3 steps towards multicultural marketing

Amping up the spend on multicultural marketing is a no brainer given the expected flood of multicultural consumers into the health care market. However despite the rational arguments for investing in multicultural consumers, my fellow attendees at the recent Multicultural Health National conference in Washington D.C. felt selling multicultural investment in a pharmaceutical company is still an uphill battle.

The data supporting the business building opportunity of multicultural marketing keeps getting stronger. However, the funding for multicultural marketing programs within Pharma still seems to be managed according to the LIFO accounting principal, last to be funded, first to be cut. This has to change.

It is estimated that over 40% of the 33 million newly insured Americans by the health care exchanges will be multicultural consumers. Additionally, there are a multitude of ACA initiatives aimed at the different health care stakeholders designed to better serve the multicultural consumer including:

  • Patient Surveys: There are Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys specifically designed to assess the cultural competency of providers. It now matters that consumers feel respected and actually understand what the HCP is telling them. Materials in multiple languages will no longer be a “nice to have.” Your payer and HCP customers will demand them.
  • Multicultural HCPS: ACA expands initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the health-care profession. Companies will need to have plans for communicating to an increasingly diverse HCP universe.
  • Government Offices:  ACA elevates key multicultural health organizations within important governmental offices such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That means these multicultural organizations have more power to put policies in place that effect drug coverage and marketing.

As the marketplace shifts to better serving multicultural consumers, so should pharmaceutical marketing departments. Here are three ideas on how to get started:

  • Consider reviewing the CAHPS cultural competency questionnaire and brainstorm how your product and service offerings can benefit the patient experience.
  • Partner with an institution to help them raise the cultural competency of their staff. For example, The Cleveland clinic has a multi-faceted approach to building cultural competency from physician education to forging ties to the community.
  • And last, but not least, protect your multicultural investment. How about a new accounting principle? FILO anybody? First In, Last Out.
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Scrap the core vis-aid, it’s a patient-payer world

This is the twelfth and final blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

There’s a strong patient and payer bent to the topics I chose for this blog series. That’s because I believe we are coming to the end of physician marketing, as we know it.

From now on, it’s going to be a patient-payer world.

There will of course be communication to physicians. But rather than providing 20 glossy pages parsing minute differences between drugs, I believe promotional efforts will increasingly revolve around improving the patient experience, outcomes and costs. And payers, not physicians, will be the primary arbiters of what constitutes acceptable results at a good price.

In the future state, there will be virtually no “work around” solutions for products that don’t have a real value story.

And I am not alone in my views. At a Marcus Evans conference I attended,

Kurt Graves, CEO Intarcia, said the decision to launch a product now comes down to one question, “Is there enough value in this product for payers to pay for it.”

Physician marketing will also have to change, according to Steven Pal, Corporate Vice President, Global Strategic Marketing at Allergan. In his Marcus Evans talk, gone says Pal, are the days of the large mass-market field force. Instead, companies need to deploy, “smaller, more agile sales forces that are more attuned to customer needs.”

Patients will be at the forefront of any value equation in the future. In fact, according to Ben Haywood, co-founder of PatientsLikeMe, it will be patient value that defines market value, His company is helping industry incorporate relevant patient reported outcomes (PRO’s) into their drug development efforts.

Patients are finally getting the information they need to assess the price/value equation for the healthcare services they consume.  The Health and Human Services Secretary release of the irrationally variable costs for common in-hospital procedures was a first good step. Across the country, the public’s eyes have been opened to the need to price shop, given the wide variability, even within the same city.

And quality of services, long held to be outside the ability of most patients to evaluate, is more readily available and digestible. For example, in Minnesota, patients can compare how individual clinics fare in helping patients meet their diabetes management goals.

Pharmaceutical marketing in the future will need a radically different game plan, one that is decidedly patient and payer oriented. Healthcare is evolving as we speak. Substantial change will happen regardless of how the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” is implemented. The outsized and often irrational costs of our current system have brought us to the place where the status quo is no longer possible.

