A client recently quipped that “Success is as much about what you say no to as what you say yes to.”

Sounds Yoda-esque, but the context was brand planning, and she was getting at something really important. Too often, marketers get so caught up in trying to wrap their hands around the Next Big Thing – say, the Internet of Things, or the shift from volume to value – and neglect essential basics. While it’s important that we anticipate bleeding-edge technological or systemic transformation and push the envelope a bit in our work, it’s in operations, process and optimizing and scaling the basics that we can have a measurable impact on our business in the near term.

In putting together our recent report on Pharma’s Digital Disconnect, one of the pharma execs we interviewed observed that “In order to make an impact, we need to limit the number of programs and scale the successful ones up.” One of the key learnings to come out of that report was that while convoluted org structures may be a hurdle to digital innovation for many pharmas, the more immediate challenges were operational and cultural – and as a result, a surprising number of pharmas aren’t even nailing the basics when it comes to digital marketing.

Those basics include:

  • Maximizing your use of search to ensure a healthy return on your investment in website development – a challenge for marketers at the many companies that haven’t fully committed to search spend, or where spending rises and falls according to the vagaries of TV advertising.


  • Investing in video, because it’s effective. Our ePharma Consumer® 2014 survey found that 27% of those watching pharma videos talked to their doctor or another healthcare professional about it, and 28% searched for more info about the drug online.


  • Getting your content strategy together and understanding what your customers want, what you can do well and how that maps to device use through user analytics.


  • Mobile optimization. This is an urgent imperative, as 37% of smartphone owners use medical resources on that device while at the doctor’s office -- with one in five looking up health info in the exam room, according to Cybercitizen Health U.S. 2015 data. Mobile is key in these critical decision-making moments.


  • Having a nuanced understanding of customer complexity. Pharmas used to see physicians in terms of prescribing deciles. Now, they’re navigating the transition from a fee-for-service system to one which rewards value and being measured on readmission rates and patient outcomes. Their prescribing decisions are increasingly constrained by formularies and practice guidelines. Meanwhile, consumers are navigating a bewildering healthcare system and making huge tradeoffs of risk and cost. Increasingly, they bring Amazon-sized (and shaped) expectations of service to healthcare.

Naturally, brand marketers want to know what’s new when planning for the year ahead. That’s a good instinct, but it’s even more important that they know what’s necessary for their brand’s success.

Pivoting a product launch during the pandemic

View Now