There is no question that in the past few years the healthcare industry as we’ve known it has undergone a complete transformation. A decade from now, it will be unrecognizable.
Just consider the radical change of the past year alone, as the healthcare industry took on the biggest challenge in modern times. We have seen doctors and hospitals innovate in the trenches to understand the coronavirus and invent new ways to save lives. And we have applauded the breathtaking speed with which life sciences companies collaborated to develop new treatments and diagnostics — and not just one, but multiple lifesaving vaccines.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this revolution. But even before the pandemic, global changes have contributed to an increasingly complex and interdependent healthcare ecosystem. We are living in a different world today — a world where we should expect the unexpected.
Consider a few of the social, political, economic, cultural and technological shifts in the last few years that are reshaping the way we market healthcare:
· The rampant rise of healthcare misinformation, the outright challenging of previously accepted science and the proliferation of fake news at a time when people are more dependent on accurate information than ever before.
· The recognition that diversity in clinical trials is critical to ensure we’re collecting data that is representative of patients who will ultimately use the studied medicine — and acknowledging how far behind we are in making this a reality.
· The inability of healthcare systems worldwide to absorb the cost of new therapies, raising ethical questions about who gets prioritized or gets access to lifesaving, costly treatments.
· The broad range of geopolitical issues facing pharmaceutical companies, like challenges to supply chains, patents and counterfeit drugs.
And, simultaneously, we’re going through a cultural transformation, one that’s a result of a convergence of powerful cultural forces that dominated 2020, including the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, and the aftermath of the Trump presidency.
So, what does this mean for life sciences marketers? Trying to solve today’s tsunami of complex challenges the same way we always have — by looking through a single lens, a single audience or even a single functional area of expertise — means overlooking important issues that can impede success.
Put simply, unlocking a brand’s true market potential now requires innovation and integration. This involves multidisciplinary expertise and tapping into diverse perspectives from all areas of the marketing spectrum, including experiential, influencer, social engagement, sustainability and more. And these need to work in synergy with public affairs and public relations to stay ahead of trends and tackle the challenges. We learn more — and effect more — faster. Together.
Reimagining What’s Possible in Life Sciences Marketing
· Address complex problems with the right experts
Complex problems can petrify an organization. As a swimmer, I liken this to the difference between swimming in a placid pool versus diving into the ocean’s open waters. Connecting the best minds with the right expertise is like developing confidence as a swimmer to go out of your comfort zone. By creating a channel-agnostic structure to support your business, you can be sure you’re actually solving a problem, not just repeating the same marketing drills or jumping on the latest hot idea to market a brand.
· Connect health data with the right problem solvers
Organizations need to take advantage of best-in-class technology and analytics, then collaborate with technologists, data scientists, health science experts and innovative thinkers to connect data in a way that provides better perspective and creates fresh solutions to problems, such as building markets by audience creation or providing direct access to your customers. Remember: it’s not just the data that counts but also the analysis that delivers insights and new approaches to differentiate your strategy.
· Diversity is not a “nice to have”
We need to be equipped to program for diversity in gender, race, geography and more. And this way of thinking needs to be institutionalized throughout healthcare organizations — from who is in the lab to who is delivering the message.
· Don’t underestimate the power of a scientific narrative as your competitive edge
When crafted by scientists who also specialize in communications, a scientific narrative can be the ace up your sleeve to blunt misinformation and block competitive attacks about your brand. I’m always impressed by the ability of our PhDs and MDs to create cogent narratives and, moreover, how these narratives have been instrumental in defining a marketing white space while addressing any false claims from outside sources.
And Finally … Tear Down Those Walls
What would happen if you started breaking down marketing and communications silos within your organization to form a powerhouse team that thinks about the big picture from every angle?
What would happen if you also did that with your agencies?
We believe that good things happen when experts from different disciplines with diverse perspectives come together to forge new and comprehensive solutions. They deliver a real business impact that’s ahead of the curve and create new and meaningful ways to earn attention, engage your audiences and realize your objectives.
The healthcare marketing function requires us to merge intelligence, science and creativity to deliver exceptional, personalized marketing at a scale never before imagined in our industry. To stay competitive, we must change mindsets. We must begin the transformation today, because the marketplace, facing unprecedented disruption, is forcing us to rethink how we create value now and in the future.
Dxtra Health Integrated Solutions is a global collective of 27 marketing specialty brands and more than 7,000 employees, anchored across Weber Shandwick, Golin, Octagon, Jack Morton and FutureBrand. Dxtra Health Integrated Solutions companies bring together unique combinations of in-demand skills and expertise for clients, including experiential, public relations, sponsorships, innovation, brand, influencer, digital, social and analytics.