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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Agenda 2019 Special Feature: Hungry AIs

Written by: | | Dated: Wednesday, February 13th, 2019


Artificial intelligence generated plenty of chatter amongst the pharma marketing intelligentsia in 2018. Will 2019 be the year when the industry fully embraces it as more than just a tactic?


Artificial intelligence may not be the answer to every question about pharma marketing in 2019, but it seems to be lurking underneath the answers to most of them. Efficient analytics for big data? AI will make it possible. Getting the right content to the sales force at the right time? AI can do it. Figuring out where customers are in their journeys and how to best reach them there? AI will find them. The growth in voice search? Gotta have AI for that, of course. What’s next in patient services? AI. Down the hall in the R&D department? AI. Even the industry’s political issue du jour, pricing transparency and reform, has an AI angle, since payers are surely using it to determine whether their spend is being justified by outcomes.

All that said, for all that pharma marketers talk about how AI will transform their business, the answer to the question of when is a little less clear. As the babysitter always said if you asked when your parents would be home … “Soon.”


Med Ad News: What was the word of the year in pharma marketing for 2018? What will the word of the year be in 2019? Why?

Harrison Boulay, digital strategist, Butler/Till Health Group: 2018: Interactivity. This year saw pharma marketing implement proven CPG strategies like chatbots and messaging campaigns that engage directly with both HCPs and patients, along with advanced social media campaigns designed to create meaningful dialogues between brands and their consumer base.
2019: Artificial Intelligence. Pharma marketing has serious hurdles when targeting potential patients directly. The use of big data, machine learning, and consolidating insights leveraging AI will represent the cutting edge for teams in 2019.

Susan Dorfman, chief commercial officer, CMI/Compas: 2018: Genuine. In 2018, pharma really took on earned and shared media as part of its overall paid and owned tactics. The industry owned it for the first time, where it was a lot more genuine; the integration of true social. Pharma was part of the customers’ journey.

2019: Daring. In 2019, daring will be the leading theme of the year, and this is the year for pharma advertisers to be daring. Our stakeholders – particularly the patients – need us to be more daring in helping them get access to medication and making that medication more available, and we can do the right thing by supporting them. This includes sharing information, pushing the envelope in how we interact, listening to them, and helping by providing affordability and availability of medication.

Matt Nespoli, digital media director, Butler/Till Health Group: 2018: Efficiency. Efficiency is a priority when technology is in place to make things happen smarter and faster. The idea of personalization in marketing is not new, but can be scary in the Pharma marketplace. 2018 was a year of not missing out on opportunities to create tailored experiences within patient and HCP marketing. Data plays a key role in defining accessibility and automation of that data is helping provide the best patient and physician outcomes.

2019: Disruption. The need to focus on improving the customer experience has always played a key role for commerce providers. In 2019, the likes of Amazon, CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens will look to focus on their futures within the Healthcare space competing not only against each other, but with Google and Facebook. This disruption has come into focus recently when acquisitions started to occur causing patients, physicians and insurers to look at these companies more seriously. Amazon bought a small online pharmacy called PillPack, CVS and Aetna formed a union, and big box stores like Walgreens and Walmart have opportunities to differentiate themselves from independent pharmacies. Disruption will continue to grow when technology and data continues to scale for these leading healthcare players.

Andrew Schirmer, CEO, Ogilvy Health: The word of the year for 2018 is a toss-up between data and technology. The words aren’t interchangeable, but you’d have to look pretty hard to find one without the other in any recent treatise, thought piece or POV. That said, for 2018, I have to give the toss-up to data. Last year was the year that the entire industry embraced the idea of using quantifiable data sources to drive insight, opportunity, channel strategy, and performance, leading to more effective and efficient marketing and communications programs.

While data has always been at the core of the life sciences and biopharmaceutical industries, we saw great strides last year in marketers deploying the same rigor around data science, measurement and analytics to drive all manner of multichannel efforts reaching healthcare providers, payers and patient-consumers alike. This work will continue to accelerate, but with the added influence of companies from outside of the industry bringing tools, platforms and approaches into both the pharmaceutical and broader health space. 2019 will be the year that technology finally takes its rightful seat at the table, enabling data to create more firepower in and out of the advertising, marketing and communications realms. So, the word for 2019 is HealthTech.

Big tech companies’ move into healthcare will continue this year with new offerings ranging from Amazon’s PillPack to Apple’s EKG interface to UberHealth’s ER ride service. These, and other non-traditional healthcare companies, will continue to develop technology that addresses health and wellness needs across a wide range of demographics, from GenZ and Millennials through an aging but technologically savvy population who actually utilizes the lion’s share of the healthcare provided in this country. Voice tech, AI, and machine learning will all become part of the discussion for marketers and agencies alike as all players form partnerships, develop prototypes and create pilots to determine how best to use emerging technologies to solve age-old problems.

Technology will also play a more fundamental role in defining how HCPs get drug and disease management information, how they manage patients in their practice, how patients manage their own health (and that of their families), and how both sides work to improve the doctor-patient relationship. As technology allows for less intrusive patient management and more effective treatment, there will be cost benefits to the patient, practice, plans, and society in general – all driven by the data that allows for a more seamless, informed, beneficial and productive experience for all stakeholders.

Arno Sosna, general manager of CRM, Veeva: In 2018, the phrase of the year was “digital transformation.” Historically, the industry has not been able to deliver true digital engagement and meet healthcare professionals’ need for real-time information across devices. In the last year, digital transformation empowered life sciences companies to become more efficient, effective, and agile in how they bring new products to market and reach HCPs through the channels they prefer – from email to video to events.