As the popular saying goes, “People don’t change when they see the light, they change when they feel the heat.”   Pharmaceutical marketers are now feeling the heat with shrinking budgets and sales forecasts. My intention with this blog series is to provide a little “light at the end of the tunnel” by demonstrating how others have addressed similar problems. Extro-analogs aren’t brain surgery. All you have to do is use the 3 e’s:

  • explore industries beyond pharmaceuticals
  • extrapolate the core idea, eliminating the excuse of regulatory limitations
  • export the idea in a “pharma-safe” way into your marketing

I hope this blog series is helpful in sparking some new ideas and thinking. Let me know! Love to hear your comments. 

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R&D: 4 lessons in change from inside the R&D organization

This is the eleventh blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Change in Pharma is possible.

To become a believer, you only need to explore what is happening in R&D organizations across the country. After the lost decade of drug development where too much money was chasing too few good opportunities, big pharma R&D has shaken up drug development. Gone are the large evergreen budgets. Gone is the stovepipe R&D organization that operated independently of any commercial considerations.

In May of this year, I attended Convergence East, the Life Sciences Leaders Forum held on in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where, extrovertic, was a sponsor. A good portion of the attendees were from the big pharma R&D organizations, including Astra Zeneca, J&J, Millenium and Sanofi to name a few.

Big pharma R&D is using four key strategies to bolster their R&D productivity:

  1. Looking outside for solutions: No more navel gazing for pharma R&D. When asked about what percentage of their drug development efforts were external versus internal, the answer ranged from 30-50%.  To paraphrase a representative from Shire R&D, “the NIH mentality is not going to cut it anymore, too much money and personnel.”
    • This external focus also involves importing leadership that infuses a more entrepreneurial spirit into their organization. For example, Sanofi has hired  biotech executives like Katherine Bowdish, Vice President, R&D on board. Prior to Sanofi, Ms. Bowdish worked at companies like Permeaon Biologics and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, successful biotech companies.
  2. Convening diverse perspectives. J&J has set up four innovation centers around the world designed to create relationships in integrated communities of academics, research institutions, early stage biotechs, venture capital and entrepreneurs. The remit of these innovation centers spans J&J’s three business units: pharmaceutical, consumer and devices. The goal is for J&J to become the partner of choice when there is an opportunity to be commercialized.
  3. Investing further upstream: Sanofi is investing in early stage high-risk opportunities that can use Sanofi assets in the process. One of Sanofi’s earliest success stories their partnership with a prominent Harvard professor, Dr. Gregory Verdine, to create Warpdrive bio. Warpdrivebio has a proprietary “genomic search engine” to identify “powerful drugs that are now hidden within microbes.”
  4. Customer focused development: Drug development is no longer a purely academic exercise. For example, to better focus its R&D investments, Cubist takes their scientists into operating rooms with their surgeon customers. Deborah Dunsire, CEO Millennium, spoke about innovation as beginning with the patient; about reverse engineering what is wrong with the patient, focusing on the patient’s unmet medical need and determining what solution would make the biggest impact on the patient’s life?

The same laser focus on innovation must make its way to the commercial side of the business. Change in the commercial model needs to occur everywhere—from reorienting the rabid focus on the physician at the expense of payer and patient marketing to creating new definitions of a pharmaceutical “product” offering. Think about patient marketing, do we really need more branded commercials running on the evening news?

The core idea to extrapolate from these R&D reorganizations is to turn to outside institutions, experts and customers to provide a fresh perspective on your business challenges So here are a few thought starters about how to export these R&D strategies and pump more innovation into the commercial model.

  1. Start from the patient. What are the upcoming changes in how patients consume media, search for healthcare information, pay for healthcare and use healthcare products and services? Once you have a “vision of the future state,” you can start to think about potential solutions.
  2. Gather a group of innovative thinkers from outside of Pharma and let them take a whack at some of your biggest issues. Convening thinkers from various disciplines is a time honored innovation strategy. In fact, I have been invited to participate in an effort to develop new approaches for eradicating polio by a multinational non-profit health organization. This organization is bringing together a group of thinkers from a variety of disciplines and industries to provide a fresh perspective on an intractable health care problem.  
  3. Create a portfolio of early opportunities. Allocate a portion of the annual budget to new and evolving technologies. Traditionally, pharma innovation centers tend to have little budget and authority. This has got to stop. Top management has to be actively involved with the change agenda. I have seen too many smart marketers spin their wheels in these innovation centers. Without top management active involvement, innovation just doesn’t happen.

