4 things I learnt at eyeforpharma Barcelona

Last month’s annual eyeforpharma Barcelona saw marketing and medical affairs leaders gather to discuss how they are engaging their customers. For me, the 4 themes of collaboration, patient centricity, ‘succeeding in failing’ and gender equality emerged. Here’s what I came away with:

1.  United we triumph #unitepharma

The theme of the conference this year, and the hashtag, was #unitepharma (although I find these special hashtags a challenge as everyone also uses #e4pbarca, so there’s 21 characters of your Tweet gone already).

Why? Because eyeforpharma recognises that solving healthcare problems is complex, requiring the skills and capabilities of many types of players in this interconnected network.

Some of the best examples shown in the three days involved collaboration and working together.

Leo Pharma won an eyeforpharma award for their Innovation Lab which partners with technology organisations world-wide to develop digital solutions to support patients with skin conditions.

Another award winner was also a collaborative project – Boehringer Ingelheim’s Angels initiative is working with the European Stroke Association to certify 1500 hospitals across Europe as specialist stroke treatment centres, in order to save more lives.

It is a bit of a myth that health professionals do not want to collaborate with pharma. We sometimes over-interpret surveys that say ‘doctors don’t trust pharma digital stuff’ or ‘doctors prefer 3rd party sources’. Sometimes this is because pharma hasn’t (yet) delivered what they want in these spaces. Alistair Grendell of QuintilesIMS pointed out that ‘85% of HCPs want more digital services from pharma’ and used clinical trial recruitment as an important opportunity area.

Ryan Olohan (@RyanGOOGHealth) of Google supported this with a case study – in one example a trial had recruited just 10 patients in 4 months with traditional methods, then got the other 90 in 10 days with a search-led campaign.

Collaborating with patients is also vital. A helpful patient panel (Marc Worthmann of Alzheimer’s International, Kawaldip Sehmi of IAPO, Ananda Plate of Myeloma Patients Europe and Natacha Bolandos of European Cancer Patient Coalition) had some advice for the delegates – they do want to work with industry, but expect to be involved from the start… ‘Don’t come to us and say “look what we built”’ was their message, also ‘a patient support programme is not a marketing campaign’. Which brings me to…

2. Patient-Centricity – mindset or a marketing tactic?

All companies have patient-centric straplines but only a handful are demonstrably putting them into practice. On a show of hands, only about 15% of delegates thought their own company was truly patient-centric today.

Google pointed out that of the estimated 165,000 health apps (mostly created by pharma), just 36 of them make up half the health app downloads.

Ian Talmage (Bayer), a pharma leader of many years and a cancer survivor, had a unique perspective. He talked movingly about his brain cancer, the depression and fear that accompanied it and the long-term disability it has left him with. He was very clear that there is lots of opportunity for the pharma industry to help patients. “I didn’t want shiny leaflets, I wanted trust and involvement, my way”.

Takeda won an award for delivering a service to patients, designed as a result of a direct patient need. A colleague with IBD had a long-haul flight in which the food served caused a flare-up, so Takeda created ‘FlyWithIBD’ a campaign to encourage airlines to support IBD patients by labelling food more clearly and making WC access easier.


Launched with a Thunderclap, this simple but effective campaign was worthy enough to win the eyeforpharma award for Most Valuable Patient Initiative.

Wendy Keyhoe of GSK described an enterprise-wide initiative to talk to patients with COPD and bring videos and images into the business for all colleagues to learn from, with a patient journey map aligned across the organisation and a ‘workshop in a box’ to help countries develop their own insights.

Hats off to Nestlé Nutrition who interviewed no less than 15,000 patients worldwide in building their new commercial model based on real insights.


3. How to Succeed in Failing

Bruno Villetelle (@BrVill), Chief Digital Officer (very good to see one of those), described the vision at Takeda as ‘how to transform a 237-year-old company into a 33,000 people startup’. They have implemented an internal ‘Dragon’s Den’ for entrepreneur colleagues to come and ‘pitch’ their ideas and win funding.

Bruno pointed out that the ‘early adopters’ can’t do it alone (I agree, see my post on Crossing the Chasm) and was challenging, saying “Pioneers do not let go. Failure does not deter them”. How many of us in pharma have succeeded in failing?

Here are Bruno’s 5 top tips:


GSK’s AJ Ploszay showed that to transform effectively for multichannel a pharma company needs to really change the business model. GSK does not pay doctors to speak for them and no longer rewards sales reps based on prescriptions but on customer satisfaction.

Their approach to digital assets is iterative: “get a minimum viable product to marketplace, see what customers think and build from there”.

Felix Jackson (@FelixJackson) also described an agile project approach in his talk about Dynamic Digital Content Development. His 4 principles were:

  1. Just do it
  2. Minimise production effort
  3. Get real-time insights
  4. Evolve

He pointed out that so many of our approvals processes were designed for print. Don’t try to fit into it, change the process, he said. I agree, an agile test-and-learn approach has been done in pharma and it works.

Fabian Mettes of Amgen showed the importance of consistent measurement in delivering transformational change. They are implementing a common KPI framework (‘Brand 360’) across the organisation and this is allowing the sharing of best practice and learning, and the linking of ‘multichannel performance’ with sales results.


4. #BeBoldForChange: Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor?

A disappointing observation at Barcelona was the very unbalanced nature of the speaker faculty. 80% were men and all opening and closing keynotes were male, as were all the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ finalists. It is a shame to learn from eyeforpharma that they tried really hard to get a more representative speaker list but companies overwhelmingly put forward men for the task. Why is this?

Even the session on gender parity, ably led by Magdalene Pederson of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, was not as well attended as it might have been.


This is a productivity issue and men as well as women need to stand up and campaign for better diversity and equality in our organisations, particularly at a senior level. In an industry dominated by women (especially in commercial roles), whose customer-base is dominated by women (80% of healthcare decisions are made by women according to the HBA), women should have a fair share of leadership and decision-making. There is no lack of ambitious or able women in our industry. The problem goes deeper than that.

