The world as we know it is changing. Our stakeholder’s way of thinking, and behaving, is changing due to 24/7 access to global information. So how does this impact our industry and what are the opportunities for pharma marketers?
Patients are engaging online around their health, and they expect to be able to engage online with other people and companies in this space. They do not understand why big pharma companies does not engage and this exacerbates the industry’s poor reputation. From a corporate marketing point of view this is an easy win. By accepting social media, rather than avoiding it, companies can start to have a positive impact on their reputation, and build corporate brand value.
This new dynamic is also impacting physicians, who face patients coming to appointments well informed, and with different questions than they used to, for example “is there an app for that”. Here again is a nice win for marketers. Rather than focusing on providing the information that they want physicians to hear, i.e. all about their product, why not look at also providing value by helping physicians with some of these real-world issues? Why not sponsor an assessment of disease apps, or ensure that the physician is kept up to date with what patients are Googling?
Another impact that the digital environment has led to is an increased pressure on people’s time. Marketing now means that you are no longer just competing with another pharma company. You now compete with a whole array of different parties to get a slice of a physician’s time. Give a person the choice to access information when they want and how they want, or to physically sit through a sales call at a specified time and it is a no-brainer which option people will increasingly choose. That is not to say that people will stop choosing the physical meeting altogether but they want a mix of options – and a choice.
Here again that word “value” comes in. As a marketer the way to grab a piece of someone’s time is to deliver value, both in terms of channel preference but also in terms of content. Digital enables us to understand individual’s areas of interest – why not then deliver your marketing information tailored to their preferences?
Of course this costs money, which is an age old problem. Again digital can help. Traditionally pharma marketing has been very siloed, by brand, function and geography. Digital provides the means to break down these siloes and generate cost efficiencies. By working in a more collaborative way, digitally facilitated, companies can reduce waste, for example in asset development and in time. Why should each brand, in each country, produce their own app? Often they have a similar end use and the backbone could be developed jointly and then adapted for local end use.
And this brings me onto the final massive change that digital, and in particular social media, has led to – namely access to information. The amount of information available on our stakeholders online is huge. Despite this I still see teams basing the bulk of their marketing plans on traditional market research with very little social media listening included. Now social media listening is not the be-all-end-all but it should be included. It provides key insights that need to be part of a modern marketing plan, for example where do your customers go for information, what topics are they talking about (and here is a hint – it is probably not about you) and what are their needs. Social media enables pharma marketers to get a better understanding of stakeholder’s emotions and behaviours, and at the end of the day it is emotions and behaviours that impact pharma sales.
Digital is no longer new and it is an integral part of daily life. Companies today should be optimising their marketing to reflect this digital impact and to start offering their stakeholder’s real value.
Last week I had the immense pleasure of chairing the SMI conference on social media in the pharmaceutical industry. I have to admit that I really enjoyed chairing, despite some minor hiccup with some of the name pronunciations (for which I do apologise!).
On the whole I enjoyed it and found the vast majority of presentations really interesting. Not surprisingly Boehringer dominated the event. There was Müge Gizem Bıçakçı Akalın from Boehringer Ingelheim Turkey who presented some great slides on what they have been doing in social media. The first thing, that got lots of raised eyebrows, was their Facebook page targeting women with period pains for their product Buscopan. The page is a profile page for a “retro” female character called … Buce Kopan! To many of us this just seemed so blatantly DTC but apparently this is not seen as such in Turkey and both Buce and Kopan are well known Turkish names. Doing a bit of research I can confirm that there are in fact numerous people called Buce Kopan so perhaps it is not quite as bad – just a tad a risky in my opinion!
The other thing that I thought was fantastic to hear from Boehringer Turkey was that they are integrating their social media into their sales efforts – so they are encouraging sales reps to support the social media campaigns and are rewarding them for their involvement. This to me is taking social media to the next level and it is great to see Boehringer again being a pioneer in this space.
Another Boehringer presentation was made by John Pugh who showed some really interesting research, which I believe Silja Chouquet did for Boehringer, comparing the various pharma social media accounts. There were some interesting points about how number of followers correlates to a degree with company size. Reach however does not – so Novartis has far more followers that Boehringer on twitter but the same reach as Boehringer.
Boehringer is also known for trying things out, and John talked through another example of this with the hypertension Facebook page for HCPs. They had chosen an area where products are soon going off patent – so not a priority brand area – to test how relevant and effective a Facebook page for HCPs would be. So far it looks like this has been a success – with some interesting learnings such as to advertise on the platform you are using rather than on other platforms (i.e. Facebook advert to a Facebook page).
