Remember 1994? The World Series was cancelled because of a players strike. Not only was there no World Series, the World Wide Web was in its infancy. At that time, pharmaceutical marketers enjoyed a
near monopoly on product information. And sales representatives had unfettered access to physicians.
Times change. Innovations in technology have catapulted us into the mobile information age.
Almost anything anyone (doctors and patients alike) would want to know, including drug information, treatment options, condition research, and more is now instantly available, anytime, anywhere.
This shift has been so rapid and so radical that many marketers have been forced to reconsider fundamental tenets of their mission. How do we maintain a meaningful presence and impact in
this new world? More specifically, we've been forced to ask questions such as:
- How can I earn physicians' attention and trust?
- What distinctively practical
information, tools and resources can I offer in support of my products?
- How do I leverage our current understanding of treatment adherence to develop programs that
patients/consumers will accept, embrace, and follow over time?
- How do I cast a sufficiently "wide net" to attract an audience -- consumer or professional -- while staying within the
boundaries of labeling?
The current paradigm shift is especially daunting in light of the remarkable success of marketing efforts over the past 50 years. During this time period, the
rep-centered sales model helped propel the industry to unprecedented growth. Most of today's leaders in pharma marketers matured during this golden era. Can these same individuals now deviate from
(formerly) foolproof methods to imagine, design, and launch novel approaches to marketing -- methods that may be unfamiliar, unproven, and untested?
As Stephen Hawking observed, time only
moves in one direction. So we must address the situation at hand. While there are no simple answers to the queries posed above, we can begin to ask new, different questions to guide our next steps:
- Assessing the competition: What level of quality and what type of responsiveness have doctors and patients become accustomed to in the digital domain? (Note: Pharma
companies now compete with not only other pharma companies, but with the likes of Google, Amazon, Dell and Up-to-Date.)
- Making learning fun: Can we redesign
promotional medical education as an enjoyable game for doctors and consumers -- something they enjoy and seek out, rather than tolerate?
- Reaching the point of
care: Can brand marketers provide value-added mobile tools that speed delivery of relevant information about their products to the point of care, for doctors, or to the point of use or
healthcare decision-making, for consumers?
- Enhanced services: Can we provide better service to clinicians when they have pointed questions about our products? For
example: can we restructure, streamline, and simplify the point of contact between clinicians and medical affairs departments that support specific brands?
Communicating differently: What is out there -- or what is in development -- that would elevate brand marketing from simple reach-and-frequency efforts to greater relevance in the context of
clinical care (for physicians) and health maintenance (for patients). Are there new forms of information architecture, of real-time opinion gathering and sharing, of motion media design, of
epidemiologic or behavior trend detection and reporting? Do any of these advanced communications tools merit exploration in the context of product marketing?
We are living through a
profound transformation in how we explore, communicate, and learn. Given the highly regulated nature of pharma marketing, everyone agrees that we must embrace this change with caution. We should not,
however, allow ourselves to be paralyzed by these constraints. We have no choice but to think differently in order to successfully adapt the world we now inhabit.