Marketers in white coats

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Matthew H. Weingarten
Matthew H. Weingarten

Let's suppose a pharma HR executive dreams up an event called Trading Places Day, in which the marketing folks don white coats and are sent off to a lab, while the scientists sit behind the walnut desks of their marketing colleagues.

The marketing execs retreat to the lab. They mingle for a while, discussing market trends and brand strategies as they explore the alien landscape. Then they dig in, examining the chemical compounds and sophisticated equipment around them. They analyze data reports and marvel at the challenges of moving compounds from the lab to marketplace. Then they brainstorm ways to share what they've found with the scientists.

Meanwhile, the science folks  read the marketing slide presentations. “Interesting approach,” says one researcher. “Subjective,” replies another. “Reliance on syndicated research with limited generalizability,” says a third, looking concerned.

Accustomed to the primacy of evidence and the power of analytical technology, the researchers see an opportunity to assist their marketing colleagues.

“We can help them,” says one researcher. “What if marketing had some of the tools we use in R&D?” The team identifies ways to utilize technology to improve marketing decision-making. Eager to test their approach, they head to the lab to share some suggestions with their marketing peers.

By applying a scientific approach, and taking advantage of technology that's available, pharmaceutical marketers can boost the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and improve the return on their investment.

Evidence-based approach shouldn't be confined to the lab. Two current trends  push us toward enhanced rigor in marketing.

First, the Internet has globalized the medical profession. Easily accessible medical databases put the latest research into the hands of doctors everywhere. As the profession has embraced social media, the network of influence has been completely remapped. The power of opinion leaders is now felt worldwide, through multiple channels.

Second, the computational linguistics allows for the harnessing of this data to promote and educate about our brands. Computational linguistics applies machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence) to language. Using natural language-processing algorithms, it extracts semantic meaning from text data quickly and efficiently.

The first trend unleashes data regarding opinion leaders and their valuable insights. The second provides the technology to harvest and analyze it.

As a result, medical professionals whose opinions matter most can be identified. It's possible to map their locations and the spread of their influence network; ascertain their sentiments, as expressed in journals and social media; and track the evolution of their sentiment.

A scientific approach to marketing could yield efficiencies at every stage of the development process, including:

  • Engaging the right experts earlier in the process, thereby allowing their insights to be leveraged sooner
  • Allowing for more efficient strategies by identifying those whose area of expertise is best aligned with the business objectives
  • Measuring in real time the effect of these efforts on the marketplace and making adjustments for maximum efficiency

Efficiency, is the basis of ROI—the most valued measure in marketing. And it is the common ground that marketing and scientific colleagues can work toward together.

Matthew H. Weingarten, MD, MPH, is the managing director of 81qd
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