above picture of a notebook with pencil and a cup of coffee on a plate

So you’ve made your New Year’s resolutions for a better you. Heck, you’ve probably broken one or two by now (hey, you’re only human). But have you thought about what you can do to better your brands in 2016? It’s not too late – the year is young!

In 2015, we saw a much broader recognition within pharma that digital marketing is, well, just marketing, as brands began treating digital channels not as nice-to-have add-ons but as essential elements of an integrated multichannel marketing campaign. Many have moved past the experimental stage and are beginning to scale their digital efforts across brands. In 2016, the task pharma marketers face will grow still more dizzyingly complex, as mobile devices take center stage, managed care is further entrenched, remote care technologies mature a bit and cost becomes the fulcrum on which most Americans’ drug decisions turn. Here are ten steps marketers can take to help brands bloom in 2016:

  • Do a better job of helping patients help themselves. Whether you call it customer experience marketing or just plain old marketing, patients increasingly expect this from pharma – 62% of U.S. online adults expect pharma companies to provide them with support services above and beyond the meds they offer[i].
  • Balance short and long term objectives. Given pharma’s broad-based rotations and habitual focus on quarterly financials, short-term thinking tends to predominate, but this bias exacts big costs on companies’ capacity for innovation, and is anathema in an outcomes-oriented world. It also puts you at a competitive disadvantage – one client in the autoimmune space saw rivals focusing on copay cards and opted for an in-office play leveraging technology and customer service to build brand loyalty. It required a substantial up-front investment, but paid off in the long run.
  • Invest in influencers and advocacy. One in three consumers says that out-of-pocket costs strongly influence their drug choices[ii]. As cost becomes a preeminent concern for patients and caregivers in medical decision-making, the role of influencers grows more important for pharma marketers. Support physicians and other HCPs with resources that help them get patients their preferred medications, and consider point-of-prescribing tools such as the OneRx app, which helps consumers understand what they’ll pay for a drug after coupons and other discounts, or services that give patients a hand in navigating the prior authorizations process.
  • Get ready for telehealth (and hurry up, because it’s here). Large health systems, insurers and retail pharmacies have formed partnerships and invested in infrastructure for virtual visits. This year will see remote consults take off in acute care, with applications for chronic disease management to follow and remote monitoring on the horizon. Marketers should be thinking about how remote care will impact their segments and how they might support patients and HCPs in this area, where solutions could prove effective differentiators. For example, Medtronic’s Carelink makes data from the company’s connected insulin pumps and glucose meters available to doctors for review between visits.
  • …but don’t neglect the bricks-and-mortar doctor’s office. More than two in five online consumers that own smartphones use that device to look up health info in the doctor’s office, and 16% do so in the exam room when the doctor or nurse steps out[iii]. Brands should look at vehicles for in-office information provision through mobile devices, such as QR codes on posters or virtual reality educational content.
  • Address organized customer sets. Population health is becoming the north star of American medicine as hospitals, health systems and insurers organize themselves into Accountable Care Organizations and Integrated Delivery Networks – nearly one-third of physicians surveyed for our ePharma Physician® 2015 study said they participated in an ACO or planned to in 2015, while one in ten participated in an IDN. These emerging players mean a shift in decision-making power from prescribers to formulary decision makers. Some pharmas are beginning to adjust – to our relief, a couple of clients opened digital marketing workshops with presentations from their managed care units in 2015. Successful brands will coordinate local and national approaches, which may vary from ACO to ACO, to ensure a unified brand experience.
  • Rethink the sales rep. With access to physicians ever more scarce, brands need to retool their sales forces to maximize their effectiveness. That means, among other things, better coordination with market access groups and giving reps new tools for physician engagement – for example, marketers should explore using VR content to augment the iPad rep experience. We have some further thoughts on this here.
  • …and raise your tablet rep game. Plug reps into your multichannel marketing plan, using them to drive awareness of pharma resources for HCPs and patients, thereby continuing the conversation beyond the visit (while one in six physicians are more likely to prescribe the drug discussed after meeting with a tablet rep, one in three are more likely to go online for further info[iv]). Give them content that goes beyond basic product information – patient education and value-added services have the strongest impact on prescription decisions. Repurpose visually-engaging content (e.g. video and animation) that plays to the tablet’s strengths.
  • Get nerdy about analytics. With a swelling torrent of data coming from patients, devices, businesses and systems, companies need to get their arms around advanced analytics, which will soon include cognitive technologies such as IBM’s Watson or Google DeepMind. This will allow for more sophisticated and dynamic marketing, like segmentation which considers cost, treatment pathway and experience preferences, along with channel optimization and contextual targeting through advanced behavioral support programs and remote care.
  • Keep an eye on the technological horizon. Pay close attention to emerging trends in media and tech that could transform the way we find content (such as messaging apps) or the way we experience it (think Google’s Cardboard or Disney’s PlayMation). We counsel clients to beware “Shiny Ball Syndrome” – sinking resources into buzzy emerging technologies with as-yet unproven applications for healthcare and/or pharma – but understanding what’s next is essential to successful marketing planning.

Sources: i-iii – Decision Resources, ePharma Consumer® 2015; iv – Decision Resources, ePharma Physician® 2015

[i] Decision Resources, ePharma Consumer® 2015

[ii] Decision Resources, ePharma Consumer® 2015

[iii] Decision Resources, ePharma Consumer® 2015

[iv] Decision Resources, ePharma Physician® 2015

Pivoting a product launch during the pandemic

View Now