Magdalene pointed out that there is a glass ceiling for sure – the built-in unconscious bias on the part of male senior hiring managers that “she won’t want that more senior role because she has children and will not want to travel…” or “if I promote her she’ll just get pregnant and leave me in the lurch” – without actually asking the woman about her own ambitions and preferences. These doubts and questions do not apply to men! Companies must go beyond the letter of the law in having equality policies that address this very real bias.

In addition to this Magdalene told us, there is a ‘sticky floor’ – the women who get promoted, it seems, often get paid less than their male counterparts for the same job. With little pay transparency in industry this is often a hidden problem – but also needs addressing. Once again, unconscious bias rather than policy is the biggest problem in terms of the gender pay gap.

Paul Simms, CEO of eyeforpharma, has issued two newsletters on this topic and called for improved equality across our industry – “if we’re to fully deliver on patient outcomes, we must be representative of our patient population.” Interestingly the only negative feedback Paul’s had so far has been from a handful of men, illustrating, I think, that it is very difficult from a position of privilege to see the impact of prejudice.

I call on all women and men in our industry to call this out, challenge their organisation and show leadership in driving for better equality in the interests of our future and that of the patients we serve. Let us all #BeBoldForChange!





Posted in Uncategorized

Bring back the website

Check out the statements below.  Familiar?

  • We tried a website with brand <x>, and it didn’t work, so we’re not going to build another’.
  • ‘We have got too many websites; we need to reduce the number’.
  • ‘We created this website and it only had 10 visitors in the first 6 months – websites don’t work!’
  • ‘Why would we build our own website – customers prefer 3rd party ones don’t they?’

Have you ever heard comments like these?   Why is it, in pharma, we blame the channel for our shortcomings?

Think about it.  What if you substitute another, more traditional channel for these in the sentences above:

  • ‘We tried a sales rep with brand <x> and it didn’t work, so we’re not going to hire another’.
  • ‘We have got too many telephones, we need to reduce the number’.
  • ‘We had a stand-alone meeting and only 10 people turned up – meetings don’t work!’
  • ‘Why would we have our own congress symposium – customers prefer 3rd party seminars don’t they?’

Clearly in these last examples it is silly to blame the ‘channel’ for our own poor execution in it (and questioning the ‘number’ of assets alone is meaningless) – so why do we do this for websites?

My team and I do a lot of digital landscaping to find what customers are finding in certain therapy or disease areas, and we also do a good deal of insight research into the digital habits of patients, healthcare professionals, providers and consumers.  Generally-speaking, we observe this

  • Customers’ behaviour is universally search-led, with Google (a website) ubiquitous in most of the world. Google penetration amongst HCPs is 100%, most of them using it several times daily.
  • The most common things customers do on their smartphones is check email, text and yes – search the web and browse websites.
  • The most common needs are content driven – information, education, guidelines, FAQs, expert advice.
  • In almost all therapy areas the landscape is fairly barren. Customers are simply not finding the content and services about therapies and medicines that they are looking for, in formats they prefer.  In other words, there is a lack of good quality websites.

If we are going to meet customer needs with compelling content in formats convenient for them, this means the cornerstone of our digital investment should be – you guessed it – good quality websites.

This will likely be a combination of a presence on 3rd-party sites (where we will reach users interested in the topic and hopefully engage them with our content – this is like going to a congress and getting them to come to our symposium) and our own websites (this is like having a stand-alone meeting and inviting customers interested specifically in our TA or brand) – there is a place for both of these.

The key phrase here is ‘good quality’.  The difference online is that ‘your competitor is just a click away’ so we have to execute with excellence and deliver an outstanding user experience in order to provide what our digital-savvy customers need and expect. There is a lot to get right, and this requires work. Get it right, and you’ll be delivering what your customers want at the most crucial moment for them (when they are actively looking) and on their terms.

What could be better than that?

So our focus as pharma marketers, before we build that innovative adherence app or enjoy the excitement of crowdsourcing an awareness campaign or wow HCPs with our latest virtual-reality game – should be occupying that first page of Google with our content on our websites, serve their needs and make the most of the relationship that ensues.

That is how your own the digital landscape for your brand.  Bring back the website!

Posted in Marketing, Search, Websites

Eyeforpharma Barcelona 2015 – the Tipping Point?

There are a few themes we have been discussing in the pharmaceutical industry for a long time. The transformation of our businesses for a digital world. The need to put the patient at the centre of everything we do. The fact that our customers, health care professionals, are no longer interested in the same old ‘push’ messaging and need a completely different relationship with us.

At this year’s eyefopharma Barcelona, after 15 years of ‘talk’ I felt we had reached a ‘tipping point’ – things are really happening, we have measurable results, we have stopped talking and started taking ACTION. There is a good deal of work still to do, but at last it has finally begun in earnest.

With the much-cited 2014 ‘tipping point’ of over 50% of HCPs now ‘digital natives’ (PMLive/LBi) perhaps it was bound to happen. But it was very encouraging to hear people who are making change happen across our industry, for the benefit of those taking medicine and living with health conditions.

Indicative of this was the fact that eyeforpharma (@eyeforpharma) invited both healthcare professionals and patients to the conference, and they were invited to ask the first questions in each session – a nice touch.

Three themes stood out for me that I’ll use delegate quotes to illustrate:

“From product-based marketing to developing customer loyalty through great experiences”

This was by Tim Sherwell of AstraZeneca, who has been rolling out a multichannel customer engagement approach using different channel mixes in different situations. The AZ formula is resonant of the new model implemented by corporate software providers in the 1980s and 1990s, finally making its way to pharma:

Product + Service + Experience = Customer Loyalty

GP Julian Spinks (@JulianSpinks) and Consultant Endocrinologist Partha Kar (@parthaskar) made it clear that in a doctor’s busy day, information and education need to be concise and available on their terms as and when needed.

Ashfield Health worked with them to understand ‘a day in the life of a GP’ and ‘a week in the life of a specialist’ and it became clear that traditional educational formats no longer serve physicians. They blog, tweet, Google and game for professional development.