Check back on Tuesday for the twelfth and final post in the twelve part series, “Scrap the core vis-aid, it’s a payer-patient world.” This final post coalesces the arguments for change in the face of health care reform and changing customer expectations.

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5 lessons in reinvention from Encyclopedia Britannica

This is the tenth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

It’s time to throw the book at the pharma business model.

Actually, not one book, but an entire 32-volume set of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Exploring how Encyclopedia Britannica blew up a 244 year-old business model sparked some ideas about potential life-saving changes to the pharmaceutical industry. In an article entitled, “Encyclopaedia Britannica’s President on Killing Off a 244-year-old product,” Jorge Cauz, the CEO of Encyclopedia Britannica, tells the tale of how the company evolved from a reference product business into a “full-fledged learning business.”

Reading this article, it struck me that many of the key components of their transition had relevance to the type of reinvention required in the pharma industry. Here are a few of the pertinent concepts worth extrapolating from the Encyclopedia Britannica transformation:

  1. Moving to a digital product. Encyclopedia Britannica announced in 2012 that they would no longer offer the printed version of Encyclopedia Britannica. What Encyclopedia Britannica offers now is a complete online suite of educational support products as well as an online store of DVDs, books, online reference books and software. 
    • Encyclopedia Britannica’s drive to digital was prompted by changing customer preferences. They found that  “families became busier and had less patience for doorstep solicitations.”  Customer’s expectations had also risen regarding the quantity and real-time updates. So Encyclopedia Britannica changed their “editorial metabolism,” to enable updated content several times an hour rather than several times a month.
  2. Shifting focus to a different customer group. Over time, Encyclopaedia Britannica’s core customer group evolved from individual consumers to school systems. Now approximately 85% of their revenues come from online curriculum products.
  3. Switching to a new sales channel: Encyclopaedia Britannica’s most painful transformation was to eliminate the 2,000 person sales force. Instead, Encyclopaedia Britannica employs direct marketing as well as a smaller field force targeting the school administrator market.
  4. Bringing in new skill sets.  As Encyclopaedia Britannica went digital, they found new skill sets were required. They needed a different editorial staff that could convey information using multimedia and interactivity. Encyclopaedia Britannica also required “curriculum specialists for every key department of the company: editorial, product development, and marketing.”
  5. Continuing evolution.  Encyclopaedia Britannica did not stumble upon their magic business formula out of the gate. Encyclopaedia Britannica tried CD-Roms, an online version of Encyclopaedia Britannica, selling subscriptions, free ad-supported consumer encyclopedias and a learning portal before developing their online education business.

So how do we export Encyclopaedia Britannica’s transformation to guide pharma’s increasingly urgent need to reinvent itself? Here are some thought starters:

  1. Recalibrate your customer investment portfolio. Just as your personal financial portfolio needs periodic recalibration to compensate for changing market conditions, so does your promotional portfolio. Calculate or estimate what percentage of your brand’s business is really driven by institutions such as payers and hospital groups versus individual physicians. Are you truly matching your investments to opportunities?
  2. Evaluate your sales channels. If your customer focus is shifting, shouldn’t your sales channels change too? There is no question that pharma has reduced the size of the field forces it employs. The real question for me is whether the industry has been aggressive enough in embracing multi-channel marketing. 
  3. Double your digital. According to a study by Publicis/Razorfish Healthcare, 35% of HCPs feel sales reps should use iPads. Isn’t it time to break the print habit? Develop a strategy to help motivate your marketers and sales people to increase their digital adoption curve!
  4. Assess your workforce. Seems to me that the evolution of pharma into a more patient focused business would require an infusion of new abilities. For example, adding customer service and compliance experts to your staffing model.
  5. Allocate a sacrosanct budget for innovation. Here is where I believe pharma marketing and sales have really missed the boat. In most marketing departments, there is little focus on keeping up to date with customer preferences and technological advances. A more structured approach needs to be taken to a) figuring out what are the most promising communication and service innovations and b) identifying appropriate pilots. 

Check back on Thursday for the eleventh post in the twelve part series, “ 4 lessons in change from inside the R&D organization.” In this post, I explore how the ways R&D organizations are reinventing themselves provides a model for commercial reinvention.

