Granted that the Pharma industry is one of the highest regulated areas in the world, yet there is always plenty of scope and space for creativity, freedom and . At least that was my experience as a marketing director for a top 5 Pharma company. I was fortunate to work with some very dynamic and creative colleagues who revelled in trying out new things as well some some understanding and liberal bosses who trusted us to just get on with getting the job done.
However, I've been wondering lately why Pharma marketers as a broad group seem the most conservative people on the planet, witness asking for RFP's under ridiculously short timelines and then dithering for ages about whether to sign them, requesting numerous small changes or even not bothering get back to their vendors. I'm not the only one in this boat, as it seems endemic if many friends on this side of the coin are anything to go by in a variety of different areas.
Last night I took a break from this insanity and was watching a great little video by one of my favourite brand and marketing experts, Dave Armano. In it, he was taking about what is and what is not a brand, offering his definition:
You can see his presentation here:
It's not what marketers want to push out to their customers and consumers, it how they feel and respond to your brand. Positioning, remember, as Ries and Trout never tired of reminding us, is in the mind of the customer, not the other way round. How many people in Pharma forget these basic marketing principles and continue to push out information willy nilly?
Endless repetitive (and expensive) market research with doctors, nurses and payers can only tell you so much. These days, learning to listen to the patients and caregivers is extremely valuable and in many ways, much more insightful. As Armano pointed out in his talk, initial perceptions about a brand can have an enormous impact on the stairway to heaven or hell.
You can do this kind of research fairly quickly and inexpensively using social media monitoring to track sentiments and feelings about your company, product, brand or even disease. If you are are 24th to market in a competitive category such as depression or diabetes, what would you have to lose by figuring out what's really important and figure out how your brand can meet and mirror those expectations?
Of course, I may be biased as someone who does this kind of monitoring for our Pharma clients, but the enthusiasm for these kinds of innovative tools is based on real experience using them effectively as an oncology marketer. Of course, these days things have moved on tremendously and the technological tools we have at our disposal allow us to search, capture, collate and analyse the sentiments and trends far more effectively and efficiently than the manual trawling I used to perform. A time consuming and tedious chore has now been turned into something quite different.
What does all this mean? Well, this morning on Facebook and Twitter my eye caught a thoughtful comment by Jay Deragon:
That's very true if you think about it. He also went onto to say:
This means being open, receptive and interactive. It doesn't mean creating a series of web2.0 tools such as a Facebook page or website and then disabling comments so patients don't have the key or means to communicate with you. That's a frustrating experience that may well lead to a more negative than positive experience and ultimately influence their perception of your brand. What you want is to create passionate advocates who recommend, refer and talk about their positive experiences to others, who in turn do the same thing. Word of mouth marketing is extremely effective and much, much cheaper than dreary DTC ads, which are becoming so very 1980's.
It's time to stand up and be counted, take baby steps into the brave new world and change your brand forever. The enlightened ones who grasp the mettle will be the new winners in the web2.0 digital age.
I wonder who they will be?