Which of these factoids is not like the others?

  1. By 2017 video will represent more than two-thirds of global consumer internet traffic.
  2. 65% of smartphone owners use their devices to watch mobile video. Of those, 84% watch video at least several times a week.
  3. Video in emails nearly doubles click-thru rates and reduces opt-outs by 75%.
  4. Customers who view videos are 85 to 144% more likely to purchase.
  5. When asked what the most exciting 2014 marketing opportunity for their organization was, more than 2,000 company and agency executives surveyed by Adobe and Econsultancy ranked video last among nine possible choices.

If you chose number 5 – well, you couldn’t possibly have been more surprised than I was to find that out. While many of the other eight choices in the Adobe survey – customer experience, mobile, content marketing and multichannel, among other things – are undoubtedly important, it seems counterintuitive that video, so popular among the masses and growing exponentially each day, would be a mere afterthought to marketers.

Why is this the case? Because, I suspect, marketers are underdefining what video means. A typical marketer might look at “video” next to all those other Capital-S Strategic Concepts and think, “That’s just a tactic, and an expensive one at that.”

Wrong. Video may have been a tactic a decade ago. Today, video is the way that the new generation of technology users – and a large number of older folks, too – are accustomed to experiencing communications. It’s in our audience’s blood now – somehow I don’t think that 21 million iPhone 6’s were purchased in two weeks just so people could play Candy Crush on a bigger screen – and so it needs to be in our blood too.

When I say to my colleagues, “We need to do more video,” I don’t just mean that we need to make more videos. I mean that we as marketers need to live, breathe and think video with every brand and message we create.

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The good news is, while we in healthcare were looking the other way, video content and the technologies surrounding it have grown into something that’s almost perfectly designed for our purposes. Out there in the wild we can find ways to quickly chop longer videos into smaller “snackable” chunks; to select from a pile of videos and patch them together as appropriate to create something custom-built for each viewer; and to develop interactive “choose your own adventure” videos that respond intelligently to the user’s input. Even better, all are live and in real time on the web, a mobile device or whatever medium is appropriate.

Pay a visit to interlude.fm and you’ll see what I mean. Major consumer brands – Subaru, Pepsi, Kate Spade – are already doing this, as are a long list of performing artists for music videos. But with its intensely personal nature and inherent demand for information from both the patient and the physician, there’s no industry out there more suited for quick-customizable or interactive or responsive video communications than healthcare.

What are some ways that new video technologies can be used to the benefit of pharma brand marketers?

Virtual clinic

The physician will always be the most effective and authoritative source of information for patients. She can demonstrate in person; she can explain and listen and sympathize face-to-face, with all the weight of comfort that a personal relationship can carry.

But when a patient goes into a physician’s office to hear a diagnosis for the first time, that patient is generally in no condition to ask all the questions she needs to ask. She is anxious, nervous, worrying about how this new development will change her day to day life. Dozens of questions start occurring to her during the car ride home afterwards and in bed that night. She may well spend the next week working Google overtime, which might just leave her even more confused than before.

So why not use video as an extension of the clinic? By developing snackable video snippets covering likely patient situations and building them into a responsive package hosted on its own mini-site, we can offer a resource to reduce all that anxiety. By doing so with the participation of thought-leader physicians in each specific disease area, we can suffuse those videos with the same sort of authoritative power – or at least as close to it as we can get – as the face-to-face experience in the doctor’s office.

In other words, we can use video at post-diagnosis to further support the patient and set expectations for treatment, helping ensure the patients’ journey is an informed one. And what about making videos prescribable? I’ve heard plenty of talk in the industry about developing prescribable apps – “take two pills and download this in the morning” – but a responsive and interactive package of videos for patients seems wildly more prescribable to me than any app would. Finding, downloading and figuring out how to use an app takes work and is limited to mobile devices; going to an interactive mini-site full of videos is a one-click affair and can be performed on anything with a browser.

Looking forward even further, this sort of responsive video approach has the potential to become a part of the office visit itself, with physicians and nurses reviewing video material with patients: pausing, zooming, highlighting, switching from one module to another based on the patient’s questions and pointing out key details, then sending the patient home with the ability to explore that same video resource on her own.

Sales rep presentations

To the degree that video is used at all today by pharma sales reps, it is largely being used as a one-size-fits-all blunt instrument. We develop a 30-second MOA video, put it on the rep’s tablet and the rep shows it over and over to every person with an M.D. he can find. But we know every face-to-face sales interaction with a physician is not the same. Some doctors might be more curious about how their patients will pay for the brand; others might be more curious about side effects data. Some may glance for 15 seconds and wander off; others may want to dig in deeper.

So what if the sales rep could customize and assemble a physician-specific video presentation at each stop? What if he could pick and choose from dozens of brief video modules based on each physician’s proclivities, click “save” and instantly have a well-polished, personalized and responsive presentation? Think that might be more effective than our present blunt instrument?

And it is perfectly possible. The technology is already available. The Interludes of the world, and their clients, are already doing something similar. Why isn’t pharma?

Brand-to-patient resource

Trying to keep up with the explosive patient demand for credible information, pharma companies are already stocking their web properties, branded and unbranded, with all sorts of helpful content, some of which is in video format. But there’s no company or brand out there yet, as far as I know, that has made responsive video the core of its patient-support efforts.

That’s what needs to happen. The same sorts of responsive video modules that would work in the virtual clinic example discussed above could easily be repurposed as the centerpiece of a multichannel direct-to-patient information campaign. In this case there’d be a little more leeway to bring the brand itself into the conversation – perhaps more disease-focused modules on an unbranded property linking to brand-focused modules on a branded property. But all the same benefits would apply.

How to start?

I can hear all the complaints already. “It’s too expensive to produce video.” “It’ll be a nightmare getting it through LMR.” “We’ve never done it before.”

But we can’t afford to take counsel of our fears here. As marketers we need to be where our audiences are, and our audiences are consuming video at an extraordinary and increasing rate.

So start small. Try a pilot in a disease area that is particularly conducive to video content, something involving more than just a pill – like type 1 diabetes or sleep apnea, or perhaps in an orphan space which is particularly complex and has a limited audience with high demand for information. As marketers we should already know the questions that patients and physicians ask about our brands and the diseases they treat. We just have to start answering those questions visually, in chunks that can be mixed and matched together based on the needs of the user. There’ll be a learning curve, no doubt, but by starting small you’ll be able to ease your way into the new video technologies and ways of thinking while establishing proof of concept without too much risk.

We in healthcare will accomplish very little if we aren’t speaking the same language as our audience. And our audience is speaking video. So should we.

Brent Scholz is VP, executive creative director at Intouch Solutions.