Julian described a 45 minute compulsory ‘safeguarding’ elearning module he had had to complete on a Sunday as he could never fit it into his working day (50 patients, 7am to 7pm). Julian described himself ‘as a bit of a dinosaur’ but on Day 3 of the event I had an audience show of hands ‘Who Tweets?’ – less than 15% of eyeforpharma delegates.  Julian tweets regularly. Our customers are leading the way.

If we are going to engage our customers, we have to ‘stop standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and yelling’ said Craig Fiebig from IMS. The importance of delivering great content and letting customers utilise it on their own terms was a recurring theme.

Lundbeck have developed an elearning platform to help embed good content marketing skills across the organisation.  Lanre Ibitoye gave a number of practical ways they have achieved this focused on McKinsey’s three ‘c’s of customer satisfaction: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency.

Lundbeck develop content that is easy to share across many channels and they work with customers to predict future content needs, rather than just asking customers ‘what do you want?’ – then they learn and iterate over time. They also have both a ‘localisation’ and a ‘globalisation’ process so that ideas working well in one market can easily be rolled out.  Lundbeck’s focus on measurement was impressive – spend 30% on content, 20% on promotion and 50% on measurement – this is how you learn and improve.

Peter de Jong of Elsevier presented some interesting customer research on content usage. Google is now ubiquitous at 100% usage, and interestingly, ‘manufacturer’s websites’ are used by 90% of physicians. He also observed that 61% of content consumption is on personal, not work devices, echoing our busy doctors who told us most of their CME has to be in their own time.

 “It is important to figure out where the sales rep fits in the multichannel business model”

This was said by Pablo Ouro Villaravitz from UCB and it was music to my ears.  For too long we have been asking ‘how can these other channels support the rep’ where in fact the field force is just one of many channels. As I showed in my introduction to Day 3, customers now spend less than 5% of their information seeking time in ‘face to face’ interactions but an audience poll in the room showed the majority are still spending 90% of their budget on F2F. Why is this?

Cegedim’s study showed a 55% increase in eMeetings and 23% decrease in F2F meetings with customers, but still only 3.3% of overall sales and marketing budget being spent on digital.

Len Starnes (@LenStarnes) discussed the future of congresses for the now ‘digital native’ HCPs. The recent ESC event had 300,000 unique visits to its website – more than 4 times the ‘real-life’ membership of the ESC. ‘Virtual’ has already exceeded ‘physical’ in spite of the congresses own reticence to engage – many will not yet make content available online for fear of impacting attendance, although some are looking at ‘virtual booths’ to complement physical exhibits.


This reminds me of the reluctance of major media owners in the 1990s, as the newspapers struggled with ‘free news available everywhere’. Only the astute players who recognised the importance of high-value content and the conversation and engagement it can generate, survived the digital revolution. It is inevitable for medical congresses too, and ASCO has embraced this for years and leads the way with Twitter feeds, blogs and online content.

There are immediate opportunities for pharma here, with ‘overnight congress reporting’ and ‘symposia summary videos’ being delivered or sponsored by some companies. As rules on sponsoring doctors to attend events tighten, companies are bringing the content to their customers.

UCB described three business models: ‘Multichannel’ (by which I think they meant ‘digital’), ‘Hybrid’ and ‘Empowered F2F’.  Clearly the cost for the last is the highest so they save this for the most high-value customers but believe they are having a significant impact on market share with all models.

AstraZeneca created brand archetypes (e.g. ‘Launch’, ‘Star’, ‘Fortress’) and built the channel mix around these based on customer needs and potential profitability. Like Lundbeck, AZ ruthlessly measured and learned along the way, with one pilot in Russia demonstrating a 17% increase in sales with their multichannel approach and in Italy generating 18,000 customer interactions in just 6 weeks at modest cost.


An interesting comment from Rosa Maria Lopez of Boehringer Ingelheim, who is new to the pharma industry and said ‘before I came to BI I had never heard the phrase ‘multichannel marketing’ – I just called it ‘marketing’’. Quite.

 “It used to be a marketing tool to say ‘we care about patients’, but now it is becoming a reality”

This was one of the patient guests at eyeforpharma.  All the patients expressed how important it is to have dialogue with industry and that we need to collaborate more. This was very refreshing and many speakers reflected this new optimism for a better partnership.

Anne Beal (@acbeal), Sanofi’s new Patient Engagement Head gave an inspirational overview of their strategy, admitting that that ‘We don’t know all we need to know but we are determined to learn’.

In Sanofi there is a drive from simple Patient focus to patient engagement and ultimately patient empowerment, said Anne, and her Centre of Excellence is a catalyst but everyone in the organisation needs to be doing this.

The Sanofi core values are about Transparency, Partnership (not ‘to’ patients, ‘with’ them), Continuous Learning and Development and Focus on Outcomes & Impact.

Anne’s goal, similar to that expressed by Tim White head of Customer Engagement at Lundbeck, is to be ‘redundant’ because this way of working is embedded across the organisation.

The Patient Vision for Sanofi is ‘People take control and improve their healthcare outcomes to positively impact their health and lives’.  Note that they refer to ‘people’ and not ‘patients’ – this was also a theme, and reminded me of my eyeforpharma presentation 2011 looking forward to 2016 and saying by then the thinking will be ‘the Patient is dead, long live the Person’.  A reality already?

Bayer’s Jesus del Valle heads up Bayers Grants4Apps program that sponsors start-ups with innovative healthcare ideas.  His panel discussion led to @thomas_thinks reflecting on the fact that ‘Pharma says ‘patient’, start-ups say ‘people’. That’s why person-centred innovation won’t come from pharma’.

Sanofi’s action plan consists of embedding people centricity in the Culture and Community, offering real Outcome-based Solutions, and learning in order to get real Input and Understanding.


A blueprint for the industry, maybe?  This and a panel debate about ‘disruptive innovation’ stimulated a hot Twitter debate about how patient solutions should be funded when companies are focused on the lifecycle of individual brands.  Should there be a collaborative approach organised by health providers/patient organisations with companies working together or co-sponsoring?

