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Five Reasons Why Consumer Marketing Matters to Pharma

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How many of you have been asked (or have even asked yourselves) why so much money continues to be invested in direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing efforts in pharma? There isn’t always an easy answer.

How many of you have been asked (or have even asked yourselves) why so much money continues to be invested in direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing efforts in pharma? There isn’t always an easy answer.

Unlike healthcare professional (HCP) marketing, consumer marketing doesn’t have the same access to prescription data for return on investment (ROI)/business impact pro forma development and attribution modeling. Among consumer tactics—not just TV and print, but digital, social and emerging channels—it can be very challenging, if not impossible, to quantify ROI with statistical significance. So why, according to Kantar Media, did drugmakers spend an estimated $6.4 billion on DTC advertising in 2016? Oh, and it continues to trend upward. Patients aren’t writing the prescriptions!

Well, here are 5 reasons why for the next time the question comes up:

Reason #1: DTC Does Drive Incremental Prescriptions

Panel-based survey efforts by comScore and more recent predictive modeling by Crossix have demonstrated, quantifiably, that DTC can drive positive incremental prescriptions. The comScore Annual “Online Marketing Effectiveness Benchmarks for the Pharmaceutical Industry” reports, released for several years through 2014, consistently showed double-digit lift in new Rx (NRx) and refill Rx (RRx) for brand.coms and many traffic drivers to them.

Visit Brand.com – Incremental Rx lift over control group

Source: comScore Online Marketing Effectiveness Benchmarks for the Pharmaceutical Industry (2009-2014); Note: 2010 data not available.

Reason #2: Patients Trust the Doctor. They Use the Internet.

While doctors remain a highly trusted source for information, according to a Consumer Health Online Report from Get.Health (2017), healthcare consumers most often turn to the Internet FIRST for health-related information (57% vs 32%), including treatment information. More specific to research on treatments, of the consumers researching health-related information online, 43% are researching a specific medical treatment or drug, according to the same report. Therefore, any efforts to influence that search behavior and also be discoverable during that process are important for brands. Also from the report, the 48% and 44%  researching a disease/condition or symptoms, respectively, represent hand-raisers that have qualified themselves (albeit further up the marketing funnel), and the ability for brands to intersect with their online efforts is critical for nurturing future conversion. 

Reason #3: Pull When You Can’t Push

No epiphany here—HCPs are becoming more difficult to reach by the field, and ever more non-personal promotion (NPP) is jockeying for their attention! Enter: the patient. An empowered patient, who has seen a pharma DTC disease awareness or branded product TV spot, or has visited a pharma brand.com or has interacted with a brand’s Facebook posts, may be able to come in and start a conversation about a disease and treatment option they are aware of. But an empowered patient doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a culture of empowerment and the tools and resources to help support that dialogue. As part of today’s larger shift in healthcare delivery—with a greater onus on the patient to make decisions about their care (and where they spend their dollars)—pharma and pharma DTC, arguably, can and are playing a large role in that patient empowerment.

Reason #4: You Don’t Necessarily Need TV to do Effective DTC

Many marketers immediately think big ticket TV and print when DTC is mentioned. True, TV and print remain stalwarts of DTC spending. That $6.4 billion estimate on DTC spend for 2016 does NOT include digital spend. It is overwhelmingly TV and print. But TV isn’t the right or prudent choice for all brands. While digital spend remains just a small relative portion of DTC spend, savvy marketers know to consider their budget, their target audience and the media, channels, and devices that they use, and spend accordingly.

Reason #5: Quality Engagements

Today’s DTC marketing ecosystem toolkit provides opportunities for highly targeted and efficient spends that have greater likelihood for driving quality engagement, which is often a leading indicator of a successful marketing campaign. The use of data in modeling and targeting prospects and patients has increased marketers’ ability to intersect with a highly qualified audience at optimal frequency, thereby reducing wasteful spending. In fact, the advent of addressable TV has made the aforementioned blunt instrument of TV itself much more precise in reaching qualified audiences. Engagement is the key, and, while TV and print are great awareness tactics they most often spur patients into further research, usually online (see Reason #2). That is when the balance of your ecosystem needs to be readily discoverable and highly engaging to convert that awareness into action.

These are by no means the only reasons why consumer marketing matters in pharma. However, the next time someone asks you, the hope is that these will provide you with a good stepping off point for discussing what is best for your business and objectives.

More About the Author

Todd Hodgman

Todd Hodgman has been honing his marketing strategy craft for 17 years, all in the healthcare industry. He has partnered with a large array of clients, working in both in consumer and HCP marketing to support small, niche brands as well as massive, blockbuster brands. His experience ranges across channels and media, with a particular focus and expertise in digital activation.

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