In 1960, E. Jeremy McCarthy defined the 4Ps conceptual framework for marketing decision-making — Product, Price, Place and Promotion — thereby documenting the fundamental marketing forces that dictate the ultimate success of the product in the marketplace. In the nearly six decades that followed McCarthy’s marketing mix concept, those marketing fundamentals have not changed.
In 2017, we have much more sophisticated tools to ensure that our promotional strategies are ultimately successful. We are able to collect data to help us identify audiences for our products based on the type of TV programs they watch, internet websites they browse, or purchases they make. We have content management systems that are able to change content on our website while someone is visiting it, to make our offerings more appealing to them. We are able to use data and technology to move beyond our own websites and identify attractive audiences while they are going about their daily internet browsing activities so we can take our content to them. Moreover, we can use all of the data we have collected to make our next marketing step smarter and more economical.
However, I would argue that having great technology tools, especially in healthcare, does not make a marketing effort any more likely to succeed unless we keep in mind the fundamental marketing forces that McCarthy defined almost 60 years ago. Healthcare products and services are extremely complex, especially for people who are sick, distraught and already confronted with a myriad of treatment options. As marketers, we need to take extra time and care to ensure that we are relating and communicating with them in a way that resonates.
Healthcare communicators must address the 4Ps in a way that helps health brands navigate a complex and shifting media environment to create deeper, more relevant connections with their customers.
Product: Consumer promotion needs to be able to deliver the message in a clear and simple way, with enough detail to prompt consumers to have the conversation with their doctor about the promoted product. In the world where physicians have less and less time to dedicate to their patients or learning about new product alternatives, consumers often must become their own advocates and brands need to empower them to do that.
Pricing: Since cost and affordability is an issue for most consumers, it is essential that we address cost barriers in our communications. Mobile applications, like Start90, allow brands to combine access and affordability messages (such as co-pay related communications) with medication tracking and disease management communications to their patients in the crucial first 90 days on therapy.
Distribution: With physicians controlling the final distribution channel, for a consumer marketer that translates into understanding the Point of Care conversation and the dynamics of what is taking place at the doctor’s office. To support the patient-professional dialogue, marketers need to develop tools, such as doctor discussion guides and other patient support resources that help patients manage their doctor appointment.
Promotion: We need to orchestrate channels and deliver the message on our customer’s terms — where it can be easily digested. Direct communications channels, such as mail and email no longer bind marketers to one-way communications, as more and more Pharma companies are connecting with consumers through social means such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr and start a dialogue.
The many tools available to current marketers can enhance the execution of any of these “forces,” but technology cannot replace thoughtful marketing; it can only deliver a well- or a poorly-thought-out marketing campaign much faster to a much wider audience making it succeed or fail more rapidly than before. Today’s marketers cannot forget that marketing essentials are as true today as they were 60 years ago and at the end of the day technology will not solve a foundational marketing problem. We can and should apply the fundamentals along with our specialized tactics and evolving knowledge of the marketplace to help people — marketers, doctors, patients and caregivers — make more confident, informed decisions for better health outcomes.