves ads to users based on their online visits and behavior.7

To be successful with specialty marketing to smaller segments with custom treatment offerings, an investment in technologies to leverage the power of big data is a prerequisite.

Disruptive technologies in pharma marketing

Patients today require a different approach to addressing their health problems. Mobile technologies, social media, the cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just some of the new realities that are disrupting health care today.8

Savvy pharmaceutical marketers see the opportunity that lies in leveraging tools that can monitor a patient’s health and provide real-time, personalized feedback to help improve outcomes. Making just minor tweaks to the marketing approach, along with taking advantage of disruptive technologies, can have a huge impact on growth and performance.

Unlimited possibilities with personalization and segmentation

For example, a care plan for a Parkinson’s patient could include a “chip on a pill” to monitor drug-taking. This, along with a smartwatch or other sensor to monitor a patient’s condition, could set the stage for more robust engagement with health care professionals.

Other technologies could provide the ability to send reminders about prescribed treatments and appointments. Such services are likely to improve outcomes beyond the need for expensive specialty drugs. Medication will always play a role in improving patient outcomes, but when it is combined with greater personalization and targeting, there’s no limit to what can be achieved.8

A well thought-out strategy for data analytics and segmentation, customer journey mapping, and omni-channel marketing is what drives customer insights, targeted segment nurturing, and actionable insights that form the basis of powerful relationships and unforgettable experiences.

Social Marketing: A New Approach

Social marketing has been successful in delivering public health behavior changes for many years. It is an effective tool in understanding the methods for delivering information in a way that induces behavioral change.

For pharmaceutical companies, this means taking a holistic view of how to market medicine. They can no longer focus solely on the positive or negative health impacts of taking a drug. Instead, they need to delve more deeply into the social, cultural, economic, and ethical impacts of their medicine, and use these insights to personalize their approach to consumers. For example, if a certain group values preventive and community medicine, pharmaceutical companies must devise approaches to target this group, knowing that traditional pharmaceutical marketing won’t work.

The right information for the right channel

Close to 85% of patients believe they can take responsibility for their own health and access the online resources they need.8 Nevertheless, the need for pharmaceutical companies to inform and influence patients and other stakeholders is more important than ever.

The ease of information flow can open up a whole new set of opportunities in marketing. The shift in types of interactions such as virtual care, patient portals, and other online resources can allow pharmaceutical companies to derive value by building advanced digital marketing and engagement capabilities similar to companies in other consumer goods industries.8

As mentioned above, the regulations for this industry are only becoming tougher as the scrutiny on personal data privacy increases. This will be the biggest obstacle for pharmaceutical companies to overcome in the future.

Meanwhile, technological companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook are still able to collect personally identifiable data and present personalized advertisements. Therefore, an industry with a vast experience in collecting personal information such as the pharmaceutical industry needs to leverage the knowledge and expertise in other industries to ensure that protecting consumer data remains a priority.

The Opportunity

In order for pharmaceutical companies to continue thriving, they need to engage with patients, who are becoming more aware of their health and are more focused on holistic health outcomes. This means expanding their offerings and capabilities to beyond drugs with a focus on continuous patient outcomes, using behavioral insights to drive how they market specific drugs, and using the appropriate channels to deliver the right information.

Becoming visible, active partners in consumers’ management of their health might feel like an ambitious target at the moment, but technology evolves fast. In just a few years, the early health tech-adopting pharma companies may have earned the right to sit beside consumers in their homes.

Investing in emerging technologies isn’t without risk. For pharma firms in particular, regulatory considerations do not come without risk. Still, for those firms that embrace the power of technologies and put the customer first, the opportunity is endless.

About The Author

Anton Morrison is vice president, Experience & Design, at Appnovation. He has been creating effective digital experiences and strategies for some of the world’s most recognizable brands for over 20 years. His expertise runs seamlessly through design strategy, user experience, with an excellent track record of effective client relationships.



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