Balancing promotion and education

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With specialty drugs, educating patients and MDs that treatment is available—not differentiating products in a competitive set—is key. How can agencies establish brand identities without looking too self-promotional?

Deborah Furey
VP, Merkle Life Sciences

With more detailed data on customers available than ever, there is no universal “right balance.” Instead, marketers should develop an understanding of customers' needs, their value to the brand and how they consume information. With this understanding, marketers can develop programs that engage customers, deliver the right message and achieve program goals.  Communications with customers must be defined as a personalized dialogue, placing the customer at the center to impress brand identity in terms that are relevant to customers. From a promotional perspective, we look for insights that help us understand the audience. By expanding the segmentation model and market research scope while integrating engagement metrics, we gain insights that inspire dialogue between a brand and its customers.


Ron Kane
Vice President, Allora

Striking the right balance in messaging for pharma comes down to spending creative resources on what is relevant to your audiences.  

For the doctor it means recognizing they need help, not just pretty pictures. The number-one trusted resource for patients it still the healthcare professional. Solving their dynamic and accelerating need for trusted information that is accessible to patients is key to any messaging success.

Marketers must respect the patient's need for information and support and realize each is on a journey. Intersecting that journey with appropriate messaging and education means first understanding what it's like for the patient with a particular condition and then finding a way to deliver value to them at that point in the journey.


Jim McDonough
Director of Marketing, BulletinHealthcare

As everyone knows, the future for specialty drugs is bright, as these medications are predicted to represent 45% of total pharma sales by 2017.

In terms of striking the right communications balance, while a compelling brand message is a must, a brand identity in specialty markets must aspire to the right bundle of rational and emotional benefits that go beyond the product's clinical benefits. This “extended brand” is value beyond the pill.

It's all about deeper relationships that place constituent needs at the heart of brand communications. For patients, it may include variations of high-touch specialized counseling, disease management, financial assistance, and patient education and adherence support; for physicians,  brands communicate value by providing educational tools (and peace of mind) for their patients.


David Ormesher
CEO, closerlook

The slow retreat from large population drugs largely available now in generic form to targeted population-based therapies reflects a rethinking of the commercial model, and marketing strategy. But the ultimate test for good marketing will remain pricing inelasticity and market share growth.

The agency challenge in this environment is less about balancing brand building with self-promotion than how this commercial model shift is an opportunity to redefine brand building. If the brand is built on excellent physician and patient education, optimal patient types, and appropriate patient support programs, product reputation will drive demand.

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