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3 ways to take your marketing to the street

Learning from the retail health movement

This is the ninth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Sometimes all you have to do to come up with an innovative idea is to watch what your customers are doing. And increasingly, payers and hospitals are hitting the streets to both sell and deliver services.  Consider the following examples:

  • Western Maryland Health Systems is a hospital system whose goal is to try to keep patients out of the hospital. According to a New York Times article, the hospital has “opened a diabetes clinic, a wound center and a behavioral health clinic all outside the hospital walls. They have hired people to go out into the community for follow up with discharged older, sicker patients. Primary care practices have been added in some neighborhoods.” All of these outside adventures are driving down costs and improving the quality of care.
  • Major payers are experimenting with retail. United Healthcare has sold Medicare plans through “pop-up” retail stores, and at retail community centers. Aetna has a presence in Costco stores. And Florida Blue has 11 retail stores “where people can shop for coverage, ask a question about a claim or see a nurse to check their blood pressure.”
  • Retail drug stores are expanding into medical care at a rapid pace. CVS plans to have 1,000 MinuteClinics by 2016. Duane Reade has doctors practicing out of their New York City Stores. According to a 2009 study by the Rand Corporation, retail clinics are able to offer equivalent care at costs of up to 30% less for three common conditions when compared to physician offices, urgent care centers and emergency departments.

The core idea behind these innovations is enabling easier access to products and services. But with any innovation, risk is involved. It is certainly more secure to offer health services in a hospital prepared for any unlikely emergency. Economic bravery is also involved in renting out space additional space when the current physical space could be more easily utilized. But payers and hospital systems have taken the leap to make their services more convenient to their customers.

What can pharmaceutical marketers do to make their products, services and information more readily available to patients and caregivers? Here are some thought starters for exporting your marketing to the street:

  1. Explore partnership opportunities with health care retailers. Can you partner with a payer to offer services or information in their retail outposts? For example, partnering with Florida Blue on a smoking cessation or diabetes care initiative? Could you offer a “white-labeled” version of your compliance program with an in-person component at MinuteClinic?
  2. Create your own  “pop-up” presence. Using the store within a store concept, could you raise awareness about the need vaccinate against HPV in retailers that cater to teens and 20-somethings? Many stores such as the Lush cosmetic stores have a social activism bent that would lend itself to health promotion. Or if your business has a seasonal aspect to it, you could take over a storefront for a limited time on your own.
  3. Partner with a relevant advocacy group on a retail presence. While visiting the United Kingdom, I was struck by the number of advocacy groups with retail presences, primarily thrift shops such as Arthritis Research UK Shops that dot the English countryside. There is even a Charity Retail Association.  There is so much more than fundraising that can be done in a retail space.

Certainly, some risks would be involved in taking pharmaceutical marketing to the street. Traditional delivery of messaging (print, video, audio etc), is highly controlled. In-person messaging certainly has the potential for more variation. But relating in person has the benefit of more immediacy and convenience for the patient. And making the trade-off to the benefit of the patient is what patient focused marketing is all about.

Check back on Tuesday for the tenth post in the twelve part series5 lessons in reinvention from Encyclopedia Britannica. In this post I explore how the approach this 244-year old company used to transform into a digital educational giant can be applied to shake-up the pharma business model.

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How to Jay-Z DTC

Learning from the mastermind of media

This is the eighth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Can Jay-Z help DTC advertising? (DTC-Z anyone?)

Turns out he can, or at least his promotional approach can be applied to DTC advertising. Jay-Z is a modern day master of media.  When launching a product, whether it be a book or his recent CD, Jay-Z appears to have a three part formula: 1) develop a “talk-worthy” concept; 2) make a big but short-lived splash using traditional media and 3) employ digital and social promotion for the long-tail promotion.

Consider Jay-Z’s recent launch of his new album, Magna Carta … Holy Grail.