Moving into 2019, “intelligent engagement” will continue to be a focus across the industry. Companies store and process a significant volume of data. This year, they will start to leverage data to make smarter decisions and allocate sales and marketing resources more effectively. As the industry generates more data from digital channels, companies will incorporate richer insights into reps’ daily workflows for better decision-making. All of this data will be foundational to running advanced statistics and analytics.

Tim Wohlgemut, senior VP, TGaS Insights, TGaS Advisors, a division of Trinity Partners: For 2019, the word of the year for pharma commercial models will be “Partner.” TGaS has assessed hundreds of commercial and organizational structures for companies of all sizes for the past 15 years. Despite shifts, discernible trends tell us what could, and should, hold in tomorrow’s commercial models.

Descent of the sales team won’t mean disappearance of sales. Reach and frequency models have been relegated to minor parts in the commercial model. Make no mistake, fewer traditional sales people are in pharma’s future. Yet those that remain will have new roles in both sharing information with key audiences and collecting data and customer insights on the ground, feeding the commercial model in real-time. Sales will be the partner to both the customer and the company.

Rise of patient services. At a recent TGaS executive conference, a business unit head at a Top 10 pharma company predicted that patient services will be the core of the commercial model within five years. A few gasps, but mostly nodding heads. Patient services will not be a single function or department in the future but a capability that partners with all other commercial functions. Most companies already refer to a “hub” model, stitching together many functions, including patient-related services, into a coherent model.

Orchestrating the capabilities of the future? Or convening the Commercial Council? Stitching together many functional silos requires coordination. Will that look more like an orchestra with a conductor or a council of stakeholders with clear governance models to direct decision-making? The council as a partnership of equals may win in the end.

Vendors as partners. Pharma already views its most critical vendors as partners (eight of 10 dollars spent on commercialization goes through a vendor of some type, per TGaS data). Creating true vendor partnerships is one of the most important capabilities a pharma company can create. Our data shows those with the most advanced commercial capabilities also have the highest vendor satisfaction. Getting vendor partner management right will be vital for pharma.


Med Ad News: Will price disclosure in ads happen? If it does, what will it look like, and what will the impact be on marketing plans and strategies?

Wendy Blackburn, executive VP, Intouch Group: Yes – sooner or later – one way or another – some level of pricing transparency in TV advertising will happen. To start, there are 39 companies that are members of PhRMA and a number of others that have agreed to follow the organization’s Guiding Principles. Beginning April 15, these companies have already agreed to point to where patients can find more information and context about the cost of the medication. Then of course there is the proposed CMS mandate, which was much more specific to include the list price on the ad itself, and which could technically take effect any day. (Though many predict a substantial legal battle here.)

Will the situation create a new world where pharmaceutical companies turn away from television advertising altogether, as some people predict? Will advertising budgets tank overnight and major product launch strategies stall due to new regulation? Will creative directors abandon the pharma industry in droves to avoid having to include yet one more mandated, regulated chunk of information into a thirty second spot?

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you look past the hype, doom, and gloom to see the positive opportunity, all sides can win here. For years, research has pointed to a desire from both consumers and professionals for clearer pricing information. To note: the proposed CMS rule does not prevent manufacturers from, once disclosing the basic price information, providing additional context around product pricing. This additional context could be accomplished in a number of ways, from offering online co-pay lookups to a comprehensive, real-time benefits checkers where consumers enter the product name and personal insurance coverage information to receive pricing specific to them. In fact, the data and technology to offer this already exists.

So whether it’s a single-minded mandate for a list price, a voluntary industry approach that provides wider context, or various interpretations of that at the industry and company level, in 2019 we will see some level of pricing transparency happen. My hope is that parties can agree on a sensible, consumer-centric solution.

Harrison Boulay: I’m not convinced it will, despite the current administration’s push for pricing transparency. If it were to happen, there would be a push to develop partnerships with payer groups coupled with big data in order to accurately showcase pricing based on coverage.

Susan Dorfman: As we noted in a communication to our clients, it’s not certain that this will happen, but it’s important to still be prepared. Our recommendation is that companies not part of PhRMA should discuss implications with their government and regulatory affairs teams and make decisions jointly based on what they believe is most appropriate. One major implication of this ruling, if passed, is the potential of increasing the cost of air time, as longer TV ads may be needed to ensure enough time to read list price information and surrounding contextual cost messaging. Our clients should begin discussions now to prepare for such broadcast media implications as well as those that are likely to impact their search and social strategies. While there’s no way at this point in time to know the specific implications, there’s much we can do to prepare. Aligning search and social strategies is a good first move. Social listening can allow a gauge of consumer reaction and enable smart response. We want to be there when the conversations are happening and be a resource to them. We can also review search queries to see how queries around cost change or increase, and then modify the brand’s bidding strategy. In addition, we partner with a number of interesting companies that enable reaching consumers based on TV schedule and other relevant factors that would be beneficial in further supporting and educating patients around pricing, direct out of pocket costs and other financial support that is provided.

Matt Nespoli: There are too many variables to know if or when price disclosure could happen, but if it does this is where we can start to see digital ad spend slowly overtake that of TV. Price disclosure can turn patients away from certain treatments or even considering treatment at all, which is not the outcome this proposal is hoping for. Digital marketing provides the outlet for patients to seek information prior to making any treatment options. The marketing goal is to ensure that brands are prepared to be in places like WebMD, but also delivering a multitouch point experience across platforms like paid search and social. Content development and syndication will also play a key role in providing a valuable educational resource for those seeing treatment.

