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Digital spending and the marketing mix

As pharma's spending on digital grows, digital should be woven into the marketing mix

Pharma's spend on digital is growing, and by a healthy 20 per cent per year, according to Across Health's annual survey of life science leaders.

But the same survey came to the rather more surprising conclusion that digital – which included almost every form of electronic marketing communication – only accounted for 7 per cent of the total marketing spend last year.

In 2012 the consultants predict digital spending will rise, but only to 8.4 per cent, “still” – as Across Health's Gary Monk notes – “a very modest sum”.

The drift towards digital was also seen in a study by Booz & Co.

The consultants questioned 156 senior industry executives from Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Italy and the US in 2011 and found that while enthusiasm for product and disease websites remained high, newer channels were likely to be more popular.

Doctor-focused social media was highlighted by the largest group of respondents, nearly 60 per cent, as an area where projected budget allocations would increase over the next two years.

There were similarly dramatic trends for spending on mobile technologies (which 55 per cent of respondents expect to increase); e-detailing (52 per cent); and search engine optimisation (49 per cent), followed by product and disease websites (48 per cent).

At the same time nearly 40 per cent of the executives questioned said they planned to cut back on print advertising.

The survey also found that many, but by no means all, respondents expected salesforce time for their primary product to decrease over the next two years.

If existing and new investments in digital are to be effective, they will have to start conforming to what Ben Tilly terms 'evidence-based marketing'.

“There should be a strong case for any channel whether new or traditional, that states that there is a clear desire from the target audience that this is the medium through which they wish to interact with your company.

“Often there is a case to approach customers using an unfamiliar and new channel that will need a certain level of change management and education. But often this change in behaviour is not taken into account and projects fail. A change management plan is critical in these circumstances.”

The marketing mix and digital

Digital marketing expert Kai Gait is adamant that the technology is here is stay.

“Digital should now be woven in to the marketing mix as an integral part of it. The days of it being an add-on are over and companies who still see it this way are fools,” he says.

This view is backed-up by Sanofi's marketing channels manager Ben Tilly. He says: “Whilst digital becomes more and more integrated into the marketing mix the word 'digital' almost becomes obsolete. For me the idea that it's separate to traditional channels, such as sales reps, print or PR, is becoming more and more outdated.”

Ben says the role of digital for pharma today should be as a kind of 'glue' that brings multi-channel disciplines together rather than something that creates disparate channels.

But he adds: “This is not how it's working in the real world. Currently digital channels are used individually and not in a 'marketing-mix' approach. A website is launched, then a Facebook page and then a PR campaign is launched, all separately. These activities are often created by separate teams and these teams often work in silos and therefore so do the channels of communication. The website, Facebook page and PR campaign don't reference each other and lack consistency.”

4th April 2012

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