There was a Patient Engagement track at the conference as well as the Multichannel, Sales and Value tracks but the observations here are from the Multichannel track and it was refreshing that even here the patient/person was at the centre.

Gilles Pluntz from Ferring summed up why: ‘In countries where we have high patient engagement, sales grow, and where we don’t, they don’t’.

Not surprising, really.

Get in touch at www.kangahealth.com or follow @kangahealth

Posted in CRM, Marketing, pharma

The Future of Digital Marketing – Pharma Takeaways

I attended eConsultancy’s Future of Digital Marketing Conference this month, feeling like I was playing truant from my usual pharma industry to learn what’s happening ‘out there’ in the less-regulated ‘real world’.  However, some of the challenges discussed were very familiar.  Here are my takeaways:

You are what you wear

Sarah Bentley (@saraheb) kicked the conference off wearing a Tweetskirt, which all the girls immediately coveted.  Its LED patterns changed, responding to tweets.  Not sure of the application, but it was cool.  sarah3

At the end of the day Marcus Mustafa (@dacrumb) showed a tableaux of wearables, from glasses used by Virgin check-in agents to welcome passengers by name, to self-protecting underwear that detects ‘rough’ handling and electrocutes the attacker.

chip and pill

Of course there are many applications in our own area of health and Marcus showed several – the ubiquitous FitBit, contact lenses that detect blood sugar levels and send signals to an insulin pump, and beyond wearables to ingestables like electroceuticals, drugs with chips that detect body chemistry.

Customer Experience

This was the hot topic of the day, introduced by Sarah who pointed out the digital native generation will not tolerate poor experience – they expect seamless usability and immediate gratification.  Sarah’s 5-year-old daughter single-handedly bought a Hello Kitty Umbrella online, only letting her mother know of the purchase because she was cross it had not arrived immediately.

Anthony Mayfield (@amayfield) pointed out that we used to organise around the message, but now we must organise around the consumer and their needs. Newer businesses are doing this, he said, because they don’t have legacy systems or legacy thinking.

Jason Mesut (@jasonmesut) focused on user interfaces and pointed out that they are not just ‘web-based’ – but include, ‘knobs, knockers and switches’ too.  Think about your user as a human, not a customer, he said, and used the beautiful video from Corning ‘A Day Made of Glass’ to illustrate the opportunity to create immersive experience.

He asked us to ‘prototype out loud’ and make mistakes in order to learn what works.  There is no one ‘customer journey’, Jason said, we must find ‘moments of truth’ throughout the ecosystem.vanquish

Minter Dial (@mdial) showed a number of examples of retail immersive experience, with mixed success. Vanquish store in Tokyo lets you take a funky picture of yourself using a mirror and uploads it to their Facebook page – you Like the page to share it.

But execution is everything, Minter said, citing an example of another retail app, to ‘build your dream bra’ in a lingerie store, failing to work correctly. The problem is that management doesn’t test the user experience, he said, they think it is someone else’s job.

Data Driven

The importance of data to drive experience was clear.  Rapid test-and-learn is critical to create the right product for customers, said Wendy Tan White (@wendytanwhite). This point was picked up by Ottokar Rosenberger (@OttokarR) in a session on agile marketing – we should have KPIs around the speed of iteration as well as customer outcomes.

In our effort to drive agile marketing with data we must focus on consumers – ‘we have to start respecting people and their attention’ said Anthony, we are all turning into ‘cryptoconsumers’ protecting our data carefully. We are increasingly being analysed, from black boxes in cars for insurance companies (@agwp) to the Watson computer searching 29 million PubMed articles for potential cancer cures (@ibminteractive).

As Otto said ‘We should be data driven to optimise the curve but passion driven to shift the curve completely’.

In Content, in Context

Doug Kessler (@dougkessler) gave a thought-provoking talk about the future of content marketing, pointing out the blurring of content and advertising, but the counter-trend of the ‘return of the editor’ as providers try to build trust.  He also pointed out that when the head and heart combine – strong rational argument with huge emotional hook – you have a ‘home run’ of impact, using the Shark Attack stats as a great example. shark2We can use this more in our health campaigns.  We are data-rich but often forget that health issues can invoke a strong emotional response, for patients, caregivers and sometimes healthcare professionals.

Neil Perkin (@NeilPerkin) agreed that editing and curation is key – ‘it’s not about information overload, it is filter failure’ and identified 3 pillars of content curation – Professional, Algorthimic and Social.

Talking of algorthihow it worksmic filters, the Hummingbird release of Google has brought this to a new level, with an algorithm that provides answers to questions (‘What time is the match on?’) and the algorithm learns as it goes – even the Google engineers don’t know how it works anymore, pointed out Will Critchlow.  (@WillCritchlow).

Malcolm Coles (@malcolmcoles) illustrated Trinity Mirror Group’s approach to contextual marketing in their Us Vs Them Campaign – instead of pushing content the campaign builds irreverent engagement around topical issues.  For example, they asked people to find Damascus on a map just before the US bombed it.  Another tactic was their ‘how much does the Daily Mail hate me’ game.

Digital Transformation

Barney Leohnis gave us ‘a glimpse inside the incredible, wild and exciting world of Digital China’. Every aspect of Chinese life is being transformed and digital is the enabler of this change. The internet is seen as the route to the outside world and China has 3 of the top 7 internet companies by value. Taobao the ecommerce site, delivers more packages per year than UPS worldwide, and ‘it’s everyone’s dream to make a mint on Taobao’.

In a country of state-controlled newspapers the internet is the most trusted channel for product information and phone start up Xiaomi sold 100,000 phones in 83 seconds through social flash marketing. The technology isn’t cheap but its desirability is clear – people will eat rice for 4 months to be able to afford an iPhone.  The empowerment is so valuable that, in Barney’s words, ‘the Chinese don’t give a crap about user experience’.  china counterfiet

The digital empowerment has many facets – for example the ‘Diaosi’ movement – a social media-fuelled rebellion against the overwhelming pressure to succeed in China’s emerging middle-class with hot-housed education and huge expectations of the single child in the family.

