A beginner’s guide to digital pharma: part 13 – mobile marketing

Faisal Ahmed and Paul Tunnah


Continued from “A beginner’s guide to digital pharma: part 12 – email marketing

With all the fuss over reaching people online why use mobile marketing?

Simple – it’s targeted, it’s an amazing way to engage and have a one-on-one conversation with your customers, it’s very cost effective if used correctly and it’s a great marketing medium. Oh…and not forgetting the fact that we all have a mobile device, we carry it around with us everywhere we go, it’s ultra-personal to us and we always leave it on (well almost always!).

For the last ten years we’ve had numerous conversations about mobile marketing again and again, we’ve had WAP websites, we’ve had on-portal content and now thanks to Mr Jobs, we now have mobile apps and the rise of the smartphone. To go into the full ins and outs of how to do mobile marketing is slightly beyond the scope of this article, but let me reinforce why it’s important.

There are so many silly stats about mobile phone usage now. Did you know there are more mobile phones in India than toilets and typically we report our phone lost or stolen to the police 24 hours before we report the same thing happening to our wallet or purse?

“In fact, a third of agencies expect more than 30% of their clients to include mobile in their 2011 marketing efforts.”

But the key thing to remember is that with mobile devices getting more and more sophisticated and speeds from the operators getting faster and faster it’s a medium not to ignore. In fact, Mobile Squared reported in April that a third of agencies expect more than 30% of their clients to include mobile in their 2011 marketing efforts, so the big FMCG companies are spending even bigger money and pharma will no doubt catch up soon.

In addition, Mintel reports that 45% of men own a smartphone, 11% an iPhone and 9% a BlackBerry with 02 being the biggest smartphone provider.1 If we look at the UK as a reference Western market, Android has 12.8% market share of smartphones whilst Apple has 82.1%.2 And 14% of people who access the Internet on their mobile phones read fewer newspapers as a result. In fact, 16% of mobile media users overall read fewer magazines.3

Finally, if you’re not convinced of the power of mobile yet then bear in mind that 89% of the UK population had or used a mobile phone in 2010 (and probably more now!).4 The second most used activity for mobile phones in the UK is accessing news (35.5%), followed by using a browser (35.2%). Social networking was used by 22.6% of mobile subscribers in the UK in May 2010 (again, a figure which has no doubt increase since then).

But more specifically from a pharma / healthcare perspective, figures from research conducted in late 2010 (and covered in our article “Smartphones: the new frontier for physicians”) showed that 81% of US physicians and 44% of those in Europe had a smartphone, with the European figure expected to have increased to at least 65% by now.5 And from a patient perspective, it’s worth noting that the new NHS Direct app was downloaded over 200,000 times in the first month of launch!

“…Google now build all products for mobile first, so please do think about the mobile user before you want that flashy website…”

The most telling statement I heard last year was that Google now build all products for mobile first, so please do think about the mobile user before you want that flashy website and when you get a chance just google the search term “progressive design”. Google’s Chairman also say’s if you don’t have a mobile strategy you haven’t got a future strategy. That’s a pretty clear message and it’s driven by the fact that Google now sees a billion people connecting to the web via a mobile device, up from 500 million a year before.

So the mobile device is now your personal physician, it’s more than a phone, so get your thinking caps on about what role the smartphone can play in healthcare. Just look at some of the emerging ideas around heart rate monitoring via your mobile, or using your pulse if you’re diabetic to tell you when to take your insulin.

What’s the starting point?

As always, start by asking yourself WHY? Why do I need a mobile marketing campaign? Who am I targeting? What phone do they use and will they need my content straight away rather than waiting to go back to a PC? With males the predominant users of smartphones, just think how great it would be to have sites like Pfizer’s ManMOT clinic as an app or mobile site.

There are numerous types of mobile marketing to consider in your strategy such as SMS (text messages), MMS (picture messages), Bluetooth (for geographically localised things like conferences), mobile websites, mobile search and advertising, mobile video and applications and the hot subject of the moment – QR codes (those funny little 2d pictures you see in magazines that can be scanned and take you from print to online media).

The key thing when planning something like mobile marketing is to ask yourself who is in charge – IT, digital, marketing or PR? Be honest about the answer!

Most importantly, make sure you integrate mobile marketing into your overall campaign, as like most channels it’s more powerful when combined with other approaches.

“As always, start by asking yourself WHY? Why do I need a mobile marketing campaign? Who am I targeting?”

Do not just replicate content and stick it on an app or mobile website. Instead, play around with devices, invest in an Android smartphone, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows phone, iPad, Playbook and Samsung Galaxy tablet so you can play around with various websites and see how each device works.

Educate yourself – ask friends and family questions about their usage of mobile and start to immerse yourself in this world. It’s one we’re all going to be spending more and more time in!

As usual if you have any questions or want more advice about how to actually conduct mobile marketing campaigns please do not hesitate to tweet us!

And if you keep hearing about QR codes and want to know more, have a read of the Life Healthcare guide on QR codes:



1. Mintel report, Marketing to Men, January 2011.

2. JiWire, press release, November 2010.

3. The Guardian, Smartphones bring mixed blessings for newspapers, October 2010.

4. Ofcom, TV, phones and internet take up almost half our waking hours, 2010 research.

5. EPG Health Media, Smartphone use and Healthcare: How do smartphones impact healthcare professionals and influence the way they practice?, September 2010.

View the next article in this series, which is about online advertising, here.

About the authors:

Faisal Ahmed is one of a handful of people in the UK that has been involved with digital for over 14 years, providing digital thought leadership to some of the biggest brands globally, also contributing to some of the best-selling books on digital, having been part of the start-up team at Amazon, defining how we shop online. Faisal has launched digital strategies for 90 football Clubs, the ECB and WRC. He also launched Playboy’s mobile and social media platforms in 2006 and one of the first online social networks. Over the last 2 years Faisal has been working in Healthcare winning over 30 awards and bringing to life both one of the first mobile apps and augmented reality in healthcare. Faisal is currently working at Life-Healthcare and can be found Tweeting here @sickonthenet and contacted on LinkedIn here http://www.linkedin.com/in/ahmedfaisal.

Paul Tunnah is Founder and Managing Director of www.pharmaphorum.com, the dynamic online information and discussion portal for the pharmaceutical industry featuring news, articles, events / company listings and online discussion. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

What do you do on your mobile phone?