To use a war analogy -- as is often done in industry -- sales and marketing executives tend to send in more troops when they fail to reach their goals with the current force level.
We can see that playing out today in real wars and also in the war to market drugs. When your market share is not up to par, send out more DTC ads and more reps -- the drug industry's grunts and jarheads.
So it's no surprise why we've seen spending on DTC increase by an average of 11.5% every year between 2000 and 2005 (about 9% last year -- see "DTC in the New Era"), while spending on physician promotion has increased about and overage of 5.4% (see "DTC Set to Surpass DTPhysician").
Yet it is generally agreed that the return on these investments (ROI) is declining. A new approach to the way forward in pharma marketing is needed and is actively being pursued by pharmaceutical marketers and their ad agencies. Is it time for the pharmaceutical industry to take the advice of some of its critics and use the new tools available to it and extricate itself from its moribund situation of declining ROI?
The new tools I am talking about and that are big topics at many pharmaceutical marketing conferences can be lumped under the heading "social networking" or "Web 2.0," which is exemplified most notably in the non-pharma arena by YouTube and MySpace.
In anticipation of pharma's growing interest in these new media, I have developed the "YouPharma" brand and logo, which is intended to provoke thinking about new ways the pharmaceutical industry can engage their customers and consumers through Web 2.0 and other technologies.
My interest in this was also piqued by Time magazine's person of the year: You. "Yes," says Fard Johnmar, fellow blogger over at HealthcareVox, "TIME is paying homage to all of the people who are blogging, podcasting, networking and using Websites like YouTube. According to TIME, people are watching nearly 100 million videos per day and uploading 65,000 to the service. By any measure, those are phenomenal numbers."
But, as Fard points out, healthcare Web 2.0 was not much mentioned in the Time article. You can read Fard's post for a few examples of up and coming Web 2.0 based applications.
Beating the Pros at Their Own Game
For me, Web 2.0 is all about "beating the pros at their own game" as Time put it: ". . . for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you."
How will this translate to pharmaceutical marketing? That I don't know. Maybe Time's person of the year -- you -- has some ideas?
Could we see, for example, drug commercials use YouTube-like videos like that BMW commercial with the kids opening Christmas presents? Maybe you've seen the "Bus Uncle" YouTube clip from Hong Kong? If not, see it here. Here is a guy under "pressure" ranting on a bus -- all of it captured in a cell phone video. There must be a drug to treat his rage -- let's say its an anti-depressant. Couldn't part of that video be mashed into an ad for that drug? And in addition to or instead of running it on TV, it is submitted to YouTube (or YouPharma)?
Better yet, run a contest for consumers to submit their own videos illustrating symptoms of depression and select a few to insert into different versions of the commercial, which you submit to YouTube. Air on national TV the one that gets the highest rating or views on YouTube and pay the winner a bundle of bucks! (I don't believe in working for nothing.)
I imagine you could get doctors to submit video clips as well -- you know, to discuss the side effects. Maybe there is a doc out there who is really, really good at it.
Hey, it could happen! It's doable because it involves the "authentic voices" of consumers yet allows advertisers to maintain control over the important (branded) content. The possibilities are endless.
I admit this is a half-baked idea and solicit comments from readers to help develop a coherent road map towards the brave new "YouPharma" world.
P.S. The road map will have to include some "rules of the road," which I have often advocated elsewhere on this blog (see, for example, "Influencing the Dialogue: Marketers Suck at It!" and "Rules of Engagement").
My friend Dmitriy Kruglyak instigated the "Open Healthcare Manifesto," which is "designed to foster 'open media' in healthcare and medicine and to implement some sort of a new 'integrity standard' ... needed to help people sort through the junk..."
This is a start towards the rules I would advocate. Since this is an open source document, I will deconstruct it in an upcoming post and add to it.