In healthcare, the huge challenge of cost outstripping income has created a massive online counterfeit medicine scandal.

Transformation was a theme throughout the event with Anthony pointing out that the CEO must lead the transformation, and several speakers agreed with him that digital transformation is not a campaign, it is a whole new thinking – about ‘inbound marketing instead of ‘outbound’.

Sarah insisted the CMO must take ownership – only 1% of companies going through a digital transformation have the CMO in charge of it – and predicted that in a few years digital should be 75% of marketing spend.

The recently-leaked New York Times internal Innovation report was highlighted by Will as illustrating that media companies are still struggling to transform even though they recognise the importance.  Abstract is here: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/sites/default/files/Innovation%20Report.pdf

In the pharmaceutical industry, where risk-aversion is often rewarded, promotion is highly regulated and a large portion of spend is still invested in a highly-qualified sales force, transformation of mindset and model remains a challenge.

We have the tools but are we organised to use them?  This was the question coming through. This point was summed up by the quote Jason borrowed from William Gibson:

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”



The full list of speakers and their organisations is on the Econsultancy website.

Also see 48 quotes from FODM and a selection of the FODM presentations on YouTube.

Posted in Uncategorized

eyeforpharma London – Marketing 101

Here are my takeaways from the recent eyeforpharma Multichannel Marketing Summit in London. It was an interesting and stimulating discussion, yet a lot of the points made came down to Marketing 101:

  1. Start with the Customer
  2. Develop a Marketing Strategy
  3. Ensure you have the right Skills and Tools
  4. Lead from the front

1. Start with the Customer

If you are a non-pharma marketer you will probably be shouting – ‘where else do you start?’ but in fact in the pharma industry the tradition has been to start with the science, then move to the ‘data’, then develop the ‘brand’, followed by the ‘key messages’ and somewhere down the line we start thinking about the doctor and the government/insurance company and then eventually, if we are lucky or especially perceptive, we finally get to the person putting the drug in their body, who we refer to as ‘the patient’.

The Customer is, for most companies, the health professional as the person who has most influence over what drug is used, and we (grudgingly) recognise the importance of the patient as ‘the Customer’ too, but we struggle with this as in most countries ‘we can’t communicate with patients’ (we believe).

robbie Forums

Forums offered engagement and customer loyalty long before Facebook

On a positive note, putting the customer first really works.  There were a couple of shining examples of this at eyeforpharma.  The stand-out for me was the final non-pharma presentation of the conference from the inspiring Robbie Hearn (@Robsticks).  He described the online forum provided by Telco company GiffGaff.  Not new technology, not ‘social media’ as we think of it today, but as social as it gets, with a vibrant forum of over 10,000 posts a month (compared with 100 on their Facebook page), 99% of which are from customers.  Customers supporting customers, waxing detailed about their service, their hot tips, their experiences.  Solving each others’ problems.

This is the sort of community we should be able to create in health care – such a peer-driven environment.  Why don’t we? GiffGaff has a Net Promoter Score of around +60, similar to Google and Apple.  Other Telcos are at around -20.  It works, this customer-centricity stuff.


Univadis – customer service from MSD

The pharma example was the ever-impressive Univadis, presented by Shona Davies. With 2.1 million HCPs registered and 70% of them willing to accept promotional messages from MSD, this is a long-term customer relationship strategy that other companies can only look on with envy.  How do they do it?  By continually asking customers what they want and delivering it.  Simple, really.

The sentiment was echoed by some other speakers.  Seleen Ong of Pfizer (@DigitalMedical) said we should learn from Amazon – be totally customer focused, be frugal, innovate.  If you ONLY do what customers want, you’ll spend less and succeed.

Seleen, together with John Gordon (@DigiHealthGems) presented a HCP meetings app to help doctors find their way around a cardiology congress. There was no Pfizer promotion in the app – it was provided purely as a service and beat all its targets in terms of customer engagement. A nice step towards customer-centric business.

‘Push marketing makes push-back customers’ said John Gerow of AstraZeneca. I agree.

Jenny Cowdery, Head of Healthcare at Google said their rule was ‘start with the customer/user, then everything else will fall into place’.  (Then immediately after her talk on the morning of day one Jenny left the conference – obviously not that interested in her customers then!)

2.      Develop a Marketing Strategy

Henry Anderson from Novartis made the point that the pharma marketer’s objective is so often still about ‘doing stuff’ rather than having a real strategy to engage the customer. He shared with us the Burberry video showing how they have changed their business completely by having a great customer marketing strategy.

One problem is evidence. We have 50 years of evidence that the traditional F2F-selling led model works, where is the evidence for a multichannel approach?

As Liz Murray pointed out, we must challenge the paradigm. To find the ROI we must experiment and deliver it.  She quoted Einstein ‘the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant’. Her point – that we must adopt a learning mentality, be ready and willing to learn constantly, not stick with what ‘we know’.  What we know is already obsolete.

Tim White of Lundbeck pointed out we must break down silos, walk the talk, get everyone to step into customers’ shoes.  Ask customers what they want – at the moment we are not really delivering it:

tim white

@DavePinnington gave an interesting presentation about the behavioural psychology of marketing and influence models, with particular reference to gamification – which as he pointed out, does not mean making a game. Digital channels give us opportunities to do things very differently and our customers will engage with us if we do – what would you rather do, said Dave, work or play? He referred us to the TED Talk from Jane McGonigal – how Gaming can Make a Better World, where she describes harnessing the commitment and creativity of millions of gamers to solve real-world problems:

Silja Chouquet (@whydotpharma) focused on the patient and urged us to ‘legalise’ non-adherence as a normal part of human behaviour. We need to work hard to ensure there is supportive information online – the majority is negative simply because we are not delivering the information and motivation that patients need.

AZ’s Flumist product launch was cited by @JohnPugh as  a strategic customer-led approach – a launch without a sales team – yes, really.


