Pharmaceutical companies in ‘the world of tomorrow’

The ‘current’ pharmaceutical online

For many pharmaceutical brands, the uncharted waters of online interaction are fraught with regulatory hazards which understandably very few individual employees particularly want to venture near, let alone try to pioneer or start setting new standards.

Some pharmaceutical executives are not necessarily equipped with the complete facts or knowledge to lead their companies into a future of online engagement. The majority have been waiting for someone else to test the boundaries of regulatory bodies, public perception, and competitor backlash.

In the meantime, the [intlink id=”learning-from-health-consumers-online” type=”post”]online health consumer[/intlink] is moving onwards in leaps and bounds, embracing social media tools in order to find appropriate [intlink id=”adverse-event-reporting-in-the-context-of-social-media” type=”post”]answers to their own health and well-being questions[/intlink].

Pharmaceutical brands are now realising that they cannot delay for much longer, and that it is time to join the foray. Knowing where and how to start is another thing altogether. Whilst their creative agencies haphazardly suggest the latest social media fad or trend, justifiably cautious pharmaceuticals are wondering what sound insights will inform their strategic decision-making.

One fundamental aspect of a successful online engagement strategy, is to measure and collect useful data which can be used for benchmarking and for identifying trends in user behaviour.

For a pharmaceutical company, the ‘target market’ is not necessarily as clearly defined as with typical commercial brands. Although it is well known that there is typically a set of messages for Doctors and Physicians, messages for consumers, and a message for journalists, there is also an overarching constraint about which communications initiatives are acceptable and which breach industry guidance.

Unsurprisingly, the ‘current’ pharmaceutical is still in the early stages of [intlink id=”experiment-within-reason” type=”post”]experimentation with online media[/intlink] – preferring to rely on the tried and true art of traditional ‘above-the-line’ messaging.

The ‘future’ pharmaceutical online

Jumping forward in time, the pharmaceutical of the future will have long established online marketing and communications strategies, with engagement at the centre. New rules and regulations will be in some cases enforced and in others relaxed, and the dust will have settled to some extent over the issue of engaging directly with consumers using the Internet.

Most of a pharmaceutical’s communications and promotional budget will have shifted away from above-the-line (as we know it), because the Internet will itself be the primary ‘above-the-line’ medium. For example, television is already converging with the Internet, and Google are even offering Adwords placement for TV programmes in the US.

Targeted behaviour-specific content, cause-related interactive portals, search interception, product placement, and conversation participation will be mainstays of a future communication strategy.

It may be that the Internet will no longer be thought of as a ‘computer connected to a wall’ – but as a piece of wearable clothing, or an in-store billboard, or a house. As is already happening, the Internet will no longer be thought of at all, but rather the focus will centre on the resource and convenience of an instantly searchable and interconnected world.

Most importantly, there will be SuperCallaGigaFlops of data sitting on servers, which will tell a clear story about the human interaction and general perception of the pharmaceutical brand. The history of related current affairs, the impact of a product launch, the discovery of a new compound, a merger or acquisition; all of these events and the consumer’s responses will reside in the data like age-rings in a recently felled tree.

Yet the pharmaceutical of the future will have more than just data residing on computers or in drawers, they will have trained and informed internal resources who are equipped to garner competitive insights which give them an edge. After all, age-rings from a tree are of little insight unless a person has the analytical expertise to read and interpret the trends and variations over time.

“For every leader in the company, there are decisions that can be made by analysis. These are the best kinds of decisions because they’re fact-based decisions.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Such companies will have real-time and continuous monitoring of all that is said and done online in reference to their brand. Their responses will be instantaneous when an event warrants company action – for the entire culture of the company will have understood and integrated with the preferred communication needs of tomorrow’s consumer.

Preparing for the future

The ‘future’ described above is not a far-fetched imagination of a world decades from now. It is very much on our doorstep. Some pharmaceuticals understand that they can win the race by preparing for and embracing the interconnected world now on the ground floor, such that they are positioned to surely overtake their rivals.

So what can be done today?

Start measuring everything and invest some time and effort in ensuring that your marketing and communications team ALL understand how to use and interpret analytic or metrics information. If the extent of your company’s internal reporting consists of ‘Hits’ and ‘Unique visitors’, there is an entire world of insight and strategic direction that already awaits.

Many great free tools are now available, many of which have yet to be implemented in a meaningful way in the pharmaceutical industry.

Unfortunately, relying on external agencies to provide summary sheets of all the ‘positive results’ from a campaign, gives an unnaturally distorted picture and does not provide the opportunity to learn from the areas that could be improved. Tomorrow’s pharmaceutical wants to know both the good and the bad, so that their continuous improvement methodology will enable them to incrementally gain a lead in areas such as positive brand exposure, increased loyalty, positive word of mouth, and so on.

Begin the journey today

This very day, you could influence your company’s intelligence and help to pave the way for informed strategic insights in the future.

  1. Ask a digital strategy consultant to show you how you could take control of your analytics
  2. Book some training for your team so that they ALL understand and can interpret analytics
  3. Conduct a workshop to define the types of goals and strategies which you want to measure into the future

Why not contact us and speak to one of our consultants.

Paul Grant

Paul Grant is Healthcare Engagement Strategist with global consultancy Creation Healthcare, where he leads digital behaviour research studies and advises healthcare clients on engagement strategies. He has been providing strategic insight solutions and professional services to the world's leading biopharmaceutical and healthcare organizations, helping them to find appropriate pathways to engagement within regulatory frameworks.