The future for pharma marketing is personal

As the marketing world evolves alongside changing consumer experience, how can pharma catch-up? Marco Ricci reports from the eyeforpharma Marketing and Consumer Innovation Europe 2017.

Despite now existing in a century that has so far teemed with technological innovation offering more opportunities and methods than ever before to engage with a customer, pharma remains stuck in the past. Where others have taken marketing innovation in their stride, pharma retains an outdated and unco-ordinated analogue perspective of how to communicate its business.

Tackling this issue has become one of pharma marketing leaders’ biggest tasks, one that impacts business efficiency and customer opinion of a brand. And, while moves have been made to embrace new marketing methods, such as the integration of digital technologies into multichannel marketing (MCM) strategies, the way forward for pharma marketing is far from clear.

These issues were discussed at this year’s eyeforpharma Marketing and Customer Innovation Europe two-day conference in London.

Consumer experience is killing traditional pharma marketing

The underlying theme to the entire event was clear: traditional pharma marketing is not as effective as it once was.

Nicola Hall, VP of Technology & Services and Real World Insights (NEMEA) at IQVIA highlighted pharma’s inefficient handling of new marketing platforms, and said this was damaging future business prospects.

At the same time, consumer experience is driving a change in customer expectations, calling for a move away from traditional brand-centric marketing methodologies of the past.

This same theme was core to a talk delivered by Steve Mason, Multichannel & Marketing Cloud Expert at Salesforce. Entitled “Our best experience anywhere becomes our expectation everywhere”, Mason claimed that “customer experience is the new brand battlefield” – one in which pharma is floundering.

“Pharma is below the global average of digital maturity, even though the technology exists to create the best possible customer experience.”

Alex Brock, head of Digital at inVentiv Health Europe, coined the acronym ‘ACE’, or Accelerated Consumer Expectations – the result of a world of vast amounts of information driving customers to be more selective with what information they engage with.

The behaviour of accelerated consumers now relies on three expectations: to not have their time wasted, for the content they are presented with to understand their context, and for content to help them ‘see clearly’ in a world of information overload.

Carsten Grandke, Lead Multichannel Management CoE at Teva, delivered his verdict on today’s pharma marketing, highlighting the drivers behind increasing ineffectiveness.

To him, the biggest driver is the now broken ‘golden trust triangle’ of doctors, blockbusters and salesforces. “There aren’t so many blockbusters anymore and instead, drugs are becoming more niche,” he explained. “Drugs therefore don’t help as many people and, at the same time, field forces are now regularly reorganised, breaking relationships with doctors.”

Disparities in digital adoption is largely to blame for this. Older HCPs still rely on traditional marketing while younger audiences expect digital engagement, meaning single channel or single messaging marketing becoming increasingly ineffectual.

“Pharma is trying to build old strategies into new methods in a process of ‘transmutation’ rather than transformation.”

Segmentation is key

So how can pharma solve the issue of evolving expectations? First of all, it needs to segment its customers.

Key to many of the talks throughout both days, segmentation was first mentioned by Warwick University lecturer, Graham Leask.  He says pharma marketing strategies remain focused on a homogenous view of HCPs – both in a traditional and digital sense.

“Promotion does not operate in a vacuum – it is important to consider the environment and prescribing behaviour of each individual.”

In terms of the UK, different Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will naturally lead to different rules and in turn HCP behaviour.

According to Philipp Maerz, Chief Operating Officer of Allergopharma – the allergy division of Merck KGaA – segmenting is key to the development of a more effective marketing strategy for the organisation.

The firm had been experiencing issues with both external and internal marketing, sales force excellence and customer experience. But through a multi-stage project beginning in March of this year, the company is now implementing a new marketing ethos, based on customer segmentation guiding their MCM approach.

Getting personal

Of course, the concept of segmentation goes hand-in-hand with the idea of personalisation – something that was mentioned from the very beginning of the conference and throughout.

Oliver Gryson, head of Digital Marketing at Servier, opened day one with a demonstration of personalisation for patients through the firm’s Deprexis platform – a web service offering digital psychotherapy.

Currently available via reimbursement through one of Germany’s largest public health insurers, the service offers a personalised portal for each user, dependent on their mood and needs as raised by the individual themself.

Carrying on in the patient setting, Boehringer Ingelheim Global Marketing Director Christine Dudenhoffer described the firm’s development of information booklets designed for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

The project involved working with a patient group to understand patient needs to re-vamp BI’s IPF information. The result was moving away from traditional patient education materials, such as clinical trial and medication information, to booklets that instead addressed specific patient needs. These included information about how their disease might progress and the different daily challenges they could face.

The same idea of personalisation bled into discussion regarding marketing to HCPs. QuintilesIMS’ Hall described the process as moving away from brand-centric strategies to customer-centric during her presentation of three separate case studies for the company.

Tackling issues like securing funding, patient adherence and educational needs, the end customer in all three examples had their own information needs, media preferences, communication needs, and customer potential – the four key elements of effective customer-centric MCM.

“MCM is all about tailoring to customer needs. Understand the landscape, collate your view of the customer, and create a holistic engagement strategy,” said Hall.

Personalisation is not just about different customer definitions though, it also brings geographical location into consideration.

Different cultures and different levels of digital maturity should also be considered, explained Eli Lilly’s marketing director for the Russian Federation, Josef Bednarik, in the final talk of the conference.

He explained how Lilly developed a method of breaking down the typical day of HCPs in Russia to better understand different opportunities to engage. From there, the division could understand which channels were optimal for different times of the day and what content they should be communicating.

Of course, this HCP timeline differs between organisation to organisation and country to country, emphasising the need for personalised strategies for different scales.