PharmExec Blog

Marketing: A Digital Disconnect

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.

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One Comment

  1. Mark Gleason
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately we have a V-C fueled social media providers chasing pharma-marketing decision-makers without really having proof of concept. Haven’t seen the much if any evidence that social media is a sound business investment. Particularly to marketers who haven’t really figured out the website.

    As with eDetailing in 1999-2000, without true strategic rationales and evidence of financial benefit the social marketing vendors will continue to be frustrated. The first phase will be the shake out of the weakest vendors, the second will be the maturity of the remaining vendors with case studies, financial evidence, and third wave will be consolidation as the V-Cs look to get out of the likely unsatisfactory investment. It has happened in CD marketing, eDetailing, eSampling, among others. Why will social media be different. The internal advocates don’t have the evidence to make the sale and will jeopardize they futures by keeping pushing the un/under proven investment. I’ve heard more FDA letters for mobile apps, Facebook pages than business case studies with financial returns. Vendors help your client advocates will a real business case study. Otherwise, look up where all the eDetail pioneers are and their investors returns (ain’t too pretty).

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