Flumist – launched without a sales force

3. Ensure you have the right skills and tools

Cap Gemini said recently in a their Accerating Digital Transformation report that pharma are still ‘digital beginners’. This lack of multichannel marketing skill was a theme throughout the event.

We have a tendency to also ‘put unqualified people in digital roles and then have to rely on agencies to tell us what to do’ said John Gerow of AstraZeneca. There were nods of agreement around the room.

Another problem is we spot a good sales rep and make them a brand manager. Then if they deliver ‘what the sales force wants’ we promote them through the marketing ranks. But this isn’t good enough any more.

Don’t rotate people into digital roles to give them experience, or put your graduate trainee into the role because they are a ‘digital native’ or assume sales reps can become marketers without training. Multichannel marketing and digital channels require a high level of skill and expertise.

Would you have unqualified chemists developing your drugs? Then why is it OK to have novices trying to drive the most important customer engagement transformation the industry has seen?

Our customers are digital natives but we are not. Example: we were 4 speakers into eyeforpharma before we had one with a Twitter handle – at a digital conference! That speaker was @KaiGait  who pointed out that we think we’ve ‘gone digital’ because we gave our reps iPads. Choose the right channels and interactions.

happy fork

The Happy Fork – tells you when to stop eating

Kai showed some great examples of digital as part of the fabric of healthcare, from the Misfit Shine he had on his wrist to the ‘happy fork’ that tells you how many calories you’ve eaten to smart asthma inhalers that use GPS to track asthma triggers. 

What is your company doing to deliver real value through participatory healthcare?

4. Lead from the front

Cap Gemini also said in their report that in other industries, where a Chief Digital Officer has been appointed, the business has transformed more quickly and those that transform the quickest, win in their industry.

When will we have a Chief Digital Officer in the pharmaceutical industry?

Can we make the ‘pharmasaurus’ evolve? asked Dina Rey from Roche. Dina suggested treating your senior management like a venture capitalist and ‘provide a rock solid business case’.  I wondered when will the leaders themselves be driving the business case? Why do we have to ‘sell’ it to them?

Google spoke of ‘big crazy, audacious goals – moonshot thinking’ not ‘1% more on digital’. Change accelerates – mobile searches are set to outstrip desktop in 2014 – we look at our phones 150 times a day. Kai pointed out that more people have smartphones in the world than clean drinking water, yet many pharma companies still do not have a mobile strategy.  Why?

What’s the ROI?  The way to find out is to DO it and deliver the ROI, said Liz Murray of Quintiles. Get it 80% right and iterate, she advised, the pursuit of perfection is futile and stifling. It reminded me of a Marketing Leadership Council study showing that those brands that change the channel mix most often, learn the quickest and are the winners in their respective markets.

Our opportunity is summed up by the Life Healthcare video:

Posted in Marketing, mobile, pharma, Uncategorized

DigiPharm 2013: Sex, Drugs and Rolls Royces

This year’s DigiPharm in London had a different vibe to previous meetings.  People have stopped talking about digital as ‘the future’ (finally!) and are getting down to business, looking at the detail of how we should be executing in these channels, using these tools and the practical organisational changes we need to make.  Consequently it was an odd cocktail of change management, customer service and content optimisation.

The ‘Sex’ is about breeding. Brian Smith @DrBrianDSmith (of the Open University) opened the first day by holding up a mirror to the industry and pointing out that we need out-of-industry ideas in order to change.  ‘As an industry we are very good at having sex with our cousins’ he said, but to evolve, species need to acquire new genes and they do this ‘by promiscuity, not incest’. (Some tweets suggested immediate action on this, since from the regular loud and raucous laughter there was apparently a Comedy Convention going on in the room next door)

Brian was echoed later by Yannik di Mondo (Mylan) who told us to ‘quit your job – or at least, your office ‘ – and meet our customers. He decried the ‘we need an app’ mentality and insisted the channel is last – ‘only when you have a customer, a strategy and a plan should you choose channels’.

Ragnar Gaseby (Merck) provided the news that the pharma industry declined by 1% in 2012 – the first time ever, due to the pressures that have been with us for 10 years – declining access, price pressure, shifting decision-making power.

Tim Ringose’s diagnosis on the industry was loss of moral virtue, obesity and lack of fitness.  He reminded us that next year is the ‘digital tipping point’ when more than 50% of doctors will be digital natives, i.e have all their careers in the post-digital age.  Sady, as someone pointed out on Twitter, this is not the case for pharma executives.


Michel Baes (Janssen) can always be relied upon to bring a strategic vision with practical steps to achieve it, and he described his 7-step change management program, starting with a sense of urgency, then creating a vision and ambition, through customer insights to creating a coalition for change.

Michel also pointed out we have to get the basics right first before we will be ready for the mhealth revolution.  I agree.

The most fascinating presentations for me were those that made it clear that our industry is no longer just about ‘Drugs’.

The first was from Peter Villadsen of Leo Pharma who gave an inspiring account of that organisation’s QualityCare program.  ‘At Leo we have one customer – the patient’ he declared, and pointed out that only 1% of patients succeed on medicine alone – we need to provide healthcare solutions.  Hence QualityCare – an online service to help patients process information and take control of their lifestyle.

The service is ‘above brand’ and provides services to all patients with the skin conditions that Leo provides for.  They are very clear about the KPIs:-

Enrolment -> satisfaction -> adherence -> outcomes -> sales

…in that order.  Here we have a pharma company recognising what the software industry has known for years – that great service really drives sales, and that keeping existing customers is much more profitable than acquiring new ones.

Further, the QualityCare program provides superior insight with around 100 data points being collected in an ongoing manner, and enhances relationships because they co-create the solutions with the patients themselves.   Hats off to Leo for living their mission:

In a more traditional example of customer service Gizem Bickakci (BI) described the doctors ‘In-Club’ in Turkey, offering a range of services to HCPs to access information, professional development and connections with colleagues.  A nice initiative but KPIs were not clear.