Sharon Suchotliff, Strategy Insights and Planning, Patient and Consumer Health, ZS: The interpretation of list price and what it means for someone will differ based on health literacy, condition, and circumstance. It is important for pharma to be aware of and sensitive to these nuances and the potential impact. The intention behind price transparency is positive, but the result may not be. Patients may become concerned about costs which could impact their willingness to seek treatment or their adherence to treatment plans. Giving patients information in a way that is relevant and customized to their situation is the best plan.

Steve Trokenheim, partner, Beghou Consulting: To encourage marketplace competition that keeps a lid on drug prices, the government may force drugmakers to include in TV ads the price of any brand-name drugs covered by Medicare or Medicaid costing more than $35 per month.

Broadly speaking, publicizing a drug’s price is a good idea. It can help physicians and patients make more informed decisions. But the effort will be misleading if the government requires manufacturers display only the drug’s list price. There are far too many exceptions related to payer negotiations, consumer co-pay deals, and coupons.

Instead, pharma companies could provide pricing-context related to the drug’s typical out-of-pocket costs (e.g., “85 percent of patients pay $100 for a one-month supply.”). Being required to cite that information would encourage drug companies to price their drugs more competitively based on several factors, including efficacy, safety and dosing convenience. And it would provide meaningful information to both physicians and patients.

Of course, the physician should always make the call on prescribing. As patients take a more active role in researching symptoms and treatment options, however, they may request physicians prescribe a competing drug offered at a lower price. If that less expensive drug works well for the patient, price transparency could help keep drug prices in check.

When drug companies start advertising prices to consumers, patients start asking doctors about cost. And that’s something few physicians may be prepared (or care) to discuss. Pharma manufacturers will need to change messages and marketing tactics aimed at physicians. Among the first steps: collecting data and equipping sales reps to explain why their drug also is the best value to that specific physician’s patient population.


Med Ad News: What’s up next for marketing technologies in 2019? What new tech tools in the brand manager’s toolbox will make the biggest impression? And what tech tools are wearing thin? Why so?

Harrison Boulay: Chatbots and messenger marketing will continue to make a big impact on retention campaigns. Tools that help marketers centralize their brand voice to be consistent across the many platforms available will be highly sought after.

Gene Fitzpatrick, senior VP, engagement strategy, Ogilvy Health: Chatbots are the technology tool brand managers should be utilizing – immediately in 2019. Consumers expect instant access to nearly anything and everything, and brands are no exception. In most cases, the questions consumers often ask about a product or a brand are common questions with standard responses. “Can I use product X with this?” “Where can I find product X?” These types of questions can be easily programmed for a chatbot to deliver an instant answer, fostering better relationships and user experiences with consumers. The technology to create this automation in chatbots has greatly advanced and has become increasingly cost effective. Additionally, many automated platforms used to create chatbots have built-in templates for business rules, user flows, and other documentation, making it easier for medical/legal teams to review conceptual ideas.

The brand experience no longer lies within one, single tactic or channel. Consumers don’t only experience the brand on its website; they are interacting with the brand on different channels, such as Facebook or other social media outlets. Chatbots can often be platform agnostic and adaptable, as well as available for use on several different brand destinations (eg, websites, Facebook pages).

Customer relationship management (CRM) isn’t just about email anymore; chatbots are now one of the crucial technology tools in this arena. The chatbot offers several touchpoints with the consumers via chat, text, and more. Providing chatbots on digital brand’s various destinations like websites, social media pages, and other platforms should be an essential piece of any marketing plan in 2019.

Paul Kallukaran, executive VP, Performance Analytics and Data Science, CMI/Compas: Triggered marketing is the most impactful way that technology is changing marketing. We get instant feedback on how people have engaged with the brand, allowing us to modify the cadence on the next touchpoint to a customer based on how they have engaged in other channels.

We can decide the sequence of media based on how the audience has reacted to what we’ve already shown them. In a recent client project, we wanted to see if we could reach our conversion goals faster. We aimed for a sequence of activity that could get them to the asset we wanted them to see in less time, and we were successful. This is a big deal. Triggered marketing enables us to remove a lot of waste from the system plus complete campaigns much faster. In addition, triggered marketing has the added bonus of avoiding one annoying aspect of targeted marketing: think of all the times you’ve seen an ad for a product that you’ve already purchased. With triggered marketing we can eliminate that, because once we see that the customer has taken action, we can move on to the next message.

Arno Sosna: Digital publishing will make the biggest impression in 2019. For the first time, a life sciences-specific application will enable brand marketing teams to publish content and approved assets to any digital channel. Life sciences companies create a large amount of digital assets stored in multiple repositories, making it difficult for global teams to identify approved content and have visibility into where content is published.

In 2019, organizations will be able to publish and withdraw digital content faster from one central location to ensure compliance. Companies can distribute and update content to any channel, including multichannel CRM, web, and email, while having full visibility into performance and use of digital assets.

Classic campaign management and customer segmentation are two approaches that are wearing thin, as they do not allow for true personalization of the customer journey. The rise of artificial intelligence will allow for more granular decision-making and, for the first time, give companies greater scalability in how they organize and use customer data.


