Commentary

We Are Playing A New Game ... Why Do Pharma Marketers Keep Using The Old Playbook?

A 300-pound linebacker would look rather silly trying to keep up with David Beckham on the soccer field, right? We often talk about the changing marketing landscape that is now, more than ever, driven by the customer. We are playing a faster, more nimble game. However, many brands are applying the same rules and players to a completely different game.

For years, pharma marketers knew what would drive business. First, launch a product with the sales force and HCP-driven efforts. Next, throw in a whole lot of TV and print to convince every American that they may have (insert your favorite condition here). Finally, pepper in a little "e-marketing," consisting of a website, some banner ads, a microsite on WebMD and maybe some search. Extra points were, of course, awarded for Internet marketing that matched offline efforts.

The old formula no longer works. Consumers are now in control. They are choosing when, how, and whether or not they even want to engage with us. The old matching-luggage approach to digital marketing needs to be replaced with a model that's built on the foundation of helping not selling.

New rules for a new game:
1) Stop feeling personally threatened by the need to keep up with tech trends.
Clients ask every day, "Do we need a Facebook page?," "What's my Twitter strategy?," "Get me one of those QR things." Stop looking at every new advancement in technology as a megaphone to get your message out. Ask yourself why people are engaging with a particular technology, what it tells you about their needs and how they may like to receive information.

2) See your customers as people you can help vs. audiences you can target.
We shoot at "targets," we engage with people. Leverage search and social media surveillance to truly understand what your customers want. Then identify the white space where you can participate. In addition, look for ways for your brand to act as the concierge to services for your customers.

3) Look for ways to share information rather than control it.
You have the most knowledge about your brand than anyone out there. Find methods to unlock that knowledge to your customers. Don't bury it on your website ... breathe new life into it, distribute it and make it easy to find. Flip the media-buying model and look at yourself as the publisher.

4) Understand that the ability to adopt quickly is no longer optional.
For years, we have been consumed with what our competition is doing. No longer are there days where we can solely focus on whether or not our competitors are ahead of us ... now, our customers are ahead of us. Take cues from the audiences you wish to engage with. Ask yourself: why are they searching the words they type into Google? Why is a person with diabetes spending so much time on FoodNetwork.com? Why is a mom caring for a child with asthma spending the majority of her day on her iPhone? Answering these questions and quickly adapting as needed is critical for success.

5) As a pharma marketer, understand where the bar is being set.
Even people with chronic conditions are not defined by their diseases. Health is only a slice of someone's life. Their expectations are being set outside of pharma. They desire this same level of self-service from their cholesterol medicine as they do from Zappos.

The 300-pound linebacker would not be your first choice in the World Cup finals. We need to realize we are playing a new game, and a new set of players and rules are needed.

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