Shona Davies @ShonaLDavies (MSD) blew us away again with Univadis, a successful service for doctors because ‘it is part of our corporate culture, the drive comes from the top’. (Back to Michel’s ‘Vision’). As usual the awe in the room was palpable as Shona described the 2.1 million signed-up HCPs, 70% of whom have agreed to receive promotional messages – a 1.5 million email permission list. Using this list costs about half that of 3rd party lists. Shona was clear about the KPIs.  They measure user retention, engagement level (light, deep, extensive), customer satisfaction and NPS (net promoter score).

It is not just about Drugs any more, folks.

The final big theme of the conference was optimising a ‘traditional’ channel – the sales rep – by providing outstanding content and services.  @MartynGlanville recommended letting reps play with their iPads for 6 months before giving them the content so that they know their way around and love the tool first. Stefan Wieman (Merz) reminded us that ‘digital’ selling is a different skill set and needs training.

Philippe Kirby pointed out that sales force automation is not the same thing as CRM and we should look at the customer’s preferred channels – citing a doctor who asked to receive emails but it wasn’t in the brand plan. Deni Baschiera of BMS gave a great example of providing email clinical reports and recognising the HCP drivers of trust, value and time – getting the content in the right format and place is key: ‘Content is King but Content Curation is Queen’.

Rene Neubach @newstream advocated making your reps ‘amazing storytellers’ – this is where the personal relationship really adds value.  He also pointed out that ‘interactivity’ is not the same thing as ‘animation’.

Sebastien Koelsch @SebKoelsch gave us a startling statistic – of 100 rep visits initiated, only 20 see the doctor and only 8 are remembered. (My first reaction to this was – what’s the ROI of THAT channel?)  Seb’s point was that you need an outstanding, individualised interaction with the doctor. This is where technology can really add value.  I liked his ‘shoe analogy’ (see picture) showing that technology allows us to cost-effectively deliver an individual product or experience.


In our rep-doctor interaction we can ask a question and show how the customer’s answers compare to the population – and bring that same answer back into the conversation later. If we do this well ‘the sales rep can be the best pull channel we will ever have’.

Several presenters used the transport analogy: Traditional detailing is like the bus – get on it and get taken where the driver wishes – whereas interactive detailing should be like a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce – the ultimate travelling experience to a destination of your choice.

So there you have it, Sex, (not just)Drugs, and Rolls Royces.



Tagged with:
Posted in Marketing, pharma

The 5 ‘C’s of Social Media Engagement

With Facebook topping a billion members and every news story having a hashtag, social media is embedded in everyday life.  Pharmaceutical companies are already using these channels but enthusiasm for them, the quality of execution and success rates are varied.

Assuming you’ve done your insight work and you know that social networks and other social media channels are a good way to engage your customers, how do you go about executing well in this space?

  • Why do HCPs and patients join a conversation?  What motivates or deters them?
  • What is the behaviour pharma needs to adopt? Are you a service organisation, marketer, content-provider, colleague?
  • Are there parallels we can draw from other channels we operate in or other industries?

Follow The 5 ‘C’s of Social Engagement and you will not go far wrong.  They are:

  1. Content
  2. Credibility
  3. Colleagues
  4. Conversation
  5. Commitment

1. Content

5Cs no content

Content is still King

In a user-generated content environment you might think that companies do not need, or perhaps should not, be providing content.  The first editor of FT.com, the Financial Times online, is famously quoted as saying “We publishers are just throwing the party.  We have to hope people will turn up and chat”.

Maybe so, but you have to give people a reason to turn up.  A pharmaceutical company’s scientific meeting without any presentations would not be very successful.  The FT itself is still renowned as a provider of quality content by expert journalists.  But they do it differently online.  Every article or news story is the start of a conversation or debate.  Readers can rate, comment, add their own blog posts, and join in.  The FT reports the conversation too, as word-clouds and sentiment analyses.  It uses the conversational aspects of social media to enrich its own content.

Many industries have recognised that to engage customers you have to have great content.  Red Bull, who you might think is a drinks company, spends more money on producing content than on the beverage.  The company produces award-winning movies; it has its own sports magazine and radio station, and a whole content business all supporting the brand values of adventure and extreme sport.

In healthcare, content is even more important.  As medicines become more commoditised and companies under more pressure to add value, content is a key deliverable from your company to your customers.

5Cs Sanofi

Sanofi TV

It is important to recognise the opportunities for using content socially and to remember content is video, sound, games, animations, interactive tools, as well as text.  Sanofi TV on YouTube is a great resource for patients and their healthcare professionals with some fine educational videos.

Some global organisations develop their higher-cost content elements like video and gaming once and re-use them many times in different markets.

5 Cs backinplay

Pfizer’s Back in Play

Pfizer, in seeking to engage young men with symptoms of ankylosing spondolitis, produced the award-winning Back-In-Play social football game that was deployed across 12 countries and showed significant impact on diagnosis of the condition.

Content is certainly vital to engage your stakeholders.  But how can we convince them to come to our industry for content?  This brings us on to the second ‘C’.

2.  Credibility

Trust is a major issue and the fact that our industry, for very good reasons, carefully controls every communication that it delivers to the general public is not necessarily a strategy for appearing transparent and building trust.   Yet social channels give us an opportunity to really engage with people in a new way and break down some of the barriers between the industry and the public.

In social media, you gain credibility in two ways: by borrowing someone else’s or building your own.  Using an expert editorial board or steering committee as in the Academy for Complement Inhibition from Alexion, partnering with a professional association or patient advocacy group, or working with an international congress, can all help build credibility.

5 Cs shout

How not to build credibility

Good behaviour is important to build credibility.  It is vital that you are not promotional in tone.  This is a hyperlinked world and other content is only a click away.  Your users won’t stick around to be ‘sold to’. You should be ‘listening’ at least as much as you ‘talk’.  More on this later.

3.  Colleagues

It is self-evident that a party is no fun with only one person in it.

Physicians want colleagues and patients and consumers want ‘comrades’ – people they recognise as peers  and can relate to.  Thought leaders are important for credibility, but ‘people like me’ is crucial for ongoing success.  Often we think social media is a low-cost option – provided our content is interesting,customers will just flock to it and it will ‘go viral’.