Med Ad News: Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, but most haven’t scratched the surface of its potential yet. Is pharma really ready? In what surprising ways might AI change the conversation in pharma marketing this year?

Harrison Boulay: Pharma marketers are ready, and the industry is hungry for a targeting solution that does the heavy lifting. 2018 saw some interesting applications, like BioSymetrics “Augusta” that analyzes and integrates disparate types of healthcare data with business processes. I think a nice surprise would be a move from probabilistic to predictive targeting and messaging.

Justin Chase, executive VP/head, innovation and media, Intouch Group: Last year, FDA approved the first medical device to diagnose disease without a doctor. Other FDA-approved apps help doctors diagnose heart problems and identify signs of a stroke. On the pharma side, AI already is helping make better decisions faster, from drug discovery to physician segmentation, from M&A to corporate strategy.

For pharma, the message should be clear: you can no longer relegate AI to the COE and innovation groups.

Many – pharma marketers included – still think of customer service chatbots when they imagine AI. What we don’t think of is complex orchestration that marries analytics with actions, or engagement with affinities. Presenting a connected ecosystem that effectively manages patient record data, social, influencer, wearable, network, first-party, third-party, attitudinal and behavioral data, should ultimately be the vision. However, starting with a simple chat interface that can live in an Echo, or through SMS, email and chat, is a great first step. But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Like in many other areas, social included, it’s not at all surprising to see pharma approach AI cautiously. Especially as some companies have overpromised and underdelivered. The important thing now however, is that we refuse to be deterred by these stops and starts. It is absolutely essential for pharmas to build an AI foundation now, otherwise risk being left in the dust in the very near future.

With this in mind, AI use cases in healthcare are almost endless: Sales rep training/engagement; medical, legal, and regulatory process efficiencies; predicting patient retention and adherence; patient assistance via chat support; resource management for pharma medical information teams; testing treatments from R&D in virtual environments before human trials; providing emotional support through patient support programs; and more. Applications for AI in marketing are just as broad.

To get regulatory teams on board, we must present AI as a practical solution to systematic problems that all brands face. We also need to focus on specific solutions for things like adherence issues: daily reminders, filling prescriptions and providing engaging daily content to remain top of mind among our target audiences.

The market for healthcare AI tools is expected to grow to more than $34 billion by the mid-2020s. This market will consist of software, hardware and services powered by AI.

AI will soon power amazing consumer-facing products and behind-the-scenes infrastructure. The potential for the technology to improve our lives for the better is incredible.

Susan Dorfman: AI has a very broad meaning; it encompasses predictive analytics, machine learning, robotics, and human intelligence. We are using some of these in pharma and healthcare already. For example, at our agency we’re using predictive analytics and machine learning to better engage our clients’ audiences. There is of course opportunity to expand into more advanced areas of AI; such as using bots in decision support and other conversation-based processes. We’ll likely see a lot more in the next five years of the utilization of that tech for more advanced practices that are stable enough to be used to bring ease to patients and physicians without risk of harm.

Gene Fitzpatrick: A few years ago many debated the role of AI in healthcare, especially with advances IBM Watson had shown enhancing clinical decisions and treatment regimens. There certainly are benefits in how much AI expediates researching compounds and other potential new treatment developments. However, I believe AI will influence pharma more this year within marketing as opposed to the clinical environment. The ability AI has to enhance marketing automation is game-changing. The AI engines built into Salesforce Marketing Cloud, IBM Watson’s Marketing and Marketos marketing automation platforms have been helping other industries deliver precision-targeted all-encompassing marketing program for years. While Pharma is usually more cautious in adapting to new marketing trends and technologies, I expect AI in marketing automation to be more fully embraced this year. Marketing automation platforms have enhanced the additional supporting tools to provide clear visibility into formulas, business rules and customer journeys. Brands will quickly engage in automated, tailored, multichannel relationship programs in a very competitive environment with clear, measurable points along that journey.

Dennis Fournogerakis, manager, Beghou Consulting: AI is an exciting new technology, and pharma companies are beginning to use it to extract commercial insights from an ever-increasing amount of data. Companies can deploy AI to automate targeting, analyze click-through rates for digital marketing campaigns, determine who a sales rep should visit next, uncover why a physician won’t prescribe a drug, and more.

Still, commercial teams should do more with AI. Most fail to appreciate the true value of AI and only use it to marginally increase operational efficiencies. Pharma companies that mix AI and human intelligence to gain actionable insights earn a better return on investment and outperform their competitors.

To effectively deploy AI, pharma companies must first purchase the right data and adopt a solid data infrastructure. This requires a shift toward a data-driven mindset and investment in the appropriate data and tools. Commercial teams must also help foster trust in AI across leadership and their companies’ sales and marketing functions. It’s also important to be transparent about the complexities associated with using AI to maintain realistic expectations.

As AI becomes more accessible, pharma companies should consider making it a critical component of their operations. It’s easier than ever to access cleaner, ready-to-use data and advanced tools that support AI. We also may see an emergence of citizen data scientists in the pharma industry – data analysts who work with predictive models, but outside statistics and analytics. These business analysts can use their better understanding of the market, brand and business to help pharma companies produce more actionable results. Companies that embrace AI will be able to analyze data, uncover commercial insights more efficiently and set themselves up to successfully overcome the evolving challenges in the industry

Paul Kallukaran: Right now the biggest impact AI can have in pharma is how we analyze and use data. We have an explosion of data and AI allows us to leverage it. There’s more of an appetite to do things proactively or in real time that you previously couldn’t do. We collect data, use AI to analyze the data, then use that analysis to apply to a CXM solution, so it’s a continuous loop. In one exercise for a client we uncovered that a particular channel was working well with one specialty and not others, so our recommendation was to stop using the channel with other specialties and reallocate that investment to go deeper with the first specialty. Previously we wouldn’t have seen that pattern early enough to have made a significant difference.

