5 Insights to Drive Digital Change

5 Insights to Drive Digital Change

I went to the Forrester Research Consumer Forum in Chicago this past week and came away with some good information and useful insights. I personally prefer to go to non-industry specific conferences to get a broader perspective and see out of industry consumer focused best practices and case studies. In this case, it is clear that customer experience, digital marketing and social media are immutable truths that Rx/Dx have yet to fully understand or embrace. 

Here are a few of the insights I came away with:  

1. Consumers today are like people who live by train tracks and over time have learned to tune out the trains. You have to rise above that. 

2. Hope is not a strategy and will not float your business. You have to have a digital marketing strategy that is endorsed by the senior most person in the organization. In a time when incremental budget is tough to justify; you must be able to make tough decisions and invest in a comprehensive digital marketing plan. 

3. You have to sweat the details of all aspects of your marketing. Gone are the days of a finite set of channels and message. The rise of digital has lead to fragmentation which has lead to increased complexity. You must learn how to deal with it.   

4. Your entire organization needs to understand and be empowered to deliver the best possible experience for the customer. 

5. It is now an expectation and not a pleasant surprise when companies demonstrate that customer-centricity is in their DNA that permeates their products, marketing and interactions. Rx/Dx organizations must embrace this change; quickly. The risk of not changing exceeds the risk of changing. 

Large Rx/Dx organizations must be willing to change and change dramatically. In my opinion iterative change is not be good enough to drive the change that is required to keep pace with today's consumer. No one is too big to fail. 

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Why Aren't Rx/Dx Marketers Doing More Advocacy?

Why Aren't Rx/Dx Marketers Doing More Advocacy?

October is the official Breast Cancer Awareness month and it is estimated that over 200,000 people (predominantly women but some men) will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

I am a big football fan and you can't help but notice the pink that college and pro players are wearing to honor awareness. The campaign has raised millions of dollars to fund research over the last few years. It's now the benchmark for effective disease fund raising and awareness.

By comparison, according to the CDC diabetes impacts 24 million people in the US.  Further, 133 million Americans suffered from a chronic disease, almost 1 in 2 people. Those are big, big numbers.  There's probably a separate blog post in those numbers and how breast cancer has risen into the collective consciousness, yet chronic diseases have a much higher incidence and are the leading the cause of death (not too mention chronic diseases are responsible for the majority of costs in the health care system).

However, it occurred to me that some of the best Rx/Dx social media that I am aware of has been tied to advocacy of some kind. There are many examples including Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer among others and whether it's raising funds for cancer research, driving awareness of a particular disease or advocating for better education, it all ties back to putting the patient first, raising awareness and raising money to find a cure.



That makes sense since the tenets of social media dovetail nicely into advocacy, which can create a halo effect and positive awareness.

So my question is: Why aren't more Rx/Dx focusing on advocacy as the baseline for their Social Media efforts?

Oh yeah, it's tough to measure the effectiveness outside of the dollars. My counter argument would be that for all of the custom market research that feeds development of a print ad that no one sees or print materials that get created to collect dust in the back of a sales rep car; why couldn't those funds be better utilized in developing a social media effort that is advocacy based and raises money for research? It's good for the patient and it's the right thing to do. I would recommend that you consider using advocacy and putting the patient first in your social media planning.

Interested in more of my thoughts on advocacy go here.

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Social is the Future....Again

Social is the Future....Again

I saw this article in the Med Ad News and while it doesn't cover any particularly new ground I did have to laugh at the headline for the last paragraph, which I think sums up the situation with social media and Rx/Dx companies. Sorry to cut to the chase, but here it is.


Conclusion: If You Can’t Ignore Them, Join Them
As the Web continues to evolve and social media eventually transforms all media, people will be digitally conversing as actively and openly about their health as they do now about consumer products, entertainment, and sporting events. But as we know, pharma is far from embracing the medium, and remains justifiably skeptical. As a reality check, we should keep our ultimate goals in mind, namely stimulating physician/patient conversations, providing the right information to the right audience at the right time, and demonstrating the level of transparency required for engendering our customer’s trust. By slowly growing, learning, and adapting to better meet the changing needs of our audience and their unique points of view, we can nonetheless monitor the pulse of these new and exciting developments in social media, and ease our clients slowly into the inevitable.
I have worked with Ignite Health and they are good and smart folks. Check them out here

It also reminded me of a quote that Jeremiah Owyang said when I met him last year (he said he borrowed it from someone) so I can't properly attribute it, but it goes along the lines of the Ostrich putting his head in the sand. "put your head in the sand and get kicked in the butt."

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Forget the Baby Steps,  Do Something Meaningful

Forget the Baby Steps, Do Something Meaningful

By my estimation, as it relates to Social Media for Rx/Dx companies, we're moving into at least year two of Social Media being a part of the regular marketing conversation. The Legal and Regulatory groups have weighed in, guidelines are written, and the pilots are underway.

So what are the results? In my opinion, there are plenty of good examples, you can go to Jonathon Richman's well read blog Dose of Digital and see a nicely done Wiki that chronicles the many examples.

