Before we go too far, I thought I should share with you the Digital Rules that are important to any healthcare brand. Without these, pretty much anything else I’ve got to say isn’t going to mean much to your brand. Call this the required list and everything else I’m about to tell you the optional list. If you don’t do the required things, then the optional things won’t matter much.
These rules I developed were actually published in Pharmaceutical Executive magazine this summer under a title I never liked but they created, Exercising Your Brand. (You can download it here.) Yes, that is my picture…nice lighting, right?
Here are the rules for those who didn’t click through. Print this out and refer to it from time to time.
The 10 Digital Rules to Keep Your Brand Healthy:
Interactive Marketing in Pharma
1. Show; Don’t Tell: A demonstration, picture, or video always beats never-ending pages with thousands of words. Make your content scannable (easy to read quickly), and make it memorable. KnowMenopause.com uses videos of both patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) to deliver content, instead of using countless pages of text.
2. Build an Integrated Approach: Do your website, e-newsletter, banners, AdWords, widgets, blog, emails (and so on…) all work together? Do they work in concert to drive action? And you’ve got to do all this before even considering your TV, radio, and print. While an over-the-counter (OTC) product, pharma could learn a lot from the marketing of alli, from GSK. The OTC version of the weight loss pill Xenical was launched with a large media campaign, but included several other unique consumer programs. Among these was a comprehensive starter kit with each bottle, which included a well-designed pill case, and a highly customizable website at myalli.com. What made the program stand out for me was the alli cookbook with special recipes that help you stick with a healthy diet and avoid foods likely to cause undesirable side effects. In-store efforts pulled all this together with excellent product placement strategies.
3. Deploy Rapid Segmentation: With digital technologies you have no excuse for sending the same thing to everyone or for providing the same information to everyone. Find out what each visitor needs and provide it. Repeat. PurplePill.com, the Nexium branded site, does this well with its navigation. You can select whether you are just curious about symptoms, are suffering from symptoms, are ready to talk to a doctor, or are a current Nexium patient. Depending on what you select, you have immediate access to content tailored to your needs.
4. Create Value for Everyone, Not Just Your Brand: If it just benefits the brand, people will reject it. No one trusts big pharma anymore, right? Instead, create something that helps the patient, and they’ll help you. This is done successfully for a number of brands that use an unbranded site to truly educate patients and help them find the information they need. Roche has done this well with fluFACTS.com, including the first movie tie-in for a pharma product. This site offers some good, basic information about the flu and useful tools like a flu tracker all without pushing their flu product, Tamiflu. This approach has undoubtedly has driven traffic and awareness of Tamiflu.
5. Structured, but Flexible: While you don’t need to include every feature ever conceived, you do need to give people the ability to make your stuff their own—whether it be customized home pages, content they can borrow, or a section of your site that they alone own and manage. Once they make your site their own, they’ll be more likely to return to it because they’ve already invested time and energy. This rule hasn’t been fully embraced by any pharma companies, but brands throughout healthcare have effectively leveraged this rule for years.
6. Clinical Doesn’t Mean Colorless: Research shows that consumers find visually appealing sites more credible than their plain counterparts. Did you make your site look like an exam room? (Incidentally, in the same study, HCPs had the exact opposite reaction, preferring more plain-looking sites.)
7. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed: Because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, flatter. Learn from what’s worked, and what hasn’t. Don’t stop at looking within your company or even within pharma. Apply lessons from other companies and industries. From this, create what’s never been done before, but don’t shy away from something because it’s been tried before. If it’s effective, then go with it.
8. Simple, Cost Effective, and Scalable: Just because you need to impact a lot of people to meet your goals it doesn’t mean that spending more money is the answer. Find out what your patients want and deliver it. Create programs you can build over time in planned phases. As you get positive results and more funding, build on your successes and cut your losses. Resist the temptation to create more one-off campaigns that don’t have a long life span.
9.Don’t Let Legal Run Your Program: Yes, pharma and healthcare have their own unique set of regulatory hurdles, but this doesn’t mean you have to ignore all of the new channels available to you. So, if the latest tools (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, widgets, etc.) aren’t allowed, find smart people who can figure out how to take what patients love about those tools and distill it into something you and your legal team can agree on. Reckitt Benckiser is one of the few companies willing to reject the idea that MySpace and sites like it aren’t a place for pharma. You can visit their MySpace page and become friends with “addiction411.” This page links to their TurnToHelp.com site. The effective use of MySpace to help educate adolescents (a key demographic of MySpace) about the risks of and treatments for prescription painkiller addiction shows that just about any digital channel can be brought into regulatory compliance.
10. The Patient Is the Boss: With infinite choices online, you have seconds to show why you are genuinely different before your audience moves on to the next search result. If you obey all of the above principles but ignore this one, you might as well give up now.