Jerry Luciano, VP, omnichannel marketing, TGaS Advisors: Artificial intelligence is poised to become a multibillion-dollar industry. With the amount of available data, the potential influence AI is primed to make on the industry is undeniable. The accuracy, speed and consistency AI effects on large data sets leads to faster, more informed, personalized decisions. In a recent TGaS study, 82 percent of respondents stated AI will play an increasing role in marketing. So why hasn’t AI been widely adopted by brand teams?

The industry was slow to adopt social media due to the perceived loss of control over the conversation. AI is viewed as even more risky. In talking with brand leads, we found two primary factors that influence the slow adoption of AI: mistrust and data accuracy. The skepticism stems from the black-box AI process and how systems arrive at an output. Further erosion of trust arises from AI vendors, who need to keep methods and algorithms confidential to protect their intellectual property. In order to overcome the impasse, companies are requiring arduous testing of results against known outcomes to validate the process. Brand managers worry about an algorithm being wrong, even once, and the potential liability. Validation requires extensive effort and investment with undefined ROI, which can be seen as an impediment to adoption.

In addition to internal skepticism, FDA has begun to influence the development and use of software in this space. They have just launched a new Software Precertification (Pre-Cert) Pilot Program to help provide a regulatory framework for approval on new technologies that will undoubtedly bleed into AI. The agency states: “While the FDA’s goal with the Pre-Cert program is to regulate digital health technologies in a way that fosters innovation, the model is based in protecting patient safety.”

The other significant barrier we identified in benchmarking the industry is data hygiene. The industry is viewed to be in the data aggregation and hygiene phase, a precursor for enabling AI. As companies move to aggregate data sources, the growing breadth of data types is not the hindrance; it is the quality of data that influences how a system calculates a result.

So how should marketers leverage AI? In order to allow AI to influence the standard of care, companies need to focus on iterative wins to build momentum. AI is currently being used with success in the low-risk space of ad buys. However, brand leaders must acknowledge the trends in consumer behavior to understand how to effectively apply AI. For example, some estimate that between 30-50 percent of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020, opting for voice searches. Users structure their searches differently using voice compared to text. Searches are more verbose and tend to be in the form of questions. Understanding the differences in how users are searching and optimizing content onsite to improve indexing is an easy way to leverage existing AI platforms.

A second application is in automating a conversation with a patient or healthcare provider, i.e., chatbots. A chatbot can change the way information is disseminated to various audiences. For example, a patient may have a question on how to take a new medication or symptoms, or a user has difficulty typing. There are some clear benefits to leveraging chatbots on digital properties to address the changing landscape of interactions: availability to service customers at a time of their choosing, personalized delivery, cost savings over call centers and as a form of market research to inform future decisions.

A common question we hear from our clients is around how companies outside of pharma leverage AI. One way to overcome internal inertia around AI is to identify proven successes outside the industry and understand how they can be adapted. Internally, AI has proven successful in areas like clinical trials and drug discovery, but if it is going to succeed within marketing, the paradigm must change from brand-driven communications to data-driven.

Saby Mitra, principal, ZS: We’re seeing many pharma companies create innovation groups to experiment, pilot, and launch early experience programs for this type of capability [artificial intelligence and machine learning] in the commercial space. For example, pharma companies have been building out capabilities to personalize customer engagements for some time now, but more recently we’ve seen focus and intensity pick up in using advanced analytics to learn and mine good performing patterns of engagement across channels and recommend next best actions for customers.

In the pharmaceutical industry overall, there are departments that are sitting on pockets of data, and unfortunately in some cases, data is getting politicized. It’s critical that pharma companies – and some have already started – create separate data organizations and appoint chief data officers, if you will, to mandate the use and access of data. For better adoption of AI, there has to be an AI-friendly culture that’s championed from the top down. Senior management has to believe in the value of AI and build the next layer of management to be those change advocates and change agents.

If you ask someone about AI, particularly in the commercial organization, it’s hard to tell what the machine is going to come up with or why it comes up with what it does. Is it giving the right recommendation, or is it an accident of data? In coming months, I could see more focus on providing more transparency to the end users who are administering and managing those types of AI programs.

Arno Sosna: This year, the industry will move toward an AI-driven workforce as AI becomes a standard, pervasive capability that is embedded into commercial applications and business processes. For example, AI will automate claims-reference linking in content management for marketing operations, or automatically recognize and suggest optimal inventory layouts on shelves for retail sales. Embedded AI can also provide suggestions on next best action, improving overall effectiveness for reps.

At this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Novartis’ pharma CEO Paul Hudson shared an example of how AI supports his company’s sales reps’ effectiveness. Reps have access to an AI service that listens to their interactions and conversations with HCPs, then suggests other customers to visit and subjects to discuss in subsequent meetings. This “virtual assistant” helps reps “plan better, move better, and make sure when they show up to see a healthcare professional, they are talking about things that the healthcare professional is absolutely interested in,” Hudson said.