That was not the end to the Boehringer mentions though! I myself used them as a case example when I talked about building relationships with KOL and KOI online. My main points were that there is value in doing this and that there is a clear process to follow. You can see my presentation here:
Gary Monk also spoke about how human Boehringer’s approach to social media is, citing their Facebook disclaimer as a great example, contrasting markedly with Novartis’ very legal and formal disclaimer. Gary also made a great point that Novartis, a company based in Switzerland, a country with four official languages (none of them English) has called out in their disclaimer that they community is English language only. Boehringer of course manages very nicely to deal with multiple languages! You can see Gary’s presentation here.
There were also some great examples from companies other than Boehringer. Sherri Matis-Mitchell from Astra Zeneca presented some really interesting information on how they are using social media listening in R&D. This actually seemed to complement a theme than ran through the event – namely the move of social media from marketing and communicaitons into R&D. There were a few other mentions of the use of social media in clinical trial recruitment. Dr Alfred Steinhardt presented a really interesting case study where social media had been used to reduce clinical trial recruitment down from six months to five weeks. The cost-saving implications for this are huge!
He also mentioned a fantastic example where social media intelligence had unmasked a competitor creating multiple online profiles to negatively influence consumer behaviour via social media groups! Sadly he would not divulge more information on this.
There was also a very brave step by Sanofi to have a lawyer come present at the conference. Audrey Hagege presented on how legal need not be a barrier but should be a partner in social media development. I thought it was fantastic to see someone from legal there and I really have to say hats off to Sanofi for have legal not only attend but also present.
We also had a large presence from the #hcsmeu twitterati. There was @thibaudguymard from Merck who talked about Univadis France and some of the great work they are doing. Having seen Shona Davis present around Univadis from the global point of view last year it was great to see the local point of view.
We then also had a whole array of twitterati present “virtually” through video thanks to my ex-colleague Piotr Wrzosinski from Roche. It brought back many happy memories I must say!
It was also interesting to see such a broad array of social media being presented. Besides the Facebook and Twitter initiative already mentioned there was also a presentation by James Finney from Novozymes around their use of Linkedin and Claire Perrin from Lilly demonstrated an mhealth initiative in depression. I was so impressed with the app that I wanted to get my father to download it to show to my brother (a GP) but sadly I could not find it in on iTunes.
Perhaps my very favourite presentation however was the one that brought us all back to the reality of social media. Ben Furber from Asthma UK talked about having fun online and … the fact that social media is all about cats! How true! Yes at the end of the day social media is and always will be about cats ;)
I like to think that most people in the pharma industry now accept that digital is an important channel that they need to think about and include in their marketing plans. Marketeers now include digital in their brand plans and the number of dedicated digital marketeers within pharma is growing.
Another area where we are increasingly seeing digital is in sales, with more and more reps being given iPads to use in their details with physicians. This is not, in my opinion, edetailing – this is essentially still a traditional detail but using modern, digital, detail aids. I find it can be really confusing that some companies call a traditional detail (i.e. face to face) that uses iPads an edetail while to others an edetail is a detail delivered electronically (as opposed to face to face).
Edetails (the non -face-to-face sort) themselves also have various formats – again rather confusing. There is the self-serve edetail which is a pre-recorded video / presentation which the physician can watch, pause and stop as needed. There is then the rep edetail which is more like a video conference between a rep and a physician (but where you can also still have the presentation element).
This confusion also means that companies who have implemented ipad detailing (let’s call it idetailing) think they have innovated when in reality they have only moved with the times. It also means that they are not fully optimising the opportunities that digital presents. The value that a true edetail brings is that the doctor can schedule them at a time to suit them – not just within office hours. From the pharma company point of view the value is that edetailing cuts costs. Even when using a live rep to do an edetail the rep no longer has to travel, cutting down on travel expenses, and could even conceivably work from home and work part-time, opening up opportunities to people who require flexibility around work.
The other value that edetailing offers to companies is potential access to physicians who are no longer seeing reps or who are too expensive to send a physical rep to (for example in rare diseases).
There are of course concerns that edetailing of this nature will make the traditional rep (and I mean the face-to-face rep not just a rep without an ipad!) redundant. However this should not be the case. edetailing is often an extension opportunity to traditional detailing – and in fact it has been shown that the most effective sales technique is in fact the mix of traditional detailing with edetailing (see graphic below). What will change however is the role of the rep and this has already started in some companies.
