Author: Jim Walker, Contributing Editor, PharmaLeaders
ExL recently hosted its 2nd Annual Pharma Marketing Forum in Philadelphia, with close to 200 pharmaceutical marketing and agency experts attending from a wide range of companies. Although not explicitly a “digital” conference, it was no surprise that digital tactics and strategies garnered a lot of discussion throughout the 2-day event, presented by Digital Pharma and Fierce Pharma Marketing.
David Reim, Chief Product, Marketing, & Privacy Officer at DMD, served as the event chairperson and kicked things off with a brief history of online DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising and showcasing the first pharma website that was launched by Claritan in 1996. This minimalist site ran off of a web server located under the project manager’s desk! While the digital marketing infrastructure has certainly advanced from there, Reim pointed out that many of the core elements of pharma marketing web design have not changed a great deal from 20 years ago. However, Reim noted that 2019 does mark a major milestone as it will be the first year that digital advertising exceeds traditional advertising – proving earlier naysayers very, very wrong.
Given this massive seachange to digital ad spend, it was altogether fitting that the opening keynote speaker was Cozi Namer, Marketing Manager, Google AI: Healthcare. Namer’s presentation covered key elements for building privacy and trust in an era of massive data collection. In his view, brands that can deliver trust and provide “magical moments” of customer support and engagement will be able to thrive in this new era. Of course this is easier said than done, especially with intense online competition as Americans are on track to do more than 200 billion health-related Google searches this year.
These online patients search across every indication and treatment imaginable, but also share some common traits. Active digital patients are 2x more likely to get care, typically adhere 5-6 weeks longer than non-digital patients, and are 5x more likely to switch medications that are not effective. Google has also found in many categories that caregivers are driving much of the search volume, including a large network of friends and family supporting patients in the health info-seeking journey. Finally, Google is seeing upwards of 90% of health searches coming from mobile devices.
It’s been well-documented that the pharmaceutical industry has a great deal of room for improvement when it comes to building customer trust, which consistently ranks near the bottom of various consumer surveys. To address this situation, Namer suggested that trust (while somewhat nebulous in its exact definition) can best be thought of as “Consistency of Respect Over Time.”
With that “ trust equation” in mind, he used a restaurant analogy to frame various ethical scenarios. For example, if you happened to find a private document in a restaurant, are you obligated to return it, or can you just take it and use it for your own advantage? Likewise, if as a waiter you happen to overhear some personal health information, should you repeat it to other guests at the restaurant? Namer believes that just because you have access to information does not mean you have the ethical right to use that information, especially when it comes to health-related matters. In his final example, if the waiter in this scenario overhears someone speaking of peanut allergies, do they have an obligation to speak up and say something to the guests in order to ensure their safety? In other words, if through big data analysis we can anticipate certain health problems, are we obligated to inform unknowing patients? While there are no exact answers to these questions, the framework that Namer proposed is a very useful way to begin thinking about the ethical implications of health data management.
Namer concluded his presentation by urging the audience to use data to build trust by removing friction from the patient journey, and providing valuable and timely assistance whenever and wherever possible. This was a theme that continued to be discussed throughout the rest of the conference, and is in fact a theme that will likely dominate healthcare marketing for many years to come.