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Digital Marketing Technologies: A Prescription for Global Pharma Companies

Posted by Vince Cavasin at 2:04 PM

PharmaGuyCloseUpAs discussed here, a key theme of our Creating Consumer Connections dinner was the common set of challenges faced by both CPG and Pharmaceutical industries. However, it's worth taking a closer look at some of the industry-specific challenges as well. The pharmaceutical industry is currently facing one challenge that can be uniquely addressed by digital marketing: the transition away from blockbuster drug development.

The pharmaceutical industry's transition from focusing on major blockbuster drugs to focusing on more targeted "nichebuster" drugs is well known; according to IMS Health, specialty pharmaceutical sales are soaring while other prescription revenues declined for the first time in twelve years recently.

Luckily for pharmaceutical marketers, this shift in focus coincides with the emergence and maturing of digital marketing channels which--unlike traditional Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) media channels--lend themselves quite well to the kind of consumer targeting needed for marketing targeted therapies. In fact, Pharmacy & Therapeutics reports that digital pharmaceutical marketing yields an ROI of 5:1, vs traditional marketing ROI of approximately 2:1 to 4:1.

And according to research, pharma companies are taking advantage of this. Cegedim reports that in 2012,  pharma digital spending rose 30% and is taking up an increasing proportion of pharma companies' marketing budgets, while reports that healthcare digital advertising spending is expected reach a record high of $1.19 billion in 2013 and increase to $1.33 billion by 2016.

While pharma companies are not quite on the cutting edge of digital marketing--and the regulatory environment in which they operate is far more constraining than in most industries--they do manage to uniquely innovate in the medium. For example, Sanofi provides Diabetapedia, the CDE HELP Team Portal, and the DiscussDiabetes blog--sites aimed at building community and offering helpful information, while carrying only subtle branding and marketing content.

That's three separate web properties--in addition to multiple branded product pages and sites--dedicated to a single disease in a single country. And Sanofi offers dozens of products in over 100 countries, each of which has its own unique regulatory environment.

Add to this the further complications of prescriber vs end consumer segmentation and targeting, drug usage approvals that can vary by country for a specific drug, the need to work with multiple agencies to localize messaging, and channel specific (e.g. mobile and social) marketing efforts, and you end up with a digital marketing ecosystem that may exceed the complexity of a CPG company's.

It's no surprise, then, that major pharma players are turning to technology solutions to help manage the complexity and gain competitive advantage and higher ROMI. For example, in 2009 Pfizer launched CUE, a closed-loop marketing platform designed to provide customized information to physicians and healthcare providers based on their unique needs. Besides cost scalability, CUE gives Pfizer the ability to ensure a consistent experience (across brands and markets) for physicians and healthcare professionals.

It is just these sorts of complexities that led Infosys to develop BrandEdge, the first cloud-based platform that simplifies global digital marketing ecosystems by automating and governing the functions that make them complex:

  • Aggregation, indexing, and management of digital assets and content
  • Governing workflow and regulatory approval processes across multiple internal and external stakeholders--even when they vary widely from geography to geography
  • Aggregating and analyzing customer data from multiple sources to enable better personalization and targeting
  • Providing highly configurable, real-time analytics on campaigns and site usage

For global pharma companies with complex brand ecosystems, BrandEdge can enable speed-to-market improvements of up to 50%, and cost savings of up to 30% compared to traditional digital marketing deployment processes.

I believe the trends we are seeing in pharma:

  • The increasing complexity of global pharma companies' digital marketing ecosystems and regulatory environments
  • The significant pressure pharma companies are under to lower costs
  • The trend toward more niche-oriented drugs (which require more targeted marketing)
Are creating significant incentives to adopt marketing automation solutions--perhaps more significant incentives than in any other industry.

What kinds of marketing trends are you seeing in your industry, and what are their implications? Is a Digital Marketing Platform or another type of marketing automation technology on your radar?


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