Friday, April 09, 2010

The iPad as a Pharma Marketing Platform

"DTC marketers can't afford the luxury of waiting to see how many people purchase an iPad they have to start experimenting with app development and marketing NOW," says Rich Meyer over at World of DTC Marketing Blog.

The best example of an iPad DTC app Meyer could think of, however, was a cookbook for people with diabetes. As if the world needed a new diabetes cookbook!

I have an iPad and am enjoying it. I have even used it when cooking -- propped up on my kitchen counter next to the chicken parts. But I used the browser to find a recipe for BBQ ribs -- there were hundreds to choose from. I don't need an app for that. I assume the Internet is also full of recipes suitable for people with diabetes.

But Rich was probably thinking of something more useful. Something like Sanofi-Aventis's GoMeals app developed for the iPhone/iPod.

MM&M noted that "Sanofi-Aventis [S-A] is promoting it through outreach to diabetes bloggers as well as tactical advertising, such as banners on diabetes sites, and to the patient community through third-party orgs. As of [December 2009] it was the seventh-most-popular app in the free health and fitness section of Apple's iTunes Store."

I downloaded GoMeals for my iPod and used it to find restaurants in my area. You can compare the nutritional value of different restaurant menus and keep track of your own meals. It's very useful for all of us, not just for people who have diabetes. BTW, I  "forgot" to use the GoMeals app to calculate the nutritional value of my BBQ ribs.

When I used GoMeals on my iPad to find restaurants in my area, it crashed. At first I thought it was because my iPad was not GPS-equipped, but "Mic" said that iPad does have GPS (see comments) -- and he's right! Google Earth knows where I am! At least within 100 yards of where I am. Anyway, S-A needs to fix this problem and develop an iPad version. But is it worth the effort?

The GoMeals app has absolutely no marketing ROI for S-A. It may only be one part of an overall marketing plan to position S-A as a player in the diabetes area. Dennis Urbaniak, S-A's new VP of U.S. Diabetes, was previously Vice President of Innovation and New Customer Channels. No doubt Urbaniak was involved in developing the GoMeals app. BTW, listen to my Pharma Marketing Talk interview of Urbaniak: "What Sanofi-Aventis Learned from Its FaceBook Experience & What the Experts Recommend It Do Now."

Geoff McCleary, a mobile and tablet computing expert and vice president of strategy for imc2 health & wellness, suggested these consumer-oriented apps for the iPad that pharma marketers should develop:
  • Weekly/monthly health eMagazine for disease state information
  • 3D, touch interactive MOAs for disease or treatment education
  • Branded support program materials delivered weekly or daily
  • Social media-based content for brands or disease groups
How much disease state information can a monthly eMagazine publish and how would an iPad app be better than opening your email and a browser? We don't need an app for that. Same with branded support programs and social media-based content.

How about a "3D, touch interactive" MOA animation for Viagra or YAZ? Now those are pharma apps I'd like to see on my iPad!

You can find McCleary's white paper, "Considering the Apple iPad™ for Pharma Marketing," which has other ideas for apps -- including physician-oriented apps -- here.

P.S. The real marketing value of iPad is iAds, just announced by Apple's Steve Jobs (see "Apple Unveils iAd, iPhone 4.0"). iAds are "in-app" ads served up while you are using a "free" app like GoMeals, which does not have any advertising. Personally, I believe in-app ads are annoying, but if the app is valuable, I will put up with them. For pharma, the hard part will be coming up with truly useful apps.


  1. Great post, and some great thoughts from my former colleague, Geoff McCleary. I think, like any new technology, we have to ground our approach in marketing fundamentals. Is there enough adoption to justify the investment in developing applications for the iPad at this time vs. another channel where we can see measurable results today? Then consider--what unique features does the iPad bring to the table and how do I use its portability, connectivity, intuitive touch-screen and immersive interface to support and extend my brand's value proposition? If you can't add value, don't add noise.

    Unless you are using it for pure PR purposes, I think we have time to think about how we use this tool. But if you're hell-bent on using the shiny object, I think focus your effort on physician apps. If smartphone adoption is any indication--we'll see the affluent physician community buy these first. Then we'll have a few salesforce pilots and then we'll see adoption in consumer applications.

    Some Places I'd Like to See it Used:

    1. These could be powerful in-office communication platforms, offering a level of content immersion we haven't been able to deliver easily in that environment. A physician office having access to a whole library of short, interactive consumer details.

    2. Conferences, Ad Boards and Peer-to-Peer--let's stop standing around giant plasmas and projected Powerpoint and start using the connectivity of theses devices to create professional programs that tap into the collaborative learning style of most professionals.

    3. In-Home Support for Injectables and Complicated Regimens--here's your script and an iPad. Follow the guide, track your progress and bring it back on your next visit.

    4. I think if you've got a pediatric indication--your audience (or at least their mothers) will likely be the first consumer group to adopt. You should be the first to play here. And I do mean play. Educational gaming could be huge.

  2. Amber Benson--VP @ Targetbase.com11:43 AM

    Great post and some great thoughts from my former colleague, Geoff McCleary. If his Facebook status update at 5 a.m. Saturday is any indication--the man is passionate about the platform.

    That said, we need to look at the iPad just like we look at other possible channels and platforms. Is there enough adoption in your target to merit an investment vs. another channel or program that could deliver measurable results today? Is there a way to use the iPad's unique features such as portability, immersive and intuitive interace and connectivity to extend your brand's value proposition or solve a user need? If you can't add value, don't add noise.

    Unless you are looking for the PR play, we have plenty of time to create smart app strategies in healthcare. But if you are hell-bent on using the shiny object first, I think its safe to focus on a physician app. If smartphone adoption is any indication, we'll see the professional audience buy first, then a few salesforce pilots, then more widespread consumer adoption.

    That said, here's where I think the iPad could play:

    1. In-Office Education
    Great, immersive interactive platform for facilitating dialogue between the patient and physician. Assessments, calculators, interactive MOAs, etc. Let's equip physicians with a library of short, compelling content--like Common Craft for the doctor's office.

    2. Professional Collaboration
    Let's stop staring at giant plasmas and project Powerpoints at conferences, ad boards and peer-to-peer programs and use the connectivity of these devices to tap into the unique collaborative yet competitive learning styles of professionals.

    3. In-Home Support for Complicated or Injectable Regimens--revolutionize the patient starter kit. Here's your script, here's your iPad--follow the guide, track your success, bring it back during your next visit and we'll talk.

    4. Pediatric Indications
    If you've been at a restaurant lately, you've seen kids using iPhones. Anyone with a pediatric indication should seriously be thinking about how to play with the iPhone and the iPad. And I do mean play. Educational games could be huge for these therapy areas.

  3. Anonymous12:11 PM

    FYI iPad has gps ...

  4. Mic,

    Thanks. you are right. Google Earth found me!

  5. hahaha... another one found by gogle earth.. :)


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