2016 Healthcare Marketers Trend Report: Guidemark Health's Matt Brown on the numbers

Matt Brown is CEO of Guidemark Health.
Matt Brown is CEO of Guidemark Health.

When Guidemark Health CEO Matt Brown looks at the results of our 2016 Healthcare Marketers Trend Report, several numbers jump out at him — but none more so than the nearly 60% of respondents carping about smaller launch budgets.

He finds it interesting — ironic, even — that no matter how many dollars healthcare and pharma marketers have at their disposal, they're still hoping to assign more of them to launch campaigns. Yet he isn't entirely surprised by the finding.

“It used to be that clients would throw a ton of money at these launches,” he explains. “There would be a significant amount of spend at their disposal to blow these launches out, so to speak. Now you have a lot of products that are sort of me-toos. It's a different financial environment.”

Read the 2016 Healthcare Marketers Trend Report

That's why, Brown believes, marketing dollars allotted for big-bang launches are harder to come by than they were in years past. “Companies are dialing down their launches, clearly, but once they see sales they're dialing them back up,” he continues. “It used to be, ‘Enjoy all the money now, because after launch you'll see that budget cut in half.' Now it's the opposite. Once a brand has some traction, in year two or three you see more budget put behind it. That's something that hadn't happened until recently.”

Surveying other report findings, Brown takes similar note of the discrepancy between 2015 budgets for branded communications and unbranded ones. Fifty-six percent of respondents reported that their branded-communications budget went up in 2015; for 7% it decreased; 37%, it was flat. By contrast, only 31% of respondents reported an increase in their unbranded- communications budget; 19% noted a decrease and 50% said it stayed the same.

He attributes this, in large part, to DTC pharma bans in pretty much every country not named the United States. “Globally, you're seeing a lot more unbrand­ed campaigns,” he explains. “In most of the world, there's no DTC and so many restrictions around [pharma] marketing, so they do unbranded by default.”

Brown believes many brands and organizations could benefit from going the unbranded route in the U.S. “With fewer blockbuster drugs, you have less differentiation — and that's where unbranded can take off,” he says.

But he also understands why branded communications dominate the U.S. ­market. “Companies do branded here because they can. In their mind, putting money into branded campaigns works,” Brown shrugs. “With an unbranded campaign, fairly or not, it's harder to tie the investment back to product sales. Marketers still believe they can tie [investments in branded campaigns] more directly to sales.”

To Brown, this is “a bit of a shame.” He thinks unbranded communications can, and should, play a big role in the postblockbuster era. “A lot of categories really need unbranded. They need the education you get with it,” he says. “You can redefine a category and create engaged customers — then, later, you can attempt to give them a branded solution. Here in the U.S., it seems like some people are intent on banging [patients] over their heads with brands.”