B here, there, everywhere

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Enough of what you can't do online! This has been the mantra at MM&M in the past few weeks, and the brief for this month's Patient Marketing Report.

Not that we're deliberately being insensitive to the well-publicized issues facing pharmaceutical marketers using the web and social media channels in particular—after all, we were at the FDA hearings too.

But it hasn't escaped out attention that there are some very good things going on in the digital space; efforts that are playing to the strengths and the appropriateness of the channels they are adopting, according to the audiences they are targeting.

One of the keys is not to use social media for the sake of it. Contributors to these pages have made similar assessments. “Brands should not have a Facebook strategy, a Twitter strategy or even a social media strategy per se,” proclaimed Mary Pietrowski, director of marketing at Hologic, in May 2009. “Instead, they should have a clear, well-articulated marketing strategy that might include any of these tactics to deliver the right message to the right target at the right time in the right way.”

Easier said than done? Not necessarily. In the aforementioned Patient Marketing Report,  Ben Comer looks in detail at Gilead Sciences' “B Here” Hepatitis B awareness campaign, which targets the Asian American community where the disease is most prevalent in the US. The effort, designed by Awaken Interactive, combines social media mainstays, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with well-designed disease web sites, print and outdoor media and a series of entertaining and educational live events.

“We didn't do [social media] because it's the new thing, or it's cool, or because it's the next wave of tactics,” explained a hepatitis product manager at Gilead. “We used it because it made sense and it was aligned with our objectives. It wasn't like, ‘Hey, we're launching a social media campaign,' it was, ‘We're launching a disease awareness educational campaign that includes X, Y and Z and our website, live educational events and media outreach.”


Of course, one of the elements that makes “B Here” so ripe for social media is that Gilead's Viread is the current category leader in Hepatitis B treatment and therefore it makes good sense to roll out a web-friendlier unbranded, disease-awareness campaign. “Viread is not even within sniffing distance of any of these events,” affirmed Awaken's Robby Stuckey. “There are certainly no tie-backs to any prescriptions or anything like that.”

B Here is no different than most other Web 2.0 initiatives in pharma, in that its official online pages have been stripped of their interactive functionality—namely the ability of users to comment and send direct messages, and the opportunity for Gilead to follow patients or even doctors. Purists will argue that such precautionary actions rob these channels of the very essence of what makes them social in the first place. I say that, in this case at least, it works very well, spurring numerous conversations and relationships to develop outside of the Gilead pages—none of which legally binds the company.

Speaking of impressive campaigns, the MM&M Awards 2010 program is open for business on February 8. You have until May 28 to enter the most prestigious and relevant awards in the business, so check out page 34 for details. Good luck.
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