Learning from health consumers online

Research into pharmaceutical marketing published by ORC Guideline has identified trends amongst US consumers that provide encouraging news for UK and European pharmaceutical marketers who operate in a non-DTC environment.

The research, carried out amongst a representative sample of the US population in March 2009 and published in June, focuses on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) environment but includes insights that non-DTC pharmaceutical marketers can apply.

As the report points out, the constantly-changing environment for advertising means that opportunities to interact continually increase:

“With the constant development of new technologies, advertising is reaching interactive dimensions marketers would have never considered even five years ago.”

And in the midst of this evolution, consumers want increasing amounts of information and expect to find it online. As the report states, “consumers’ desire to stay informed motivates them to search for information at multiple levels and to use any available and accessible sources.”

Much of the innovation seen amongst pharmaceutical marketers takes place in the US. To observers in non-DTC pharmaceutical marketing environments (that’s anywhere outside the US and New Zealand), it might appear that US-based marketers have it easy. Merck’s Gardasil Facebook page, for example, could not exist for a European audience.

And it’s true that ORC Guideline’s research found that nearly half of participants felt that exposure to an advertisement enhanced their discussions with their doctors and helped them become more involved in the decision-making process. The most important insight for non-DTC pharmaceutical marketers, however, is that the majority of consumers would rather be exposed to condition-specific messages (as opposed to product-specific).

The implication, then, is that regulatory compliance and successful marketing are not mutually exclusive – even in the UK and Europe. Pharmaceutical marketers who feel that they have had to settle for health-related digital marketing rather than advertising products directly, can now enjoy the insight that what they are already doing is likely to have been the most effective approach.

Of course there are many factors that will affect the success of your pharmaceutical marketing and communications. Whatever approach you take, it is essential to measure the Internet user behaviour resulting from your marketing. To do this, speak with an independent digital engagement strategy consultant.

Daniel Ghinn

Daniel Ghinn is Editor of Healthcare Engagement Strategy and CEO of Creation Healthcare, the online market research consultancy for healthcare. He is a prolific writer and speaker on emerging trends healthcare engagement in the digital age.