Pharmaceutical Marketing: The Value in a Digital Partnership

Male and female scientists working with tubes and funnels in a lab
Posted on by Jason Cook
Categories: Pharmaceutical Marketing

Projected to reach $1.12 trillion by 2022, the global pharmaceutical industry is slated for a 6.3% annual growth for the next four years, with most of that growth slated through 2020. And with a growing societal dependency on the products offered up by the industry, it feels fair to posit that such growth isn’t going to slow down any time soon.

That said, it’s hard to argue the existence of threats to the credibility of the industry.

As consumers, barely a day goes by when we don’t find ourselves exposed to a headline or conversation that makes us question the nature of the industry that we (affectionately?) refer to as “Big Pharma.” As a society, we walk a fine line between mass distrust and daily reliance upon the pharmaceutical industry, with so many of our diagnosed and undiagnosed troubles calling for either palliative or cure. From a consumer mindset, it certainly is a double-edged sword.

With that in mind, it’s equally hard to argue the need for effective marketing initiatives throughout all levels of the industry. While things are fairly well-managed and self-contained at the highest manufacturer levels, we have to wonder if enough is being done. The constant connectivity which is reinforced throughout every aspect today’s society leaves no industry or field exempt from the need for a well-realized Digital Marketing strategy; even a confidential and relatively self-sustained industry like pharmaceutical.

Because for every effective treatment, there seem to be multiple misdiagnoses; for every life-saving prescription offered, there are countless claims that we’re just ‘throwing pills at the problem.’ So, how do you battle the dichotomy?


Fight Disinformation

With accurate and easily accessible information that provides insight into the nature of the financial and developmental needs of the industry, as well as benefits to global health, we can create a more insightful narrative. We can empower a positive discourse on policy-making. Take, for example, the following facts from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations.

  • It takes 10-15 years to develop medicine or vaccine.
  • The research-based pharmaceutical industry currently spends over $149.8 billion on R&D per year.
  • In 2015, 56 new pharmaceutical compounds were launched, out of more than 7,000 in development.
  • From 2011-2015, the number of new chemical or biological compounds launched across the world market increased to 226, from 146 a decade earlier.
  • In 2014, 5 of the 11 leading global R&D firms were pharmaceutical companies with the following breakdown of disorder-specific drugs in development:
  • Cancer (1,919)
  • Cardiovascular Disease (563)
  • Neurology (1,308)
  • Infectious Diseases (1,261)


While the above statistics are only an example of the insight that could be shared, they speak to the perspective that can be gained about what the pharmaceutical industry has in development that the global society should be aware of.

Other insights might come in the form of the R&D Process, approximated breakdown of spend and some more in-depth exploration of the current pipeline. Granted, civilians can certainly dig for this information, but a more streamlined means of presenting it would benefit public perception. And if presented consistently across the industry by pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurance providers and medical institutions alike, it would go a long way towards meeting an expectation of transparency and cultivating a sense of trust.


Straddling the Generation Gap

Depending on the demographic selected, there is a significant disparity in both (i) the types of medications most commonly prescribed to, and (ii) the proper platform to be used in presenting to the various generations of consumers.

In some cases, where certain drugs are more exclusive to a particular age range, this may benefit the pharmaceutical industry in terms of maximizing any marketing spend. But do you have the right strategy in place, in order to target the appropriate audience?

For example, the Traditionalist generation accounts for the eldest of consumer segments. This particular group, while diminishing every day, is one of the heaviest consumers of prescription medication and of both short and long-term medical care. They tend to rely on the advisement of their primary care physician and specialists, rather than perform their own research. They have the least familiarity with digital platforms and prefer traditional marketing methods such as local television and radio spots, as well as information provided in print.

The Baby Boomers who represent the second-largest segment, while aging into a progressively higher rate of pharmaceutical consumerism, have spent the majority of their lives following the Traditionalist mindset in terms of information-sharing. That said, many Boomers have found themselves comforting acclimating to the digital world around us. Best evidenced by the ever-growing number of smartphone and Facebook users, many Boomers have grown to enjoy the ease of accessibility to data, but may lack the digital savvy to weight fact from fiction in what they encounter. In a world of misinformation, proper guidance becomes a powerful tool in influencing this generation.

Generation X embodies the group most comfortable with the transition from an analog landscape to a digital one. Just as familiar with Google as they are with hours of research through the hardcopy encyclopedia of their youth, Gen-Z’ers are relative masters of research. In most cases, regardless of the product, they are aware of consumer insights and comparative alternatives that are available to them – naturally suspicious of unverified information made available on Social Media (especially Facebook). That said, their sources are varied, ranging from verifiable online sources to the traditional marketing methods that they grew up with.

Millennials represent the single largest segment of consumers and possess a symbiotic relationship with technology. Carrying an expectation of immediacy in all that they do, a fully-formed digital marketing initiative is critical to grabbing their attention (the span of which has reduced from 12 to 8 seconds, on average). After all, over 75% or Millennials admit to defaulting to their smartphones in the absence of other stimulation.

And finally, Generation Z, which is now stepping into adult consumerism. That said, they also represent a significant portion of Americans who live each day with the aid of prescribed medicine. With the promise of 6 or more decades as a continuing consumer, it becomes important for your strategy to embrace the evolving nature of technology. This means an awareness of every online tool and a familiarity with (what is becoming an) app-based society. Also, keep in mind that their choice of Social Media platforms is far more temperamental than the generations that preceded them.


Flip the ‘Script

Simply put, we are years past the point where any business should question the value of a digital strategy. From a well-designed, functional and responsive website that works on all devices to an organic social media presence, you must recognize the fact that both existing and prospective customers are looking for you. They are seeking information. And if you aren’t the one giving that information to them, you can rest assured that your competitors will be.