  1. Talk-worthy concept: Created a talk-worthy concept of providing his album to Samsung Galaxy owners 5 days earlier than to the general public
  2. High profile media: Launched the promotion in a highly visible, three minute commercial during Game 5 of the NBA finals
  3. Drive to digital: Drove people to the album website where they could download the free app

But the concept is not limited to Jay-Z. Going back a few years, Starbucks used this three-step process during the 2008 election. They used the formula as follows:

  1. Talk-worthy concept: Get a free cup of coffee for voting
  2. High profile media: Run the ad once on Saturday Night Live’s “Election Bash” episode the weekend before the election (Remember Tina Fey’s hilarious imitations of Sarah Palin?). 
  3. Drive to digital: As Howard Schultz says in his book, “Onward” a torrent of digital and social media activity would amplify the 60-second spot.”


By creating a talk-worthy concept that is introduced in a high profile way, the brand automatically becomes more relevant to consumers. And relevancy and emotional connections are hard to come by in pharmaceutical marketing these days. Tightening interpretations of the commercial content by the Office of Prescription Drug Marketing (OPDP) make it hard to go beyond the basic product facts and create an emotional connection with a traditional DTC ad.

Without some way to make a meaningful connection, it is hard for a traditional branded DTC ad to be the type of triggering event that can prompt change in a health habit.  A well-placed, high impact communication unbranded communication that really connects with consumers could be an important health care wake-up call. The high profile unbranded splash would serve as high impact “screener” to get the attention of your target customer and make them curious enough to follow through to a branded site.


While the high profile splash is expensive, the opportunity to create an on-going drumbeat with digital makes the effort very measurable and affordable. Using this three-step process, extrovertic recently recommended a new product launch plan that relied on one-fifth the advertising expenditures of the brand’s closest competitors.

So how could this be exported for use to a pharmaceutical brand? Consider the straightforward Astra Zeneca Crestor print ad running in major magazines. A picture of a doctor asking the question, “Is your cholesterol at goal?”

How much more attention would Crestor get if they associated the product with the broader concept with setting and reaching goals and introduced the effort in a high profile sporting event followed by a deep digital push? (The winter Olympics will be here before we know it!).

So here are two thought-starters on how to export this idea to your DTC efforts:

  1. Scour your brand for relevant hooks and events. What relevant anticipated governmental or healthcare organization announcements coming up? Can you link your brand to the news in a meaningful way?
  2. Have your agency cost out a media splash/digital long-tail type of plan. Can you save money and increase impact?

Check back on Thursday for the ninth post in the twelve part series3 ways to take your marketing to the street.” In this post I explore how hospitals and payers are making their services more accessible to patients and how pharmaceutical marketers can get on the retail bandwagon.

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3 Ways to personalize your “non-personal promotion”

Learning from the B-to-B superstars

This is the sixth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Non-personal promotion. What a weird concept. As my extrovertic partner, Bill Fleming says, “In any other industry—the direct mail, digital marketing and telephonic selling—would just be called marketing.” The term “non-personal promotion” is an artifact of the pharmaceutical industry’s insular focus on the sales force model. If anything, most other industries involved in business-to- business (B-to-B) marketing are focused on making every contact, no matter what the channel, more personal.

Here are three good examples from the all-stars of B-to-B marketing worth exploring:

1. IBM – Using social media to personalize telesales. According to an article in ChiefMarketer.com, when telemarketing and email were failing to produce results, IBM got personal. IBM knew that the IT decision makers they targeted were active on social media. IBM’s studies showed that the IT decision makers they were after were likely to use social media as a part of their purchasing decision making in the future.

So IBM created social media profiles for a small team of inside sales representatives on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. To make it seamless for the reps, IBM created a robust content calendar available via an RSS feed. IBM also provided hash tags specific to their verticals such as #informationsecurity, so the reps could listen to relevant online conversations.

The results? IBM has over 50,000 LinkedIn connections (up from 535 in the beginning of the test), over 20 major sales wins and has experienced a quicker uptake of their promotional offers. Check out Stuart Michie’s YouTube video for a good example of how to talk about a representative’s expertise.

2. Cisco – Video takes center stage. Again, customer understanding formed the basis of their strategy. According to an article on OnlineVideo.net, Cisco’s research found that 96% of IT decision makers and tech buyers watch videos for business. And most importantly, 84% either forward, share or post tech-related videos. So Cisco started creating videos, over 1,000 new videos a year.

