Pharmas' multicultural consumer efforts online fall flat

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Out of 240 branded pharma websites, only about a fifth have any sort of African American imagery on their pages, and bilingual sections of pharma sites are often missing important elements like the “Questions to ask your doctor” section, symptom trackers and other tools, a study of the drug industry's online multicultural outreach efforts found.

The study, by Global Advertising Strategies, found that many pharma brands come up short when it comes to communicating with African American, Hispanic and Asian audiences. Instead of dynamic, culturally-targeted microsites, many brand teams still use PDFs for multicultural materials—for example, while Merck, Pfizer and Roche present their materials in microsite form, 86% of Abbott materials are PDFs, including those for almost all of the firm's hyperlipidemia franchise. High cholesterol, the shop noted, is prevalent in Hispanic and African-American communities.

And while Crestor and Lipitor sites featured dynamic microsites tailored to ethnic audiences, the Spanish-language Lipitor site was missing the entire "Tools and Resources" tab, while Coumadin offered a number of downloadable tools for patients in both English and Spanish.

Where pharmas stick to the core search engines—Google, Bing and Yahoo!—ethnic audiences search differently, with YouTube and other social channels following Google among non-Caucasian users.

“The differences among major pharmaceutical companies and their means of reaching a multicultural consumer was a startling discovery considering the lucrative opportunity that the US cross-cultural community represents,” said David Cortes Reynel, multicultural healthcare marketing practice leader at Global Advertising Strategies. “Given the remarkable growth of the multicultural community as evidenced by the 2010 Census figures, the pharmaceutical industry as a whole has yet to realize the full potential of the internet and mobile technologies in their outreach to those communities.”
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