The only sure way to significantly grow revenue is to increase customer demand. And sometimes this demand can come from the most unexpected places. In the 80's, if you asked a person to pay money for bottled water, they would probably have replied, "Are you crazy?" Then, a combination of marketing, health, and environmental factors conspired and now bottled water is hot. Some clever companies used market research to understand how to increase customer demand, and the rest is history. Sales of Pepsi are down; Nestle Water is up. With over 100 years of experience, CPG companies have tactics that are far more advanced than the tactics used by most Pharma companies. Examples of the best Pharma DTC marketing is often based on CPG theory, such as Nexium, Cialis, and more recently, Krystexxa.
What Makes Great Marketing
In his awesome book, The 1-Page Marketing Plan, Allan Dib goes under the surface to investigate the impact of strong marketing. He writes, "By far the biggest leverage point in any business is marketing. If you get 10% better at marketing, this can have an exponential or multiplying effect on your bottom line." We've been around long enough to see how the perception of Pharma advertising has evolved. In the early days senior management at many companies was skeptical. However, as the results came in, the impact was undeniable.
For example, when we worked with Nexium, the brand was able to take and sustain a strong lead over Prevacid, in part due to its excellent patient marketing program. In the end, Prevacid gave up the DTC fight, pulling TV advertising off air and harvesting the natural revenue it garnered as a major brand. Nexium pulled way ahead of it.
It will not surprise many that strong marketing is grounded in great insights. For example, it would be hard to create an effective message for an oncology patient if you had not experienced their condition. Market research investigates the path that is taken by patients toward the usage of treatment options. Often this path is not linear. Research is intended to understand this path and the methods that can be used to educate patients.
Step 1: identify the ideal patient
You cannot significantly increase patient demand without knowing your ideal target. With larger patient populations, like diabetes, there is likely to be more than just one addressable target. And, in fact, that category provides good examples of ineffective targeting. In a highly cluttered marketplace, the major brands are targeting a group we identified in segmentation research as "active patients." They are most likely to seek good solutions and have a strong relationship with their doctors. With most brands competing to get the attention of this group, it is difficult for any of the brands to stand out. Thus, generally speaking, diabetes advertising for any one brand is not achieving its full potential.
Meanwhile, there appears to be little attention given to a second group, who can get treatment but are avoiding it. This group is not blocked by financial concerns (such as lack of insurance). Instead, they are blocked by more emotional considerations such as feelings of shame, stigma, and an unwillingness to accept the potential consequences of the condition. A survey of current marketing efforts suggests that none of the brands are speaking to this group well.
Step 2: Get Their Attention & Deliver a Relevant Message
The magical formula presented by Allan Dib is learning how to speak in the language of the target patients. This is where things seem to get complicated. Once you have identified the ideal target, you need to develop a message to talk with them.
Developing a clear Patient Persona is the solution to this problem. This will inform us on the way that his ideal customers think, the ideas they like, the messages that work best with them, and the ways to reach them. And perhaps most importantly, we will identify emotional triggers that motivate consideration of treatment solutions. Generally we suggest using in-depth web enabled discussions to gather this information. We are partnered with the Rare Patient Panel—which enables us to collect information from the right patients in a way that is both quick and efficient. With careful screening, we select patients that fit our clear Patient Persona. Per the prior diabetes example, we do not need patients who work closely with their doctor to lower their A1C level. Instead, we are probably looking for patients that ignore it or may not even understand what it means.
Step 3: how to reach them and identifying the creative approach
Once again, information from the patient is the most important starting point. Because everybody watches some form of TV, that may be the obvious channel to use in marketing. In our experience it is not. TV can play an important role if you have budget for it, but this role is generally awareness. It is not common to see TV deliver a clear message that patients can relay to their doctors. Instead, in the best cases, it may develop an iconic image (such as the Cialis tubs) that will trigger a specific discussion of the medication.
Other channels can offer more target or more efficient methods of reaching patients. For example, some brands, such as Linzess, have recently started using radio to have a more intimate discussion with patients. Banner ads help to create surround sound, and website can deliver very specific information along with patient testimonials.
In nearly all cases, patient testimonials will improve the effectiveness of marketing. By providing testimonials that reflect the Persona of your core target, you will greatly enhance its effectiveness. The diabetes patient will appreciate seeing another patient like them.
Finally, it bears noting that great advertising is not about putting the creative first to get attention. While many people in our industry complain about the "sea of sameness," the utilization of "weird" imagery or messaging is just as bad. In his great book, Ogilvy on Advertising, the master writes, "I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product." Well said, David!
The best advertising is a team effort. The advertising and research agency work together to develop ideas. The most important person is the patient. We need to craft marketing that will engage their interest, educate, and motivate their curiosity.
Don't get us wrong. We don't believe that this process should create another "Doggie on the Beach" advertisement just because it appeals to everybody but does not have strong appeal to anybody. The purpose of this process is to distill insights so that you can establish great breakthrough advertising. We've had the good fortune to work with teams that have achieved this goal such as Nexium, Symbicort, Plavix, and Cialis. We hope to work with you to achieve similar success.