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“Garbage At The Speed Of Light”

Space Trash

 

A few evenings ago I was attending a work function and the guests included several senior members of the extended organization who don’t normally interact with our group. Amongst the various conversations that were going on, a very interesting comment was made to me by one of those senior attendees. He joked (I assume), that “digital stuff is just garbage produced at the speed of light.” He wasn’t referring to the quality of the work, or the depth of the creative. His jest, and for the sake of my sanity I’ll assume it was a jest, was that digital as a potential service offering within healthcare was garbage. I was left non-plussed by this conversation not only for the obvious reason, but because in other situations his general disdain towards the digital medium was palpable. He most certainly was kidding, but that sentiment has been expressed on other occasions.

This got me thinking. Is there a greater undercurrent at work hindering digital adoption, integration, and progression in organizations? Could the old-guard leadership of these massive agencies and operating companies be biased against digital leaders and digital talent? Is there such a thing as a digital prejudice?

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Who Responds To The Responders?

This one is for you, Dan.

As I thought it might, my last post about social media stirred quite a bit of discussion. As such, I thought it would be useful to perhaps dedicate another post as a means of both clarifying my position, and providing some counter-points to the various responses that have been generated around the web.

To recap, my original post wasn’t meant to suggest that pharma should completely abandon social media, but rather that the interest in social engagements is over-calibrated when weighed against the potential business impact for a given brand.  There are two points that encapsulate my thoughts on how social most typically makes sense for pharma. First, for corporate communications, investor relations, and (hat tip to Craig DeLarge) corporate level customer service, social media makes a ton of sense. Second, placing content inside a given social platform, but turning comments off, relinquishes any hold on the notion of that program being even remotely “social.” While placing content in channels like YouTube can be a highly effective tactic, it ceases to be social without conversational interaction.

Those specifics being stated, a healthy debate has arisen to my point of view on this. That’s good. The industry needs more thorough discussion of the why and how communications should be rightly used to better inform all of us. But from my perspective, the counter arguments being posited just don’t hold much water.

Unbranded social media engagements provide real business impact
(Messrs. Mack and Spong)
There’s really only two situations where an unbranded program makes strategic sense for a pharma product; pre-launch, when the market needs to be seeded for a particular indication, and post-launch when a new disease category needs to be better understood by patients. I would argue that the latter makes less sense than the former, but I can see the rationale and so I’ll include it in the debate. Read More…

Is It Time For Pharma To Give Up The Social Media Ghost?

see_no_evil

Social media has been a big focus for pharma marketers for a while now. By my count, at least 30-45% of ePharma’s agenda from the 2014 NY conference was focused on the subject, and there is a whole cottage industry of other conferences specifically for social media fin the pharma industry. If you spend any time following pharma folks on Twitter, you can find tons of tweets on the subject and create whole feeds for hashtags like #socpharm, #hcsm, #pharmsm, etc.

I say it’s time to move on.

You read correctly. Before some of you go indiscriminately crazy and lambaste me in the comments for the mere suggestions that social isn’t important, let me offer some points of clarification. As it relates to corporate communications, I think using social media is a no brainer. For J&J, Pfizer, AZ, et. al., using social channels effectively is essential for reputation management, stockholder news, crisis management, etc. It’s the cost of doing business in the digital world we live in. Additionally, using social platforms to seed content is just fine, as long as you’re not expecting huge results. I’m a firm believer in a distributed content strategy, but 99% of the time, pharm brands place content in social platforms with the comments sections (or anything else even remotely ‘social’) disabled.

I believe the whole use of the medium needs to be seriously rethought. Simply put, there are serious challenges for using (and I mean really using) social media for a pharma brand. For instance:

  • Fostering dialogue and conversations isn’t the business that pharma brands are in
  • The marketing teams assigned to those brands aren’t built to sustain the kinds of relationships necessary to succeed
  • PR and marketing rarely coordinate within a given brand
  • The regulatory organizations (FDA or otherwise) will only let you discuss what’s exactly in the product’s label, and
  • Users, by all indications, aren’t interested in pharma infringing on their timelines and feeds

Defining social media
The term “social media” has been hijacked by the pharma industry, and thus, needs to be properly re-defined in order to better comprehend my argument. Social media, as defined by Wikipedia, is “…interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.” If you read this carefully, you begin to understand my point. Pharma does almost none of these things. While the creation of content is part and parcel to the pharma marketing regimen, I would argue that the minute your regulatory team requires you shut off sharing or comments features, the social media aspects of your programs cease to exist. If social media is about the collaboration of ideas and the sharing of communication, is it really a social program any more if the direction of those communications is entirely one-way? Read More…

Dispelling 4 Mythological Beliefs About Innovation

According to the ancient Greeks, Prometheus took pity on mankind. He walked among men and noticed that they were no longer as happy as they were when Kronos the Titan was their king. He saw them living in the dark and shivering in the cold because they had no light to help them see and no fire to help them stay warm.

So Prometheus stole a spark from Zeus’s own lightning and brought fire to mankind. It was the dawn of civilization and enabled mankind to flourish.

But while mankind was now off cooking steak and smelting bronze, things didn’t work out so hot for Prometheus himself. For his disobedience he was chained to a rock at the top of a mountain and every day a giant eagle would come tear out his liver and eat it. At night, his liver would regenerate and the ordeal would begin anew each day.

It’s an interesting time for all the digital Promethei, especially those working in marketing. After all, our jobs require that we bring new and unknown ideas to our clients with the hope of ‘futurizing’ their marketing mix to make it more effective. In the America that we live in, almost everyone has a smartphone in his or her pocket. A majority of Americans have high-speed web access, and the sheer number of digitally enabled things we interact with is greater than ever before. The internet of things is upon us. The power and ubiquity of the platforms and APIs available to any given development team means things can be created at a scale and speed that were impossible 5 years ago.

Compounding the situation further is that you can’t flip through Wired or Inc. or Fast Company without reading pages upon pages about the ever-changing landscape of start-ups and internet-based businesses that are reshaping the American economy. The tech business is booming. Being a wild success with a tech idea is becoming the new American Dream and everyone fantasizes about becoming the next great digital titan.

But this has created a Jekyll and Hyde(1) type of situation. In one sense, it’s been empowering. Marketers are embracing new ideas and experimentation with a zeal that hasn’t seen since the early days of the web. Digital innovation is now coveted and the internet is no longer seen as an inferior medium compared to others. Additionally, clients are gaining a greater appetite for ‘new’ and “differentiating’ ideas and the willingness to try things may be at an all time high.

But.

As if they weren’t undervalued enough already, strategy and planning are becoming increasingly viewed as unnecessary, and clients are shifting from defining the objectives for a brand to defining the tactical imperatives of a brand. For example, it’s no longer ‘obtaining new customers’ or ‘getting a patient to stop missing every third dose’, it’s ‘build an app”, or ‘use Shazaam.’ This type of behavior isn’t new, but it does seem to be getting more commonplace with every passing day.

The problem isn’t so much the extensive tactical requests, but the inherent implication that because it’s supposed to be innovative, thinking isn’t necessary, success is easy, and poor design doesn’t matter. Mythologies have evolved with clients about what innovation is and how it happens, some of them so fanciful, they might as well come with wings and a tail. It’s time to dispel those myths and hopefully do so in such a way that we can all stop feeling like our livers are being eaten. Read More…