Pharma Branded Sites Score Low For Consumer Awareness

Consumers who conduct online health-related research favor general health information Web sites and specific ailment-focused sites rather than pharma company sites, a survey shows.

The survey, conducted by Woburn, Mass.-based Prospectiv, shows that of the 800 nationwide consumers who responded to the online poll June 20-22, 54% favor general health Web sites and 37% prefer specific ailment-focused sites, while only 4% prefer pharmaceutical company sites.

"I don't know if it's because they don't want to go [to the pharma company sites], as much as it's because they just don't know about them," says Jere Doyle, president/CEO of Prospectiv. "A lot of these sites are brand-specific, and some of the pharmaceutical drugs don't have the most common brand names."

There is better brand awareness of the general health-related Web sites, he adds. Pharma brand managers need to work harder to connect with customers and drive more traffic to the sites.

"Consumers want to go online to get information and they're doing it now more than ever," Doyle says. "If you're a brand manager at a pharmaceutical company, you better do a pretty darn good job reaching out to consumers to pull them into your particular branded drug Web site or company Web site."

Educational e-newsletters, health-focused Web sites and micro-sites focused on specific ailments have proven very effective in this regard.

The first step toward initiating these online resources is for brand managers to build an in-house database of self-profiled consumers who have expressed an interest in learning more about their treatment options, Doyle says.

"Consumers like the idea of getting e-mails and newsletters, and the dialogue and communication between you as a consumer and patient and someone who can help you is high up on their list of things they like."

Prospectiv's 2007 Pharmaceutical Marketing Consumer Preference Index poll also reveals that 75% view the Internet as their most trusted resource for ailment- and drug treatment-related information, followed by broadcast media (15%) and magazines (10%). Drug samples (55%), followed by educational e-newsletters (35%) and coupons (10%), were cited by consumers as the top incentives that would pique their interest in drug treatment options for their ailments.

Respondents also shared their frequency of conducting online health-related research. While the majority (40%) said that they had conducted online research only two times or less during the past six months, 33% reported research frequency of at least once a month, followed by every other month (27%).

The reaction to television ads was largely negative. The poll shows that 83% surveyed expressed concerns that pharmaceutical ads on television can be confusing and misleading, while 89% agreed with the sentiment expressed by some government organizations and consumer advocacy groups that television drug treatment advertisements need to be more closely regulated. Finally, 72% of respondents also said that there were too many drug treatment advertisements on television.

Prospectiv owns online properties Healthier.com and Eversave.com, and operates a lead-generation platform used by publishers across the Web.