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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…

For Pharma, All Of This Has Happened Before

SO SAY WE ALL

As someone who grew up with the internet and made it my career I can tell you, the era we’re in right now looks and smells oddly familiar. How? Well ‘back in my day’ the Internet was just a thing. Conceptual. New. No one understood it but everyone was talking about it. Consumers played with it. Brands tried to use it. The media talked about it endlessly. Like with most new things, objectives for success were often poorly defined, but money, gobs and gobs of money were thrown at it.

Strategies evolved that more or less correlated to success. People got smarter. The tools got cheaper and easier to use while the barriers to working the on net got smaller and easier to manage.

Inside of pharma, regulators and brand managers alike struggled to define how to use the internet properly. Adoption happened slowly. Things seemed risky. Hands were wrung, and decisions delayed until others took the lead.

More case studies were needed.

Soon everyone was an internet ‘expert’ and the scrum began. Every agency, freelancer, and Johnny-come-lately tried to get digital work. Innovation was sought at the expense of meaningful results. Things had to be new. They had to be shiny. And they had to have lots and lots of Flash.

Prices fell. The talent pool swelled. Expertise was defined by what you’d just launched. The noise level rose. Soon it became hard to tell what was great from what was working. Flashy was the new good.

Now, reread the previous paragraphs and replace the word ‘internet’ with the words ‘social media’ or ‘mobile’.  All of this has happened before.

Then, terrible things happened. The economy tanked. 9/11 occurred. The dot–conomy imploded. All those people dreaming of their internet riches and piles of stock options e-lost all their virtual iDollars and ended up in thepoorhouse.com.

The party was over.

Read More…

The 10 Commandments of Digital Marketing

ItMoses of Digital’s that time again. Brands are starting their annual cycle of planning for the coming year. One of the quirks of pharma, that I haven’t experienced when working with other industries, is that brand managers responsible for digital turn over (through promotion or responsibility change) at an alarmingly high rate. As such, the institutional knowledge and learning for the role gets easily lost. Since a decent portion of pharma marketers enter a digital management role with little or no actual digital marketing experience, I thought it would be helpful to provide some edicts to ensure fruitful digital marketing campaigns for the years to come. Enjoy.

1. Thou shalt put no other strategy before thy brand strategy.
Too often for brands, digital strategies are created in a complete vacuum from the overall brand strategy, or worse, no digital strategy is crafted at all. Since digital is the glue that ties the entirety of a marketing plan and tactics together, anything that happens online needs to ladder up to the higher objectives of the brand. An effective digital strategy is typically composed of a group of sub strategies to effectively plan and account for owned, earned, shared, and paid assets. Take a look at your plan. If you can’t clearly articulate how your digital strategy (or objectives) ladder up in the overall brand, you need to rethink your approach.

2. Thou shalt not make for yourselves any shiny idols.
Most brands have some form of goal around innovation. And that’s important because innovations drive the business forward. But innovation doesn’t mean new, it means better. Your strategy should help you select your tactics, not the other way around. If you are seeking to use a tool or platform because you think it’s cool or innovative, and can’t identify how or why it works for your audience, you’re worshipping the shiny object and are destined to fail.

3. Thou shalt remember thy user and put no interests before theirs.
I can’t stress this enough. Too often marketers approach digital from the mindset of their own (or their brand) objectives. Users crave value, utility, and having their needs met. This is especially true online where fractions of a second can make or break a potential engagement. Instead of focusing on your needs, try and determine what your users want and how you can insert your brand or your content into their lives in a way that makes sense. It may mean you have to produce less banner ads and create more of something else. Read More…

Is Passbook the Future of Pharma CRM?

No offense to Android or Windows 8, but when it comes to healthcare, it’s still an iOS world. As the FDA announced today that it has approved the AliveCor iPhone based EKG monitor (http://ht.ly/fM1n2), I’m left to wonder about another recently announced technology, Apple’s Passbook. Is this the future of Consumer CRM for pharma?

For those of you that are unfamiliar, Passbook is Apple’s built in coupon and payment card organizer. Passbook enabled apps, like Starbucks and Fandango, allow purchases to be added to Passbook for later use. No printing tickets or getting cards in the mail any more. Have a $25.00 Starbucks card? Scan it into the app and it appears in Passbook. Just bought tickets online to Skyfall? Open Passbook and there they are. In practical terms, this solves an enormous problem for users, namely organization and integration into your mobile life. And that integration isn’t just about keeping everything in one place. As a system level app, Passbook interoperates with most of the other functions on the device. Let’s stick with the Fandango app for a second. Let’s say you bought tickets to a Friday night show. Not only are the tickets waiting in Passbook for scanning at the theater, but you can automatically add a reminder to your calendar and text friends the show times. With location based services activated, users can receive proximity based notifications about traffic conditions on the way to the show or be notified of offers as you walk into the theater. Given it’s relative infancy, it’s safe expect the Passbook’s feature set to get more sophisticated and more valuable for users and brands alike.

 

The holy grail for any digital marketing program is the often-touted, rarely-validated ROI calculation. I’ve seen ROI for programs touted all over the industry, but the dirty little secret is this: if you can’t tie any program back to a validated sale, you can’t truly calculate ROI. Brands correlate ROI all the time, but correlation isn’t a true indicator of actual sales. This is why redemption and coupon cards are so important, as they give marketers direct numbers that validate the performance of a program. Brands can talk engagement until they are blue in the face, but if digital is ever to be taken seriously as a business driver, ROI calculations must be accurate and proven.

 

It’s estimated that almost 50% Rx brands will have some form of coupon or discount card program by 2021. And why not? Even by modest calculations coupon programs typically generate a 4:1 return. So, why don’t all brands have discount card programs? The answer to that is a simple one. Discount card programs are insanely expensive.