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In the pharmaceutical industry, it is imperative to be transparent about important safety information (ISI) regarding the use of your products. At the same time, delivering this information in a way that is both useful and creative has historically been a challenge for some pharmaceutical brands. However, when they take a more holistic approach to their ad management to promote wellness across touchpoints in the digital ecosystem, they can better support customers with greater transparency and contextual awareness.
When I first began working alongside the pharmaceutical industry in 2010, brands had to err on the side of caution when it came to important safety information. The challenge was having the marketing savvy to create innovative, appealing content that continues to achieve marketing goals when you had to put all of the risks up-front and in consumers’ faces. Years later, we have more lenient fair balance regulations, in which benefits equal or outweigh the risks.
"Brands Can Go Much Further In Their Ad Management By Focusing On The Full Customer Decision Journey (Cdj), Offering A Better Experience That Truly Supports Patients’ Needs"
This is helped by newer display units and sleek websites that invite customers to interact and explore the product and patient testimonials prior to reaching ISI and side effects, enabling a more balanced customer experience. And social media, where brevity is key, allows brands to get their message out while linking to ISI below the fold. Still, brands can go much further in their ad management by focusing on the full customer decision journey (CDJ), offering a better experience that truly supports patients’ needs.
Promote Wellness Across The Full Customer Journey
Whether patients are researching symptoms before a doctor visit, are in the consultation process, getting medication, or are in aftercare, consider the different steps of the customer journey and how your brand can show up to support. What are some of the best tools and educational materials that you can provide to healthcare practitioners and patients alike, and in what format?
Previously, there was a huge demand for print and in-office posters and pamphlets for patient education. Now, there is an opportunity to virtualise those teachable moments–for example, personalising aftercare by inviting patients to fill out digital questionnaires on a tablet. These experiences, focused on empowering patients to better understand wellness and risks, go a long way in empowering patients to take control of their health.
And in addition to understanding when you’re reaching patients in the CDJ, don’t forget who you’re talking to: an elderly customer will have different concerns and needs than a young adult, side effects may differ based on gender, and different approaches are needed when communicating with a healthcare practitioner. While there is opportunity to reuse assets for different audience segments, provide added relevance through scripts that speak to different contexts—and test and learn to understand which creative strategies are most effective to reaching your goals.
Understanding what drives consumers at every step of the CDJ is important because it can greatly enhance the power of your ad management—much like how eased regulations across digital media channels have helped pharma brands engage with audiences years ago. For example, today’s consumers are taking a more active approach to their health, and one can imagine that wellness will remain a priority even after we return to a form of normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients must often be their own advocate in dealing with health concerns, which offers your brand an opportunity to show up and back them as they prepare to speak, or continue to speak, to healthcare professionals. Use the digital tools and data available to ensure your content pre-empts and speaks to their concerns, whether they are an individual patient or a caretaker (and ensure your ad management strategy can recognise the difference). Examples include platforms like a self-directed symptom diagnostic tool or an app that checks if mixing medications are likely to cause adverse effects.
The Marketplace Is Increasingly Digital—You Need To Keep Up
The recent pandemic has shifted a lot of healthcare practice online as patients aim to keep themselves and others safe—so much that telehealth platforms are having trouble keeping up with demand! And even before then, we have seen savvy patients pre-emptively order over-the counter drugs online, while direct-to-consumer (DTC) healthcare brands like Pill Club and Hims have virtualised the entire healthcare experience from writing prescriptions to delivery subscriptions.
As digital plays a greater role in informing, prescribing and delivering medication to your patients, ensure that your ad management strategy is built to keep up and adapt to become more informative, effective and speedy. And embrace the need for fair balance: becoming a true advocate for customers means operating with greater transparency to serve customers who are interested in improving their own health—a strategy that has worked well for digital native healthcare brands.
The evolution of ISI from overwhelming the marketing message to becoming more lenient and balanced should inspire today’s leading pharma brands to take a more active approach to supporting customer wellness. With an abundance of digital channels and tools available, it’s useful to upgrade your ad management strategy with a partner that can offer medical and editorial counsel. This role could continually monitor what has or has not been approved by the FDA, streamlining the creative process. This in turn helps pharmaceutical brands innovate, differentiate and strengthen consumer relationships with greater contextual support