Peter Houston is concerned that pharma is taking too long getting to grips with digital marketing.
I was at the 2nd European DigiPharm conference in London last week. I didn’t manage the whole two days, but what I did see left me a little concerned that pharma is still struggling with digital marketing.
This is not a criticism of DigiPharm organizers. Intermitent Wifi woes notwithstanding, the event was executed with surgical precision. It’s not a criticism of the presenters I saw, they delivered their messages with style and offered good solid advice. And it’s certainly not a criticism of the enthusiastic audience: DigiPharm was packed, row after row of eager marketing execs, laptops, iPads and smartphones at the ready, eagerly tweeting nuggets out to those less fortunate and unable to attend.
My concern centres on the obvious disconnect between the conference speakers, the people in the room and their bosses, or maybe their bosses’ bosses. Some of the questions and comments from the floor were from people genuinely nervous of breaking out of the digital marketing 101 mindset. My least favorite one-liner of the day was this: “If you’re not in digital marketing within five years you’ll not be in marketing.” It strikes me that this was true in other commercial sectors five years ago. So what, all the analog marketers moved to pharma?
There are great digital marketing initiatives and great digital marketing people out there in Pharmaland. But whether its lack of regulation, fast-moving technology, big-company bureaucracy, risk aversion, whatever, the excuses are running out.
I came away feeling sorry for attendees who got all fired up at this conference, only to go back to the digital desert of their home offices. My big takeaway from Digipham 2010? Never mind engaging with patients and HCPs, pharma CEOs need to start engaging with their own marketing people, listening to their strategies and their concerns, and give them the support they need to execute innovative digital campaigns and ongoing social media programs.
I’m not saying it will be easy, but for an industry that’s headline objective is to cure cancer, it shouldn’t be impossible.