Transforming the commercial data warehouse space will be key to providing the missing link to pharmaceutical and biotech companies fully implementing AI and enabling a new era of intelligent engagement. AI needs data to build intelligence, and for that data to be useful, it has to be organized in a standard way. For decades, the industry has relied on building and maintaining its own custom-built data warehouses because of a lack of high-quality, packaged commercial data warehouse solutions.

Data originates in many different places – medical records, personal devices, claims, biomonitoring – and remains unorganized. A next-generation commercial data warehouse will better organize and prepare data, removing the largest impediment to gaining value from data through machine learning and AI. An AI-driven workforce can become a reality as more organizations put the right data foundation in place.

We are just at the beginning of how AI will affect established sales and marketing processes. Specifically, the effects of next best action suggestions will be enormous. Processes like incentive compensation, territory structures, targeting, and forecasting will be disrupted as the cadence of decision-making increases from monthly to weekly, daily, or even hourly. AI will infiltrate every business level, from “big AI” helping with decisions at headquarters to “local AI” embedded in field reps’ devices to replace manual data entry with voice, text, and image recognition.


Med Ad News: Sometimes folks forget about them with all the focus on technology, but pharma sales teams are still the ones on the ground. What do brands have to do to optimize and maximize the effectiveness of their sales teams in the new year and going forward?

Michael Deichmiller, group account director, Butler/Till Health Group: We’ve had a lot of interesting discussions with our clients this year about leveraging media to support the efforts of their sales teams – in essence, creating a more educated, more aware audience prior to the sales team having the opportunity to communicate with the physicians/staff in-person. Refining media efforts to specific healthcare professionals that are of the greatest importance to the sales team is critical as is aligning the messaging that the healthcare professional may be exposed to via paid media with the messages that are being delivered by the sales team members.

Nicole Fischer, data analyst, Butler/Till Health Group: Sales force and marketing efforts should work in tandem. Brands need to recognize the areas of strength that their sales teams possess while supplementing the areas of weakness with additional marketing efforts. With increasing frequency physicians are restricting sales representative access in physical offices, how can brands make a connection? Cue marketing. If access is allowed, will the HCP recall the conversation with the rep in a week? A month? Cue marketing.

Greg Flynn, president, Ashfield US, a part of UDG Healthcare: There has been so much said and written about face time with healthcare practitioners and the constraints that puts on the traditional sales dynamic. While this is true, we all recognize that selling still requires a personal touch to be truly effective – it just might be that the personal touch we deploy need to become even more personal. What does this mean exactly?

We need to step back and take a look at our brands and the company culture that drives on those brands and devise a holistic approach to present those values and messaging. Ultimately, we are looking to change behavior, or at a minimum, maintain existing brand support and use. Our mission should be to deliver an enhanced customer experience which should come from a better understanding of who we are, what our customers need, and how we deliver messaging to our customers so that it resonates and engages them in the process of delivering impactful healthcare.

An optimized sales model needs to proceed from this basis. We should always structure an approach that engages the HCP and patients served – one based on meeting their needs with messaging that resonates on a personal level. Traditional boots on the ground may not always deliver the desired or best results.

To deliver the most effective approach can be a lot easier said than done. For one, it takes a certain agility or flexibility to meet the various sales profiles needed to be the most effective in today’s marketplace. For another, it requires demystifying the warehouses of accumulated market data and subsequently analyzing it to underpin the most effective model approach. Doing the assessment upfront on the most appropriate mix of personal and non-personal channels will best inform us on how to create and implement the right mix for each engagement. Then, once these things are accomplished, one can build a transformative sales model rationalizing resource allocation by assessing all relevant data and isolating the cost and impact of each channel to establish the optimal mix.

For instance, we may learn that more productive engagements result from a diverse sales approach configuration that we optimize with other channels such as social media and our website. A traditional 80-person field team could be replaced with one with only 50 traditional field staff, augmented by 30 inside sales staff calling on “hard to see” HCPs with video detailing at times more convenient to them, and 20 field service representatives supplying the office with samples, insurance updates and collateral support.

Gone are the days of driving the need. Today and into the future, we must look to engage with HCPs with value-based messaging that resonates because it addresses the needs they see in serving their patient populations.

Patrick Lezark, partner, Beghou Consulting: Incentive compensation is one of the most complex aspects of the pharmaceutical industry. You must mix behavioral economics and human psychology with in-depth data analysis. A fair incentive compensation plan is necessary to attract, reward and retain reps. If headquarters fails to reward the sales force, it risks reps underperforming or moving to a competitor. Sales reps that follow effective compensation plans generate more prescriptions and increase their company’s bottom line.

To ensure an effective incentive compensation plan, pharma companies need to get back to the basics of organizing, analyzing, and managing data. Data informs everything from sales force size and structure to territory design and alignment to goal setting, all of which comprise its incentive compensation plan. Every quarter, headquarters should reflect on its payout and compare progress and results against goals. Questions to ask include:

• Are we paying the right number of reps the right amount?
• Are sales reps close to their quotas?
• Is quota attainment biased toward territories with certain underlying characteristics?
• Do we have low or high turnover?
• Do we need to revisit our territory alignment?
• What should we be doing differently?
• Is the plan working as we hoped?

Commercial teams can incorporate insights from new technology into territory management, but must not lose focus on its IC plans. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can help sales reps better target customers, determine their “next best action” and improve the plan’s overall effectiveness. Pharma companies must be sure to embrace tools that accommodate these insights and consider new, adaptable alignment tools to manage their territories. As technology in the pharma industry continues to evolve, it’s important to build on the fundamentals of incentive compensation while incorporating more advanced techniques to maximize sales force effectiveness.