And Cisco uses a disciplined process of creating videos for each step of the sales funnel: thought leadership videos to build awareness, case studies for customers in the consideration phase, video data sheets to aid in the design phase and training videos for the post-sale phase. This customization is yet another way to personalize non-personal promotion.

Too expensive? Think again. You don’t need the production values of a DTC commercial or a MOA video. According to Cisco’s Leslie Drate,“it doesn’t really matter how much we spend on producing the video. The results for what we spend $100,000 on could be similar to what we spend $1,000 on. It just has a lot to do with content and audience.”

3. CenturyLink – Understanding your customer’s self-conception. Consider how CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) tapped into its customer mindset with their Ultimate Problem Solver campaign. According to a post on the CEB Marketing Leadership site, the key insight driving this campaign was that CenturyLink’s buyers saw themselves as professional problem solvers. So CenturyLink created an online game that let customers show their expertise with lots of difficult problems to solve. By aligning the company with their buyers’ self-conception, the game helps humanize and make the company seem closer to their buyers.

The key concepts to extrapolate from these B-to-B all-stars is to understand your customers and embrace the technology they use to market to them. So here are a couple of thought-starters on how to export the best of B-to-B marketing to payer and provider marketing:

  1. Try a social media pilot program. Provide either a telesales rep or payer national accounts manager with a Facebook page. Levels of access to information can easily be controlled. Content could include interesting stories related to your therapeutic area, patient support material or journal articles. According to a QuantiaMD study cited in Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News, over 65% of physicians use social sites for professional purposes.
  2. Get into the video business. Evaluate all your printed materials and determine what makes sense as a video. Distribute the video widely, especially on YouTube. The Google algorithm favors social media such as YouTube and Facebook over other online media properties.
  3. Know your customers on a deeper level. How do your payer customers see themselves in the new health care environment? As crusaders against high costs? As protectors of the profit margin or as brining power to the patient? Wouldn’t their self-conception make a difference in the types of content you provide? 

Check back next Thursday for the seventh post in the twelve part series, “How to write health care copy that people will actually read.” In this post, I explore how to apply the journalistic approach to better engage patients in their health.

3 ways to supersize your patient KOL strategy Pepsi-style!

This is the fifth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

Is a patient KOL strategy optional anymore?

One in five Internet users has gone online in search of others who might have health concerns similar to theirs, according to the Pew Internet Peer-to-peer Healthcare report. Yet, most healthcare brands consider understanding or engaging in patient conversations a “nice to have.”

As pharmaceutical portfolios move from blockbuster to specialty medications, patients become a more central driver of brand sales. Consider what the patient KOLs get accomplished in the orphan drug space. In addition to driving enrollment in clinical trials, testifying at drug approval hearings and lobbying for increased coverage, these superstar patients:

  • Generate significant media coverage – Tara Blocker raised awareness of congenital insensitivity to pain, generating coverage in the New York Times, “Good Morning America,” the “Today Show” and “Inside Edition.”

Given the wide-ranging impact these patient KOLs have on the disease and brand landscape, engaging them requires something different from traditional patient marketing.  So in exploring the possibilities, I landed on Pepsi’s arrangement with a superstar of a different sort, Beyoncé who inked a $50 million dollar deal with Pepsi. According the New York Times article, the deal is “a hybrid project … that will include standard advertising like commercials as well as a multimillion-dollar fund to support the singer’s chosen creative projects.”

Pepsi sees this deal as a “… shift in the way we think about deals with artists, (moving) from a transactional deal to a mutually beneficial collaboration,” according to Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group. In terms of an ROI, Pepsi is seeking “to enhance its reputation with consumers by acting as something of an artistic patron instead of simply paying for celebrity endorsements.” According to a statement from Beyoncé, the new deal allows her to “work with a lifestyle brand with no compromise and without sacrificing my creativity.”

To me, the parallels between the Pepsi’s approach and patient marketing are like “a brick to the forehead.” The key idea to export is using a patronage approach in supporting patient advocates. Here are a few thought starters on how to export this patronage approach to your patient KOL strategy:

  1. Understand the patient landscape. Pharmaceutical marketers invest significant time and money in understanding physician opinions. You can do the same for patients, and probably a lot less expensively.
  2. Share your expertise. With patients forming their own foundations and supporting individual research projects, many could use a primer on how to identify the most promising research opportunities. Others, trying to create disease awareness, could use some tips on talking to the media. These are both skill-sets that are strong in pharmaceutical companies and would be a good basis on which to build relationships with key advocacy organizations.
  3. Identify a safe pilot project. Try a “ no-strings attached” unbranded project. Figure out an area of mutual interest, such as increasing the level of understanding of the basic science underpinning a disease state.

