Having experienced unprecedented disruptions, especially in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical business, many global and local drug majors, are rethinking their marketing strategies. These have, no doubt, been prompted by the challenges of change, which are sometimes stark, but more often than not - nuanced.
Many of them are now, therefore, charting into less charted or even uncharted frontiers of pharma marketing warfare. Most companies had no choice, though, but to embrace new approaches, at least as a stopgap, to reach their target audience – hoping to revert to pre-pandemic practices, ultimately.
Interestingly, some pharma majors could envisage that long-term focus on many of these new and innovative areas – more effectively than even the pandemic lockdown time, could be a game-changer in the business. Accordingly, they tried to adapt, several of these approaches, quickly and effectively – for sustained excellence in the post-COVID paradigm.
In this article, I shall focus with several global and local, publicly available examples, of innovative pharma marketing approaches that are now being tried by several top drug companies in the post-COVID period.
I. Continuation of pandemic induced innovative approaches – global examples:
- Virtual Conferences and Events: Experiencing success with virtual events and conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic, many pharma companies are leveraging this digital space to reach out to healthcare professionals and patients. These events now include webinars, selected virtual conferences, and online workshops.
Pfizer, reportedly, held its first virtual investor day in September 2020, which was attended by thousands of participants from around the world. The company also organized several virtual events to educate healthcare professionals about its vaccine.
- Social Media Marketing: The use of social media marketing is also increasing in the pharmaceutical industry. Companies are using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to reach out to their customers and engage with them on a regular basis to build long-term relationships.
For example, Novartis, among a few others, is using social media to promote core values of its products and engage with customers. The company has built a strong presence on social media platforms where it shares news and updates about its products and research, as well.
- Influencer Marketing: Many companies are partnering with influencers in the healthcare industry to promote their products. These influencers can be doctors, nurses, patient advocates, or even celebrities who are passionate about health and wellness. Influencer marketing can help companies reach a wider audience and build trust with their customers.
The French pharma major – Sanofi, has partnered with celebrity chef and diabetes advocate Charles Mattocks who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2011. The objective is to raise awareness about diabetes and promote the company’s diabetes products through social media and other channels.
- Patient Education Programs: Companies are investing more on patient education programs to educate patients about their health conditions and treatment options. These programs can include online resources, mobile apps, and support groups. By providing patients with accurate and reliable information, companies can improve patient outcomes and build brand loyalty.
Merck, another global player, developed an online resource called MerckEngage to educate patients about their health conditions and treatment options. The platform provides patients with information about various health topics, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
II. Continuation of pandemic induced innovative approaches – Indian examples:
Some Indian pharma players are also not far behind in several innovative areas for business excellence in the post pandemic paradigm. Following are some of those examples from Indian pharma companies, as available in the public domains. These seem to have attracted greater focus in the pandemic period, and are continuing even today, with undiluted focus:
Virtual Conferences and Events: Illustratively, Lupin has been using virtual events to promote its products in the post-COVID period. The company is organizing virtual conferences and webinars to reach out to healthcare professionals and other customers. Similarly, Sun Pharma launched a virtual conference for healthcare professionals to discuss the latest developments in the field of dermatology.
Digital and Social Media Marketing: Several Indian pharma companies are increasingly adopting digital marketing “strategies to reach out to their customers. Companies are using social media, online ads, email marketing, and other digital channels to promote their products and services.
For example, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories continue using social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to engage with healthcare professionals and consumers. Even, Cadila Healthcare, reportedly, has been using search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and social media marketing to reach out to its customers.
Telemedicine: With the rise of telemedicine during the pandemic, pharma companies are partnering with Telehealth/Telemedicine platforms to reach out to patients. Companies like Cipla have partnered with telemedicine platforms to offer online consultations and delivery of medicines to patients’ doorsteps. Sun Pharma has also been using telemedicine to reach out to its customers and has partnered with telemedicine providers to offer its products to patients who cannot visit a doctor in person.
- Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising: DTC advertising is gaining popularity among Indian pharma companies. With the rise of online pharmacies, companies like Abbott and Pfizer are launching DTC campaigns to increase disease and treatment awareness programs directly to consumers.
- Collaborations and partnerships: Indian pharma companies are increasingly collaborating with other players in the healthcare ecosystem to provide integrated solutions. For example, as mentioned above, Lupin has partnered with a health-tech firm to offer a platform for online consultations and home delivery of medicines.
- Greater patient-centric approaches: Some Indian pharma companies are adopting more patient-centric approaches for more effective omnichannel patient engagement initiatives. For example, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories have launched an initiative to educate patients on the proper use of medicines and the importance of adherence to treatment.
As the industry continues to evolve, we can expect to see more companies adopting newer and more innovative marketing strategies to engage with their customers.
Many of the above examples are pandemic triggered innovative approaches to keep the neck above water during unprecedented business disruptions in the pharma industry. Interestingly, some companies are not just continuing but further sharpening these initiatives in the post pandemic days. Moreover, it’s good to note that these are now being implemented by the concerned sales and marketing teams with greater gusto and zeal.
The point to ponder, therefore, is pharma industry ready now to excel amid start and more often nuanced – the challenge of change? To respond to these challenges effectively, more companies now need to seriously evaluate and consider adapting such strategic footsteps, first as pilot studies and then gradually scale up, for business excellence in the contemporary period.
Let me hasten to add, in this ball game pharma leadership mindset change to act decisively, after accurately studying – based on data-science, to ascertain where and how to change could well be a win-lose situation. However, the good news is, recent data vindicate the accelerating footfalls in many these less or even un- charted pharma marketing frontiers, both globally and locally.
By: Tapan J. Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.