Raffi Siyahian, principal, Scout: Sales reps continue to be one of the most significant commercial line items on the ledgers of most pharma companies. Why? Because marketers would be hard-pressed to point to more than a couple of brands that have achieved success without the support of feet on the street.

Even in this day of content-managed, pushed digital communication, sales reps, where allowed, continue to be a primary source of brand-specific information for physicians. But marketers know that reps continue to get less and less time with HCPs. So, what’s the secret to optimizing success for the field force?

Well, the formula hasn’t changed — reps who establish good relationships with their customers are the most successful. Only after the doctor trusts the rep will she or he accept a brand message. Brand teams that help reps establish strong relationships, through efficient meetings and meaningful, succinct brand messages, will be best positioned to maximize impact. How can this be done?

First, bring value. HCPs crave information that helps them better treat patients. This often means helping identify undiagnosed or misdiagnosed patients or delivering clinically relevant disease state information. Marketing teams that arm their reps with disease state information that HCPs deem valuable will be off to a great start.

Second, provide reps with a brand message that is clearly differentiating and motivating but can be delivered succinctly. Sounds simple, but many brands miss this in favor of the “kitchen sink” message.

Finally, give reps a way of quickly explaining the trigger point for when the brand should be used. “Doctor, when you see X, that’s when our brand can be a benefit to your patient and your practice.” This goes far beyond patient profiles and, if not well-executed, often relegates the brand to use far down the treatment continuum.

Brand teams that help their reps build strong, trusting relationships with HCPs, provide valuable information, and deliver a succinct brand message in a hyper-efficient manner will always have a leg up on their competitors.

Ryan Sowers, director of commercial strategy, DRG: Health payment reform, consolidation, and other market forces have completely upended prescribing influences in the U.S., and it’s become increasingly complicated for brands to prioritize their resources.

One of the keys to maximizing sales force effectiveness will be the ability of brands to leverage the right data sets to inform their strategies.

Brands will need to map and assess the complex relationships, influences and treatment dynamics among payers, providers and patients at the regional level for their indication or focus area.

Which regions have the strongest payer influences, and who are the key players? Are there areas where patients play a bigger role in decision-making, or is cost a significant barrier to compliance? Are there geographies where providers have more autonomy, and how does that vary by health system affiliations? How many physician types are interacting with a patient and how is that impacting care? And so on.

Luckily, emerging data sets and advances in data science to connect these pieces are enabling us to answer these questions better and faster for our clients.

And then when it comes to identifying the best-fit physicians for different use cases, including sales force targeting, we work with clients to assess and score physicians by a variety of factors:

• Clinical influence. How is prescribing behavior influenced by the actions of peers they work with and trust?
• Provider influence. How is prescribing behavior influenced in organizations such as IDNs, where cost and quality protocols are standardized?
• Payer influence. How are formularies influencing prescribing and treatment of patients?
• Online influence. How are online influencers, discussions and information shaping health decisions?
• Affiliations influence. How does a physicians’ affiliation impact treatment choice decisions?
• Key Opinion Leader (KOL) influence. How are experts and KOL speakers influencing networks at national, regional and local levels? Who are the future market shapers?

The right data – and the ability to act on it – will be a key differentiator in sales force effectiveness going forward.

Curt Staab, senior VP, Emerging Life Sciences Network, TGaS Advisors: It is easy for marketers to become enamored with the latest technology, like Artificial Intelligence, and develop a multi-channel marketing (MCM) plan around it, but this may lead to neglecting the one channel that has the face-to-face interactions with customers – the sales force. In order to optimize and maximize the effectiveness of their sales teams, marketers should ensure that the sales force is fully integrated with an overall MCM strategy. A recent TGaS study showed that pharma companies can improve in this area; 40 percent of companies self-reported that they are not integrating field calls with their multi-channel marketing data. Many pharma companies are trying to leverage their CRM systems to enable multi-channel marketing integration, but here again there seems to be room for improvement. Only 50 percent of surveyed companies said their CRM system is a “fully integrated” MCM tool. Another way integration can occur within the CRM system is to leverage predictive analytics capabilities to provide the rep with “next best message” or “next best call” intelligence. This information flow should go both ways. It should provide recommendations for the field rep, but reps should also be able to enable other non-personal promotion channels and go well beyond rep-triggered e-mails. The combination of analytics that can only come from headquarters with on-the-ground rep intelligence can prove a winning combination.

Along with a fully integrated MCM strategy with the field, marketers can also maximize effectiveness by identifying different roles and responsibilities for field personnel. As pharma companies become focused on more specialty products, marketers have realized they may not need to feed the “arms race” in personal promotion. TGaS has observed that the average size of a sales force has decreased 64 percent since 2009 from 525 reps to 188. The number of field forces in a company, however, has increased 143 percent during that time, from 4.4 to 10.7. This is due to marketers realizing the need for different field-based roles to fill an array of different customers and customer needs. These new roles include reimbursement specialists, nurse educators, clinical specialists, IDN-focused reps and many more. Marketers are realizing that a field force is a vital part of an MCM strategy, but the field-facing roles need to evolve from the standard reach and frequency model of deploying reps to HCPs.

