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Feature

Pharmaceutical Marketing: The Internet impact

Posted on: 29 Jul 03
Pharmaceutical Marketing: The Internet impact

Summary

Faced with rising costs, shortened product lifecycles and an increasing reliance on blockbuster drugs, pharmaceutical companies are turning towards innovative marketing campaigns and new channels to reach an increasingly demanding consumer audience. Offering particular potential, campaign management solutions are being introduced to establish profitable interactions with large numbers of consumers across multiple channels.

Faced with rising costs, shortened product lifecycles and an increasing reliance on blockbuster drugs, pharmaceutical companies are turning towards innovative marketing campaigns and new channels to reach an increasingly demanding consumer audience. Offering particular potential, campaign management solutions are being introduced to establish profitable interactions with large numbers of consumers across multiple channels.


 


The Market Brief 'Pharmaceutical Campaign Management' looks at the major factors that are currently shaping pharmaceutical marketing activities and examines a recent promotional campaign undertaken by a pharmaceutical company to illustrate the use of online and offline marketing.


 


The brief moves on to look at the evolving structure of marketing campaigns, from traditional offline channels such as television through to customer relationship marketing and intelligent customer care. The Future Decoded section examines the steps that pharmaceutical companies should be taking in order to incorporate campaign management into their marketing strategies over the next five years.


 


New strategies needed


 


Pharmaceutical companies are conservative in nature. They have developed tried-and-tested promotional strategies that have proven results. However, the rising costs of drug development and shortened drug lifecycles means that companies must examine new ways of creating new and innovative promotional strategies to maximize the revenue potential for each drug.


 


The cost and limited success of traditional marketing campaigns has been the major subject to drive alternative marketing strategies. Drug companies are also having to look at additional methods to find media exposure because the market is becoming increasing competitive. The Internet is being recognized as another initiative that can bring the competitive edge.


 


The current pharmaceutical marketing landscape is being driven by a number of changes, including changes in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and the growth in consumer Internet use. In addition to the traditional marketing channels such as television and radio, pharmaceutical companies are using a new set of marketing channels to reach a large number of targeted consumers. Direct marketing is increasingly valuable and the Internet provides the means to reach consumers.


 


Online possibilities


 


The Internet has many of the qualities of traditional media: it can provide the in-depth content seen in print advertising, the real-time impact of television, the immediate response of direct mail and the mass reach of outdoor advertising.


 


With the rapid growth of online marketing, many Internet-based campaigns have often been added on to existing campaigns. Television adverts will often refer consumers to a disease or drug website, but that is often where the relationship stops. The online medium appears to be playing catch-up in prescription drug advertising, although this gap will reduce with time and experience.


 


The Internet has provided pharmaceutical companies with further opportunities to carry out ‘one-shot’ marketing campaigns through website sponsorship and banners. Although consumer responses can be measured, for example through tracking the click-through rates, there is no clear measure of their effectiveness.


 


The Internet is however, not without its challenges and is unlikely to replace direct mail or, indeed, any other channel completely. Furthermore, a significant proportion of the population do not use the Internet and due to the inverse relationship between age and Internet use this is particularly applicable for age-related therapeutic areas.


 


Conventional marketing here to stay


 


Conventional marketing tools will continue to be used because the leading drug makers are particularly keen to utilize any advertising methods that directly influence physicians.


 


The position of the doctor remains hugely significant. The FDA approves drugs for specific indications thereby only allowing a pharma company to promote the drug in that area. A physician however, can legally prescribe any medication for any use. It is therefore unsurprising that pharmaceutical organizations go to great lengths to influence medical opinion


 


Pharmaceutical Reps act as the main method of contacting primary-care physician In a promotional activity known as 'detailing'. The importance of this endeavor is reflected by the size of sales forces at the major drug companies.


 


In an article sponsored by the BlueCross BlueShield Association called "Getting Doctors to Say Yes to Drugs" the top companies were found to have an average of 4,000 representatives to sell to physicians plus 850 reps for specialists supported by an average budget of $875 million.


 


Attention to eDetail


 


Pharmaceutical sales and marketing teams can nevertheless use the Internet to interact with their direct customer base, the healthcare profession. eDetailing is essentially the use of the Internet to promote, or detail, a product to a physician, providing them with comprehensive information on new drugs or products, including clinical trial data, prescribing information and marketing materials.


 


Interactive websites are able to offer information detailing products in an engaging format that is available to physicians at any time. With cost significantly reduced eDetailing via interactive websites and devices can be an ideal way of raising physician awareness of new products and of increasing prescription rates.


 


The use if the Internet in pharmaceutical marketing will also increase when return on investment (ROI) can be measured more accurately. Pharmaceutical companies need to see evidence of ROI and are concerned by both the cost and size of executing large-scale campaign management strategies. To date, online marketing channels such as Internet websites and email marketing campaigns have been viewed as ‘add-on’ features to existing campaigns rather than as integral components.


 


But with increasing evidence showing the effectiveness of online marketing combined with reduced costs, the Internet looks set to become a more fundamental aspect of pharmaceutical marketing strategy.


 


If you found this week's Expert View useful, you may be interested in Datamonitor's reports:


 



 

For a free Datamonitor healthcare report please click here

Michael Randle

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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