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“What will it take for Pharma to Go Big?”

Pharma is a legacy industry that’s not built for digital. Customers may have a different role in the prescription decision in the future, and pharma & life sciences marketers need to recognize this.

Patricia Brown, Executive Director, US Marketing at Merck & Co., Inc. stated that digital goes back to the core marketing principles:

  1. Who is your customer?
  2. Where are they?
  3. How can you reach them?
  4. What is the size of this opportunity?
  5. What’s the digital IQ of your team?

During this year’s ePharma summit many presenters spoke on the necessity of driving innovation from within an organization to achieve overall success. But how do you bring a change to a larger group of people?

“The leadership needs to come from the top,” Craig Lipset, Head of Clinical Innovation, R&D at Pfizer.

It’s not about failing fast; it’s about experimenting and learning quickly. Employees have a fear of failure, that’s why it’s important to communicate that digital transformation is not about a destination but it’s a continuous process. People need to feel ownership, and their voice needs to be heard at some point of the process.

Do we have the right content?

Once we define who our customer is, and what his key interests and pain points are, we can move on to the next step - engagement.

“Remember, what the definition of marketing is: to Influence beliefs and change behavior.” - Daryl Travis, Founder and CEO, Brandtrust, Author, “Little Things Big Returns.”

It’s not so much about what people are doing but why are they doing it - the purpose. We are drowning in data and missing the insight, and the human factor is what we need. People are buying an experience that means something to them.

Here are the three takeaway points from Daryl Travis:

  • Focus on what matters the most
  • Get your story right
  • Check for an amazing experience

Pharma marketers must start delivering better, more meaningful experience, and content marketing can help with that.

During the Digital Innovation in Drug Development: The Clinical Trial Perspective panel Rob DiCicco, Vice President, Clinical Pharmacology Sciences and Study Operations, GSK has shared that people like to talk about their disease for a certain period of time, and they like to receive information about it as well.

Pharma marketers must use this as an opportunity and start listening and engaging in those conversations; listen, learn the specific language patients use when they talk to each other, possibly offer support or advice but also pay attention to the questions that are being asked online and use them as a starting point for your content marketing strategy.

“Reach out to patient advocacy groups and find out what patients are asking for. Everything is made more efficient through the voice of the patient,” - Mohammed S. Ali, R&D Operations Innovation, Director, Janssen US.

Content makes a big difference to the customers when they open up our communications. It’s whether they want to engage with it or not.

How to be a better storyteller: Pharma and Social

Social is a discovery channel, because when people search for something and end up landing on a piece of content, that piece of content is going to be 100% relevant.


Dante Gaudio, Senior Vice President, Healthline Media, during his “Patient Listening Powers Empathy, And Empowers New Marketing Strategies” talk shared that Healthline Media heavily relies on social media and the amazing ideas from people who are on social. He stated that social listening is an integral part of the business, which is a health information site and a community.

Here is Dante’s advice to pharma companies on how to engage in the User Generated Content (UGC), “It’s all about practicing what we preach,”

  • Until it means something to you, how can that mean something to someone else? Pharma companies should practice their own storytelling internally first before they make agencies tell this story to the patients.
  • Get to the core and learn the motivations and values.
  • Always consider the patient's’ perspective when analyzing content relevancy. If the customer were in the room, what would he/she say?

In conclusion of this recap on the ePharma summit 2017, I would like to share some of the industry trends that were acknowledged during the three days of the conference:

ePharma TRENDS: What are we going to be talking about in 2020?

  • Digital not as a platform but as a service: VR and AR in clinical trials to get an electronic consent or to be able to get it faster (by Craig Lipset, Head of Clinical Innovation, R&D at Pfizer)
  • Augmented reality becomes cost effective (by Mohammed S. Ali, R&D Operations Innovation, Director, Janssen US)
  • Wearables and decentralized trials - (by Daniel Grant, Director, Early Development Medicine Lead, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation)
  • Machine learning to improve the trials and patient communications (by Rob DiCicco, Vice President, Clinical Pharmacology Sciences and Study Operations, GSK)
  • Voice search will become more important than text search (by Ritesh Patel, Chief Digital Officer, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide.)

An innovative digital strategy begins from recognition of the need for a change. Get to the bottom and discover all the Whys. Establish trust to build reciprocity. Don’t over promise. Get feedback. Improve.

“For some who tell you that something is impossible it’s a reflection on their insecurities, not your limitations.” - Adrianne Haslet, Global Patient Advocate for Amputee Rights, Boston Marathon Survivor, Ballroom Dancer.
Written by Ksenia Newton, Digital Content Manager

Ksenia Newton is a digital content manager at KNect365, a conference company. In her free time, Ksenia likes to blog on different topics like events marketing, content marketing, social media, lifestyle and productivity in NYC, and the most current obsession – social media growth hacking techniques. You can reach her at: @ksenia_newton

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