For generations, success in pharma could be virtually guaranteed by the three Ms: Put your best minds on discovering new treatments, invest enough money in development and commercialization and support the resulting brands with enough marketing, and you were golden.
Today's challenges are both quantitatively and qualitatively different from those we faced in the past. And in the face of challenges, incremental change will be insufficient. We need nothing less than a thorough transformation of how pharma goes to market.
Key to this transformation will be the way we practice the third M: marketing.
There has never been a tougher time to practice traditional marketing. Consider— only 14% of Americans, according to Nielsen, trust advertising, and 90% of people who can skip TV commercials do so. What's more, fully half of all Americans tell Yankelovich that they regard it as important to be seen as skeptical of marketing hype. No wonder the conversion rate of DTC has been in steady decline for the last eight years. The days when the fate of our brands was simply a factor of how many dollars we could invest and how many impressions we could push at customers is decisively over. But that doesn't mean that our relationship with our customers are over. And marketers in other industries are pointing the way. How?
First, by internalizing what Zappos' Tony Hsieh famously observed, customer service is the new marketing.
If you want to build deeper relationships between customers and your brands today, follow the lead of other industries in dialing customer service up...and push-messaging down. This is especially true on the internet, where marketers in virtually every other sector have conditioned your customers to expect to access customer service effortlessly.
So, study those marketers outside pharma that exemplify customer service and move to incorporate key learnings in your programs. AstraZeneca, for example, lifted a page from Comcast's playbook by continuously monitoring Twitter for posts mentioning affordability and access problems with their drugs, and responding with an invitation to call their 800 number.
Second, start today to integrate fragmented customer data into a true single view of each customer. Few industries have the depth of customer data that pharma does. But, fractured into hundreds of different, limited points of view, that data is worse than worthless. Look for ways to conjoin data and make it smarter, additive and more helpful. Data integration, of course, is an enterprise initiative beyond the scope of authority of most brand marketers. But marketers can add their voices to those calling for it.
Third, identify a learning agenda for each customer touchpoint. Every interaction should teach you more about that customer and help you serve them better, especially when combined with data you already have. If you haven't already, sign up for Pandora, and witness its uncanny ability to suggest new music you might like, based on what you've listened to and liked already. An interaction in which you only push a message is a wasted interaction.
We've always looked at pharma as an industry like no other, and all of the special constraints still apply. But now, our most urgent priority is to focus on the ways we are just like every other industry, and respond in ways that are innovative, interesting, and most importantly, customer-centric.
David Kramer is CEO, Digitas Health and Razorfish Health