This is generally not true.  Even if your content is great and you are highly credible, you still must work to get people to engage with you.  Your customer will leave quickly if there is no-one else in a community.

One way to reach an audience is to borrow someone else’s by placing your content and engaging customers in existing communities.  I recently wrote an article about the merits of ‘buying versus building’ physician communities.

Assuming you have your own platform, you need to have a promotional strategy to drive traffic and advertising still plays an important role, even in social media.

St John’s Ambulance in the UK offered a variety of multichannel services (apps, elearning, workshops) to help people learn how to perform simple First Aid.  They promoted these with a moving video depicting a man surviving cancer only to die from choking.  The quality of the content and the story it told meant that it did indeed go viral, but they kick-started it with commercial slots on TV and in cinemas.

5 Cs backpain

The Spinal Foundation Facebook ad

The Spinal Foundation ran a small ad campaign to drive patients with chronic back pain to a Facebook group to share their experiences.  As expected, click through was very low (they targeted ‘all adults’) at 0.03%, but they found click-to-conversion – those who joined the group after clicking the ad – was extremely high, at 25%, and the Foundation quickly recovered the cost of the campaign.

As expected, people are quite ‘banner-blind’ in Facebook, but if they do notice and click on your ad, they are highly engaged with its message. Since Facebook offers pay-per-click advertising, this can be a cost effective way to build awareness and drive people to your community.

4.  Conversation

Can pharma companies engage in open online debate with customers?  Yes. There are risks, as with all communications, but they are not insurmountable. The clue is in the name – ‘social’ networking.  If you are serious about it, then be sociable, and network.

Here we return to the need for good behaviour.  Think about the ‘4 Rs’.  You should be:

  • Real – a person, not a brand or corporation.  Even on your brand or company page, ensure you give the name of ‘who’s on duty today’ to give it a human face.
  • Respectful – treat customers as you would like to be treated.  Respect their time, intelligence, opinions.
  • Relevant – don’t add irrelevant content into a conversation, especially about  your brand.  This is spam and will harm your reputation.
  • Responsive.  If I ask you a question, answer me. You need to plan how to do this –have a set of responses prepared if need be, but people expect a response in almost real time.

Companies are starting to have conversations.  AstraZeneca does a good job of responding to comments on Twitter in the US via @AZHelps, mainly helping with questions on side effects or access to medicines.   Lilly has managed Diabete a colori, a Facebook page encouraging people to discuss diabetes, since 2007.

Companies are concerned about inappropriate content in a user-generated content environment, and they should be. Teva Canada experienced this problem with their MSWatch community.  Patients were using it to discuss off-label and even illegal drug use to manage their MS.  The company regretfully chose to remove this popular discussion forum rather than edit or delete these posts.

As the Teva example shows, it is important to think about all the ‘what-ifs’  – how are you going to  handle inappropriate posts? – and have a plan in place to mitigate risk.

Some controversial subjects have been addressed successfully by companies.  MSD in Denmark gathered some insights showing that among young people unwanted pregnancies was rising because of a lack of education about contraception.

5 Cs MSD

P-Skolen from MSD

So they did a brave thing for a pharmaceutical company – launched a Facebook page all about sex and contraception.

The page features polls and quizzes, amusing videos and surprisingly frank and open discussions about sex and pregnancy.  MSD monitors the page and it has to be fair balanced, but apart from that anything goes.  The Danish health authorities have approved of the initiative and it is helping to build the company’s credibility and reputation.

More than 70% of physicians use social networks and an estimated 2 million in Europe are members of physician online communities.  There are 8000 groups of healthcare professionals on LinkedIn and thousands of doctors are using Twitter to become ‘self-made’ thought leaders.

5 Cs asco

ASCO on Twitter

Some congresses are capitalising on this, for example ASCO has a very active social media presence and encourages companies and individuals to tweet and share news from the event.  Pharma companies are also joining the conversation.

Social media buzz around your own meeting might be achieved by training delegates to tweet and having a meeting Twitter handle and hashtag, with a set of pre-prepared ‘response tweets’ to deal with any potential issues.

5.  Commitment

This is the most difficult of our ‘C’s for pharmaceutical companies. The problem stems from our commercial model.  Although drug development is a very long-term business, drug marketing is very short-term.  Medicines have a few years of patent life and after that the drug’s revenues will go off a cliff – and so does its marketing budget.

You cannot start these conversations with valued customers, deliver great content, build credibility and establish a thriving community, then abandon it all when your circumstances change.  You have to be in this for the long term.

This is one area that is quite unique to our industry – the fact that our products have such a short life cycle – and it presents particular problems that other industries don’t face.

AstraZeneca launched the Academy for Infection Management in 2002 and it became a thriving online and offline community with face-to-face meetings, workshops, and advisory boards and an online community where content, opinions and meeting details were shared.  In 2009 with Merrem going off patent, AZ stopped AIM and took down the website.

AstraZeneca now has a significant infection pipeline but its claim to be at “the forefront of research into new ways to treat infectious diseases” is not backed up by its online behaviour.

Think hard before engaging in a social space if you think your company will not be interested in that space in 5 or 10 years’ time.  If you have a significant commitment to a therapy area but no drugs coming to market soon, how will you support the community going forward?

5 cs mot

Pfizer Man MOT

If you know you will not fund it in the long term make sure you have an exit strategy.  Pfizer did this with the popular Man MOT service – an online clinic in the UK for men to discuss their health issues, including ED.  When Viagra went off patent Pfizer handed the service over to the Men’s Health Forum.

In summary, to be successful in social media you should provide valuable content, build credibility, bring colleagues, engage customers in conversation and show commitment.  Social media relationships, therefore, are just like any long-term mutually-profitable customer relationship.

And remember that in social media, as in life, good behaviour is vital.

I originally presented this at the GLC Pharma Social Media Conference on 7th June 2013.

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Posted in Marketing, pharma, Social Media
by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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