For bio-pharma, the rewards of this new “patronage” model seem even greater than in the consumer package good arena. Despite her enormous talent, Beyoncé can’t actually put a can of Pepsi on the grocery store shelf. But patient advocates increasingly can help get a product on the pharmacy shelf and gain the insurance coverage required to move it out to the patient.

Check back next Tuesday for the sixth post in the twelve part series, 3 Ways to personalize your “non-personal promotion. In this post I explore how the B-to-B superstars like IBM have updated their customer outreach efforts to spur business growth.

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3 ways to become radically patient focused

Learning from “Orange is the New Black.”

This is the fourth blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform. 

Who knew binge watching “Orange is the New Black” could illuminate a central issue distorting pharmaceutical marketing?

Let me back up a bit and connect a few dots.

Adam Davidson wrote an incredibly perceptive piece for the New York Times entitled, “Orange Is the New Green.” His recent binge watching of “Orange Is the New Black” sparked a key economic insight about the“3rd party decider economy” where “the person selecting a product or service is not the person who will actually use it.”  Sounds a lot like pharmaceutical marketing to me and a prime candidate for the 3 e’s of extro-analogs: exploring, extrapolating and exporting.

Davidson’s insight was inspired by a plot line where the protagonist, Piper Chapman, is frustrated by the inability of the prison commissary to provide the shower shoes she has ordered. In an economically rational world, prison commissaries would try to maximize sales to inmates. But the prison wasn’t taking what would be the rational economic path towards revenue maximization. No shower shoes for Piper!

After extensive research, Davidson concluded that the prison system wasn’t focused on meeting the prisoner’s needs, but rather the prison’s needs. And it was this focus on the 3rd party rather than the end user that was thwarting rational economic behavior. In fact, Aramark, a company trying to transform the prison commissary industry “by focusing on what the end-users, the prisoners, want,” was actually suffering in the marketplace.

Healthcare, particularly pharmaceutical marketing, has long suffered from this “3rd party decider economy.” However, there are movements afoot that put more focus on meeting patient, rather than practitioner or payer needs, including:

  • Affordable Care Act with its focus on linking patient experience and outcomes to reimbursement
  • Patient focused drug development initiative by the FDA that includes meetings with patients to help infuse patient reported outcomes (PRO) into the drug development and approval process

While there is certainly a strong rationale for the learned intermediary in pharmaceutical sales (both practical and legal), the 3rd party decider model does cause distortions. Consider the disproportionate investment in physician versus patient communication.

The key concept in the story for extrapolation is the need to maintain a strong focus on the end user, the patient. So what if you took a “radically patient focused” approach to your budget and communications? Here are some thought starters for getting there:

  1. Use the patient journey to guide investment decisions in HCP and payer marketing. The patient journey is the key tool patient marketers use to prioritize patient marketing investments. The tool could also guide physician and payer investments by asking questions such as, “what are the key things HCPs have to communicate about the disease and medication to inspire the patient to continue treatment? What are the barriers to treatment the HCP is uniquely suited to address?
  2. Examine your past HCP and payer initiatives for their potential to benefit the patient. How could your physician and payer programs improve patient experience, compliance and/or outcomes? What would you stop/start/continue if you took a radically patient focused approach?
  3. Determine your internal barriers to communicating with patients. Patients are increasingly using mobile devices and online video to learn about healthcare options. Is your brand adequately represented in these channels? If not, what is holding you back?

Certainly a lot of what pharmaceutical marketers invest in physician and payer marketing is critically important. But it bears examining whether what has been done in the past will still continue to move the needle in this increasingly patient focused healthcare world.

Check back on Thursday for the fifth post in the twelve part series, Three ways to supersize your patient KOL strategy Pepsi-style!” In this post I explore how using an “arts patronage approach” can build important relationships with key patient advocacy groups. 

Thanks for letting us share!