ePharma: Boehringer Ingelheim and Aptus Health partner for asthma brand awareness

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Jim Boushie, director of respiratory marketing at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) and David Laros, VP of analytics and commercial effectiveness at Aptus Health, came together to lead a joint ePharma session in March titled “Synchronized HCP and consumer campaigns: At the point of care and beyond.” The collaborative presentation highlighted an initiative between BI and Aptus Health to better connect HCP, consumer, and pharmacist promotion. The two also shared results and insights gleaned from this case study on an awareness campaign for Spiriva Respimat. 

The drug is indicated for both COPD and asthma and delivered via a novel soft mist inhaler. While it has immense brand equity in the COPD market, it is a relatively new treatment option in asthma where there is still significant unmet need, so awareness is still growing.

Boushie shared that when looking for a partner who could help raise brand awareness through contextual engagement, BI wanted a team that understood how to better integrate promotion across multiple customer stakeholders. Another key requirement was the ability and experience in leveraging data and analytics to extract key insights needed to be more effective and efficient as a company – ultimately getting relevant and helpful information to patients. 

Enter Aptus Health's Laros, who said he shared with BI the company's data-driven research methods, and the important role this information played in reaching key customers and achieving commercial objectives for the brand. 

“It's critical to use data and analytics not only to understand customer preferences and behaviors, but also to determine the appropriate message through the correct mix of channels to enable a superior customer experience that delivers results,” he explained. “We conduct analytics on individual HCPs and segments of healthcare consumers to develop synchronized messaging in coordinated campaigns that are both effective and efficient.” 

Boushie and Laros discussed that they first had to streamline their goals, which were to increase HCP awareness of Spiriva Respimat for asthma as an add-on treatment; raise awareness among consumer audiences; and spark meaningful conversations among patients, HCPs, and pharmacists at the point of care and sale. 

According to Boushie, what made the partnership between the two companies seamless and successful is that they had the same basic vision when it came to reaching patients and HCPs: connect them to information that is important to them (relevancy) at a time when they are more likely to act (healthcare journey). 

“Our traditional promotional activities were executed, like most other brands, in a disparate way,” he noted. “We were promoting to each of these customer stakeholders differently, so what piqued my interest was asking, ‘Can we bring these customers together both geographically and from a journey perspective?' And because we know there is often a dialogue disconnect between HCPs and their patients, ‘How can we help them speak the same language to create better connectivity between what an HCP is hearing in a consultation with a patient about their asthma suffering, and how that same patient is verbalizing it?'”

Laros said when they started exploring how they could maximize the reach to these customer stakeholders in a very specific, contextual, and synchronized way, they came up with a plan to use geo-domes, or tightly focused areas within 500 feet of a doctor's office or pharmacy, that would allow BI to reach HCPs, patients, and pharmacists all at once, but in a very relevant and hyper-targeted way. 

“We call it geo-doming or proximate marketing,” he noted. “It's proximate both geographically and in the sense of being there when someone is making a decision. Our goal was to try to understand the customer and be in the right place at the right time when it mattered.” 

The teams utilized the power of point of care to support decision making as a foundation for their research, citing industry research showing adults who have seen advertising at the pharmacy or physician's office are 84% more likely to discuss a treatment option with a physician, 77% more likely to ask a doctor for a product sample, and 68% more likely to ask a doctor to prescribe a specific product. 

They then built on this research by asking themselves how they could get content to consumers in all three of these segments – HCP, patient, and pharmacist – and how they could better understand them. 

Laros said they started by developing nine different banner ads in order to hyper-target these consumers and reach each group individually. The ads were then bucketed into geo-domes or places of promotion – a sort of segmented POC approach the team hoped would help them more efficiently focus on those customers who may be closer to taking action. 

“Once we're seeing a person engage, we can capture the data right then and there, and in turn deliver appropriate messages to those individuals wherever they are, whether at the office, at home, or at the pharmacy,” he explained. “There is a lot of information we use to help identify customer stakeholders and prioritize content delivery.” 

After the initial wave of ads was released, the team utilized the Aptus Propensity Index, a predictive tool that uses statistical models to understand how individuals prefer to engage. The results showed an overwhelming majority of customers preferred mobile as their content delivery method – a fact Laros said was not at all surprising. 

“People are constantly on their phones,” he noted. “Whether they're checking the weather, game scores, or the news and what's going on in the world – that's where they're spending their time. And the beauty of that is it allows us to serve up relevant content to them when they're actually sitting and waiting in the doctor's office.” 

With the preferred channel determined, the next step was prioritizing it with relevant content, for which Aptus turned to its subdivision, Tomorrow Networks – a top provider of location-based, data-driven mobile advertising solutions for health and lifestyle brands – for help in finding a way to engage with individuals in a multi-audience approach: patients, HCPs and pharmacists. 

“We thought to ourselves, what better way to contextualize content in asthma than to have something appear on a weather app?” Laros said. “We designed it so that you're getting the ad delivered to you right at the very moment you're checking the pollen count to see if that will be a trigger that day, or checking the humidity levels to see if you can exercise outside.” 

They then launched a six-month test program utilizing the company's network of 600,000 digitally engaged HCPs and 100 million mobile health consumers, with a focus on helping potential customers get more information when they need it in the form of ads for patients or clinical alerts for HCPs; take the necessary action they need regarding treatment; and be left with some sort of resolution to their journey. 

“There were some key learnings from a measurement perspective,” Laros noted. “Targeted Spiriva Respimat asthma prewriters in the test geo-domes showed an incremental lift versus matched control, well above Aptus' benchmark.”

“We're constantly trying to deepen our knowledge and gather insights about our customers,” Boushie explained. “Without these insights, you're speaking at your customers and not really engaging in a conversation. That is truly the best way to deliver contextual information in a synchronized format.” 

Both Laros and Boushie look forward to a continued successful partnership, and plan to work together to continue using the socioeconomic data they've collected surrounding consumer buying preferences as well as preferred content platforms – believing the connection of the two is what will help achieve the brand goal of ongoing conversations with customers. 

“In finding ways to deliver specific content to specific customers, we will continue to get smarter and be able to deliver it in a more authentic way that doesn't scream brand,” Laros explained. “The contextual relationship between HCP, hierarchical condition categories, and pharmacist is an impactful way to go, and we look forward to seeing what comes next.” 

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