The rep of the future will become an orchestrator rep – he will provide a more concierge like service to physicians, providing them with product information but also information around the digital services that the company offers, or information from recent conferences for example. The role of the rep will move away from the traditional hard core sales focus to a value focus – providing information rather than pushing sales messages which the physician is not interested in. Of course sales will still be the objective but the sales message will be delivered in a more customer centric, value driven way and this will then be supported by the edetail online.
The value that edetailing provides means that more and more pharma companies will start to use it, but, as much as I am a fan of digital, I believe there will always be a place for the face-to-face rep. The future though will be totally value driven and value comes from partnering human and digital interactions.
I was recently in a department store and was struck by the amount of effort consumer goods companies put into packaging. The product packaging can make or break a purchase decision so it is clearly an area that warrants attention for FMCG companies – but what about pharma companies? The first response would probably be that this is not really a relevant area of concern for a company that sells prescription products.
I, however, would disagree. This may not have been an issue in the last century but I think this is now no longer the case. There are a number of reasons for this but perhaps the main is patient adherence. This is a topic that has been a headache for the industry for some time – one that has still not been resolved. When digital technology came to the forefront it was initially greeted as the saviour – the ideal solution for patient adherence. Subsequently it was denounced as a disapointment – technology did not solve the patient adherence problem. This was in part because some of the early programmes were too simplistic and did not factor in the complexity involved in patient adherence. Another issue is that technology can only solve part of the problem. The rest of the problem needs to be addressed in other, more tangible, offline ways.
This is potentially where a greater focus on packaging, and making packaging more consumer friendly, could play a role. If we take for example pills that a chronically ill patient has to take daily. There are numerous digital tools now to remind patients to take their pills, but what about just simply labeling the day of the week on the package? Contraceptive pills do this so why not for other long term medication? Whilst it may not provide the nudge to take the medication it acts as a reminder, as well as for of documentation, that the pill has been taken for that day. I for one would be more adherent – I often cannot remember if I have taken my pill for the day, and err on the side of caution by not taking another one (meaning I may in actual fact have missed my pill for the day). I have taken to writting the days on the packaging so that I can check if I forget – but it would be so useful if it was printed on the package. This would be such a simple but consumer friendly and helpful thing to do – and yet it is not common practice (I have not actually seen it on any pills other than contraception – have you?)
Another area to look at is the patient insert. This is a bulky piece of paper that comes in the box with the medication. Whilst the text has improved over the years to be more consumer friendly, the insert itself is an issue. For products that come in bottles, such as acne lotions, the information is not always printed on the bottle, even if there is space. I suspect many patients are like me – they take the pills and the bottle out of the box and probably throw the box, insert included, away. Whilst for pills it may not be possible to print the instructions on the packaging there is plenty of room on bottles. This way a patient would be able to check and get accurate information around how to use the product once the insert has been thrown away and thereby be more compliant.
One major area where packaging is a huge concern though is for patients with disabilities or movement restrictions, such as arthritis patients. To be developing packaging that your target market – i.e. the patients – cannot even open seems to be to be a huge issue! There needs to be more innovation to address the needs of patients who struggle to open packages or bottles. Packaging should be developed with the end user in mind – not just to comply with regulation or meet storage or distribution needs. If a patient cannot access their medication then what use is it?!
A final issue I have is around the visual design of packaging itself. Firstly very few companies give much retail space to the brand name – which differs from FMCG who place far more value in corporate branding than pharma does. Being familiar and trusting a corporate can have a positive impact on adherence for some patients and again this could be something that companies could dedicate a little more attention to. The final issue comes again with bottles. I have in my cupboard a mix of FMCG products that look good and prescrription bottles that look dreadful. The FMCG ones I am happy to have out on display whilst the pharma ones go in the cupboard. It is a no brainer which ones I use more simply because they are visible. Whilst I am not suggesting pharma invests in beautifying their packaging to the extend of FMCG packaging they could perhaps just modernise their packagaing a bit and make them less ugly? I warrant this point is very minor but it does bother me as a female patient!
Will any of the above happen? I doubt it. This is a very old fashioned industry and packaging is at the bottom in terms of prioritites but it would be great if someone listened and started to make packaging more customer friendly. Until then I will continue to hide my ugly bottles and write the days on my pill packaging.