Vantage Point

Over the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about trends in pharmaceutical marketing research. I've been talking to people on the client side and the agency side, to make sure that I get a good, well-rounded picture of the dynamics in our profession.  
Over the 40 years of my career in this field, we historically have used well-established category labels to characterize a researcher. A big one, of course, was the distinction between researchers who worked for healthcare manufacturers and those who worked for agencies. Those in the former category interacted with their internal clients and conceptualized the research, while those in the latter category actually conducted it.
Another significant distinction was between researchers whose primary expertise was in the qualitative methodologies, and those quantitative researchers who dealt primarily with numbers.
Recently, a new and important distinction has arisen: separating out “soft” healthcare marketing researchers—who deal with such issues as “brand personalities,” “company image,” “product loyalty”—vs. “hard” ones, those exploring such issues as how formulary decisions are made, how healthcare systems work in developing countries, access, reimbursement.
In my experience, it is very unusual to find a combination of “hard” and “soft” core competencies in any one researcher. Those with a “soft” orientation come from more creative and social science backgrounds, while, as one would expect, those who focus in on “hard” research come from business and/or science.
Prediction: Watch for the “soft” marketing researchers to have an hard time finding employment, while “hard” marketing researchers will be in demand!
Richard Vanderveer is chief solutions officer, rbV3
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