There are many promising examples, but nothing that really moves the needle that gets out of the echo chamber of insiders and industry pundits and really impacts patients in a positive way that really realizes their insights. [Full disclosure: That includes the efforts I have been responsible for in my role at Roche.]

I wrote last week that I think that collectively that Rx/Dx companies are using the lack of FDA guidance as a rather poor reason for not moving faster. Taking that a step further, I think the results for Social Media have been valiant attempts but if you talk to real people with real diseases who are on the receiving end of Rx/Dx social media efforts I think they would politely tell you that they aren't overwhelmed.

In the end we need to move way beyond baby steps and into real social media that is more involved, engaging, interesting, interactive and about the patient.

How do you do that? Again, it's getting beyond the multitude of reasons why the industry is not moving faster and coming up with ideas that provide value, that involves the patient and that they think is valuable; it's not what we think they think is valuable. It has to be about the patient.

Starting here may help.

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10 Loyalists

10 Loyalists

I saw this post back in at Seth Godin's blog. I wasn't sure what to make of it, and honestly, I am still not sure. I do find it fascinating and wonder, really wonder if this kind of thing could work in Rx/Dx? The application has obvious usage in traditional consumer goods and plays on "maven" or hipster brand. I can see Rock & Republic releasing an exclusive selvege denim jeans this way in NYC; but does this have any application to Rx/Dx marketing?

Then on the way back from travels this past week I read an article in Wired about a writer who tried to disappear in the digital age and had readers try to find him using Twitter. It became a grassroots effort to try and crack the case and it gained some notoriety online.

Taking the two thoughts in combination, I wonder if you could recruit 10 online influencers, bloggers, or patient opinion leaders in any given health care segment and have them kick up the zeitgeist of a disease and raise the awareness for a period of time, could you could make a difference? Could it raise money? Could it be sustained for a month? Could you raise real dollars?

I think Rx/Dx marketing is in dire need of more cleverness in order to break through the clutter and build goodwill and break the stigma of "big pharma." I wonder, just wonder, if Seth's 10 loyalists would work? Would you need to incentivize the 10 loyalists? Would they do a social experiment to see if it would work and raise the antennae for a disease?

Hmmm, questions. What do you think?

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Digital Strategies for Thought Leadership

Digital Strategies for Thought Leadership

This is from Michael Gass' excellent blog and his thoughts on establishing thought leadership are applicable to agencies or individuals. Recommended reading.

Ad Agency Principals on Point for Agency New Business


JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.


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The Big Rx/Dx Cop Out

The Big Rx/Dx Cop Out

There is an interesting article in Ad Age today about Pharma spending to reach $1 billion in 2010. The real meat of the story though is the sub-head Growth Stymied by Lack of Clear FDA Guidelines. 

As I said a few weeks ago in a recent post is that the myth that we all must wait around for the FDA to provide concrete guidance is foolish and is now entering the insulting stage. Especially when mainstream media picks it up and pushes it out.

This article merely perpetuates this myth with an unidentified quote from a "Brand Manager" in a top 5 Pharma company.

"That's the problem," said a brand manager for one of the top five pharmaceutical companies, who asked not to be identified. "You read survey after survey after survey, and they all say that health seekers go online more and more to find information. But it's hard to talk to them in that medium without guidelines, because then you're risking a [FDA warning] letter."

This is slightly laughable and thankfully this individual wisely chose not to be provide their name. I don't think the problem is the FDA and their lack of guidance. There are guidelines set and they involve quite a bit of strategy and common sense; such as listening, providing value, engaging and not expecting anything in return. That's the problem when you rely on "survey after survey" and don't roll up your sleeves to develop real strategies or wait to be told what to do.

However, the inconvenient truth is that social media hasn't and won't lead to quantifiable bottom line results and it is counter-intuitive to the broadcast (fire hose) model of marketing that the unidentified "Brand Manager" is probably quite familiar with. 

All-in-all, this leads me to refresh my perspective from the post I wrote recently that outlines why social media has taken so long in Rx/Dx organizations.

Now I understand that this could sound like a pile of excuses, but I live in reality and reality being what it is, there are real reasons for why the industry is not further along. The easiest thing in life is to be contrarian or tell people what they should be doing. However, if you're pragmatic and dig a little deeper you can see there are challenges that are beginning to be overcome. It's going to take more time, but you'll see change, you'll see more advocacy, you'll see value add efforts and eventually relationship building and you'll see great social media from Pharma. There are many smart, passionate people in Pharma who want to do the right thing when it comes to social media but as I've said before in the past all revolutions start with a challenge to the status quo. That is happening. I've also said that technology and health care is like the turtle and the hare. Steady wins the race.   

Finally, I wrote a post recently that says it's about the patient and not the drug or device. When more companies realize this and develop strategies around this idea then social media will take off.
Social media is not about the company or the brand, it's about interaction, in a valuable way to people. It's the right thing to do.

Maybe the author of the article, Mr. Rich Thomaselli could do a little more homework or do a quick #hashtag search on Twitter to find and talk to people that are really in tune with social media and Rx/Dx and they can tell him where the real progress is being made.

I am also available.

Photo Credit: gapingvoid.com

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Too Good Not to Share

Too Good Not to Share



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