At yesterday’s Digital Pharma East keynote, Pfizer’s Dan Seewald spoke on how the industry’s risk-averseness makes it tough to innovate, and how innovators can mitigate risk by being more like Philippe Petit, the “Man on a Wire” who walked a tightrope strung between the Twin Towers with only a balance beam to steady him. Petit, Dan said, took a “learner” approach to his trade

“He had a voracious appetite for information,” said Seewald. “He read document after document – about the buildings’ structure, about architecture, design. He took a surveyor’s wheel and measured to the centimeter the span from Tower 1 to Tower 2. Where there are assumptions, there’s risk. He was not a risk taker.”

A marketer with a learning mentality, said Seewald, starts small and tests uncertainty, as Petit did with a low-strung tightrope in his backyard. A learner learns what’s working and what’s not, adapts and pivots based on that information. With those first steps onto that wire, a quarter mile above downtown Manhattan, Petit was stepping into the unknown, doing something no one had ever dared before. But he’d done his homework, researched and rehearsed every imaginable scenario, just as marketers hoping to differentiate a brand by broadening the horizons of their craft must do.

So how can marketers apply Petit’s approach in their teams? As we know, the heart of pharma innovation is customer centricity, and the driver of true customer centricity is data. Just as Petit gathered as much information as he could before attempting unimaginable feats, brands must fuel innovation with a comprehensive understanding of their customer. And for healthcare marketers – this is more important than ever. The gradual shift in incentives from volume to value, coupled with the rise of the ACO model, puts enormous pressure on hospitals, health systems and providers to better engage patients, in turn creating opportunities for pharma to facilitate this through provision of patient support and other services. Meanwhile, with patients taking an increasingly large role in making decisions about their health, it’s ever more vital that marketers understand their pain points, their needs, and when and how to reach them.

Luckily for marketers, the rapid increases in consumer technology and digital media activity has created a wealth of real-world marketing data to tap into for customer intelligence - social, search, and website/app activity data, clickstream pathway data, and more. When harnessed in the right way, and integrated with other traditional research sources, real-world evidence and internal customer data – brands are given a much more textured understanding of the healthcare experience. An unprompted, real-time view into the human consciousness – treatment perceptions, unmet needs, fears, opinions and much more. This highly granular reading of the customer experience represents a sea change for pharma marketers, one with potential to transform how you launch brands, shape the market and engage patients, caregivers, HCPs and payers.

Equipped with such a rich data stack, marketers can move from static patient journey research to real-time customer experience intelligence; from lock-and-leave-it planning to iterative decision-making and ROI-optimization; from a world in which customers see your brand as merely a product advertised to one in which your brand becomes a valued partner in health. Real-world marketing data can reveal customer pain points and pinpoint the right message and content, format and media, channels and partners to use at each point across the customer journey. Marketers can approach their work with a learning mentality, constantly testing, iterating and adapting, much as Petit did in preparation for his high wire act, and translating customer insights into improved outcomes.

Absent this sort of rich real-world data, and the deep customer understanding it yields, marketers might as well be stepping out into thin air when launching a campaign.

DRG Digital’s Senior Vice President Meredith Ressi will be talking about how an infusion of real-world marketing data can rev up customer centricity this morning at Digital Pharma East, 11:40am ET.

If you’re attending, come talk to one of us at the event, or email us at to learn more about tapping into RWMD for your customers. 

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