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Get connected in pharma marketing

Marketers who are using new media to provide value and relevance are driving value in their brands and will change the way healthcare is delivered

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As pharmaceutical marketers, we are in an enviable position of having a plethora of new media and targeted avenues through which to understand intimately our customers and communicate our message. It allows us to engage with and enjoy an interactive dialogue with those we are trying to reach and influence.

Today's communication solutions are driven by a passion to make our brands increasingly relevant in our customers' lives. Search engines, social media, online research and other consumer-controlled communications allow for deeper insights into customers' thoughts, motivations and behaviours.

Interactive touch points like mobile marketing and digital destinations give consumers access to more information, offering opportunities for marketers to track these interactions in real-time, enabling them to know and influence their audiences at a broader and deeper level than ever before.

The appliance of science
We are now more accountable in today's market – we are more responsible for our communication and the results because we understand our audiences more intimately. Fortunately we have insights into our customers that allow a 'science' to be applied to our marketing and communication.

Social search intelligence soars to a new level with analytic tools that allow us to better understand the conversations occurring at each step of a customer's journey. We can develop a deeper understanding of the kinds of information and decision-making needs people have, the language they are using to express their questions and their concerns; and we can tailor communications to help customers make better, more confident decisions around a whole array of treatment and wellness options.

Technology options that allow us to reach our customer have exploded. But no matter how innovative the technology is, it still has to connect with the end user to be relevant and provide value. We are beginning to see physicians use technology to help adherence and compliance in their patient treatment options.

They can now recommend a health-related app to a patient when prescribing treatment for certain disease states, which makes eminent sense. A physician is now armed with an opportunity to educate patients on how better to engage with their treatment and health outcomes, especially when that opportunity allows patients to share symptoms or progress data with their doctors.

Online community support
This paradigm shift is relevant for healthcare marketers, especially as consumers seek more than just information on a disease or its treatment. They're in search of communities for support, encouragement and help. For these consumers, overcoming illness is not something they want to do alone; instead, they desire and value personal connections with others experiencing similar situations. As new media evolves, more communities come into existence, and we as marketers have an opportunity to add value and contribute to the care the customer experiences.

A brilliant example demonstrating how new media and technology can enhance customers' lives is the Epilepsy Company, a UCB initiative for patients living with epilepsy.

The Epilepsy Company is dedicated to providing helpful and inspiring resources for the epilepsy community that includes people striving to live well with their condition, affected family members and caregivers. With the growth of social media, UCB believed there was an opportunity to create a community that would help spread awareness, foster an open line of honest and compassionate communication and promote connections between people who are living with this condition in the United States.

The EpilepsyAdvocate Facebook Page has proven to be an invaluable platform for people to share their thoughts, frustrations and achievements. They can also gain important information through inspirational and thought-provoking page posts, photos, and videos; find a local epilepsy event or chapter in their area, and even register for a free copy of EpilepsyAdvocate magazine.

The EpilepsyAdvocate Facebook community is approaching 45,000 and growing, and is considered one of the first pharmaceutical pages to 'truly' allow open commenting. Onaverage, each page post is viewed by approximately 8,000 people a day within the epilepsy community on Facebook and has generated over 10,000 shares and likes on posts and picture content. Impressively, Facebook says: “UCB is one of the most progressive pharmaceutical companies in the social space.”

It is safe to say that new media driven by technology is being underutilised and not integrated routinely into pharmaceutical marketing efforts.

But marketers who embrace these opportunities are driving value in their brands and changing the conversation in healthcare. We are rapidly approaching a time when this new media will be commonly used and will change the way healthcare is delivered, resulting in better health outcomes and customer experiences.

The Author
Ashley Kuchel, global group president, Publicis Healthcare Communications. He can be reached at

2nd January 2013


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