There are plenty of pitfalls to avoid when it comes to how marketers approach digital.
“Whatever you do must be a longer term commitment, you have to continue with the activity and be there for a longer time than you would with traditional media or classic advertising,” says Fabio Piva, global brand lead – men's healthcare at Bayer HealthCare.
His advice for those in pharma thinking about digital campaigns: “Ask yourself twice what the value is in the exchange you are providing. When will you be useful for your target audience?
“Because in the current order, if you forget to be relevant … you will be forgotten after five minutes.”
For digital marketing expert Kai Gait a common mistake marketers make is not planning and resourcing appropriately.
“I still hear of strategies and tactics that are poorly conceived and, therefore, are doomed to failure before they even launch. Planning a 'fire and forget' campaign where you have no evolving strategy for the project sets it up for failure, as these campaigns don't work online – people want to engage and a 'campaign' is not sufficient.”
It's also difficult to ignore the relentless drive among marketers to launch more websites. An initiative may need one – though Pfizer's disease awareness campaign Can You Feel My Pain? stands out for using only social media channels – but the spectre of too many websites that attract too few visitors should haunt every marketer.
As further pitfalls pharma marketers should avoid Sanofi's marketing channel manager Ben Tilly cites three common ones:
Being led by the technology rather than customers' needs: “It's easy to jump on the latest technology bandwagon or look at the competition and think, 'they're using x, y or z channel, so should we, or we'll be seen to be lagging'. But customer centricity is, and always will be, the main driver to a channel adoption approach.”
Under-estimating the resource required: “For instance, budgets are put in place to create a website, but no thought or monetary resource is put into the promotion of that website. Similarly, little or no resource is put into the continued development and refreshment and refinement of content.”
Thinking social media is a quick, cheap way to promote a message: “A Twitter account, for instance, needs constant monitoring, from a pharmacovigilance perspective, as well as the need to handle 'difficult' posts from followers,” he says.
“There is no question about the need to develop strategies that make use of digital, because everybody sees the fact it can increase efficiency and decrease cost,” says Bayer's Fabio Piva.
But he adds: “I see a big question mark over how well pharma can use digital.”
For now it's up to pharma to prove it can use digital in a way that adds value.