Along with changing the standard reach and frequency approach, marketers are continuing to strive for a holistic approach to their MCM strategy. While building promotion plans, marketers should look at the interaction between all channels, which includes not only field sales but also web ads, print ads, websites, email, speaker programs, etc. Promotion plans should not start with looking at promotional response for the field force and then layering in other channels on top. A holistic approach understands the interaction between all channels and ensures that the right message through the appropriate channel with the optimal frequency will have the greatest impact. Thus, marketers will always have a personal promotion field channel, but this will evolve to ensure it is fully integrated in an impactful multichannel marketing strategy.

Malcolm Sturgis, principal, ZS: The sales force is still pharma’s No. 1 tactic for HCP promotion, despite the industry’s embrace of digital heavy, multichannel approaches. The sales force’s personal relationships and depth of interaction allows more touches, with more content, than any other channel. Sales representatives are also a high investment channel. While about half the HCP interactions the industry tries for are non-personal (e.g., emails), sales force still represents the vast majority of the industry’s professional spend. Making the most of that investment matters.

Sophisticated pharma companies are taking advantage of technology to make their sales forces more effective, not just to shift spend to lower cost channels. Today’s representative is at the heart of the omnichannel ecosystem, bringing dynamic digital sales aids to a call, communicating with customers online, and coordinating with or deploying other marketing channels to make each interaction as impactful as possible. HQ can help with this by enabling seamless cross channel coordination and sending the field timely, customer level insights and suggestions that help reps tailor the strategy for each doctor.

Ben Swan, digital media strategist, Butler/Till Health Group: I feel that there is a huge opportunity for agencies and advertisers to take their collaboration to the next level in 2019 and I believe that a large part of that opportunity will come in the form of sales and marketing cooperation.  Too often there is a drop or gap in communication from agencies to marketing/advertising to the CRM programs/teams to the sales team.

Whether it’s marketing driving unqualified leads, CRM systems failing to adequately meet customers needs, and/or sales teams having difficulty following up with leads in a timely manner, it seems that no matter what the issue is, it typically boils down to a lack of collaboration and understanding. In the recent past, automation of marketing tech and API integrations with sales tech have been great tools to help mitigate any time lag and other issues but I contend that these tools fall short of a solution to maximize effectiveness of sales teams.  In my opinion, when it comes to marketing to HCP’s, marketing objectives should be tied to sales team objectives which in turn should be tied to brand objectives  in a more intimate and concise way. The only way to do this is to collaborate from start to finish, from the day 1 brief to the final report the three teams should be communicating constantly, sharing data, giving feedback, discovering insights, and optimizing marcomm budgets to deliver the optimal ROAS for a brand.

Aaron Uydess, executive VP, customer experience and analytics, Intouch Group: As access to HCPs declines, the challenges facing sales reps – less time with HCPs, Sunshine Act restrictions, and integration of practices into larger health systems – continue to increase. To reinforce their value, sales reps must be in tune with the market and the unique needs of the customer, so they can anticipate and tailor their interactions and support. Fortunately, today’s digital world enables connections and predictions that yesterday’s rep never even dreamed of.

By combining the best in industry expertise, data, CRM technology, and AI and machine learning, reps can have the tools to make anticipated relevance possible. And by anticipating relevance, the rep can provide an HCP with information that’s useful to them, in the format, time, and place that helps them most.

Intouch’s AI-powered embedded virtual assistant, which we call EVA, is a great example of what’s possible. EVA connects with Veeva to access a rep’s calendar of appointments to get information about where they need to go and who they need to see. Combined with marketing segmentation, EVA prepares the sales rep with the breakdown of the physicians lined up for the day’s calls. Data further informs the conversation with helpful facts like script-writing history, promotional objectives, prior messages presented, and online activity, giving the rep a prediction of what their next best actions should be. These suggestions can be offered via the voice assistant, or sent by text or email for later reference, and can power the flow of the in-office detail. After the call, EVA can help a rep record a call quickly and easily in the CRM system.

With modern marketing tools at their fingertips, sales reps not only can become more strategic and valuable partners to HCPs, but they can also be more efficient, spending less time on administrative tasks. They can focus on selling, and more importantly achieving improved patient outcomes.

Med Ad News
How do you foresee pharma’s marketing mix changing, or not changing, in 2019? How will the various channels develop and change this year?

Susan Dorfman: The way we serve our customers, whether patients or HCPs, needs to reflect the way that they actually consume information and should be channel neutral. The small percentage of clients already doing that should keep doing it. For those who aren’t, the biggest change we see for you is embrace the people-first mentality, and ensure that your channel mix is reflecting your audience in a one-to-one manner based on continuous insight. It’s also important to remember that it’s not just the channel, it’s also the messages served in that channel that needs to be considered in the mix. Personalization of message and content mix by channel is as important as the channel mix itself.

Danielle Fox, digital media planner/buyer, Butler/Till Health Group: In 2019, we can expect more customized media to become a larger part of pharma’s marketing media mix driven by the expansion of social, influencer and experiential media channels. In the past couple years, pharma has become more comfortable using social channels, having navigated the legal considerations and establishing precedence for how to manage social channels with compliance to FDA guidelines. With this, I’d expect social to become a bigger role with brands tapping into sources outside of Facebook & engaging with channels like Pinterest to take advantage of the keyword level targeting and Snapchat to reach the younger demographics. With the expansion of social, I’d also expect brands to continue & expand upon leveraging influencers to connect with patients in a meaningful way and would expect to see more branded influencer content come into play. In trying to stand out from the clutter, I’d expect experiential media to become the next testing ground with brands and agencies beginning to look at how leverage artificial intelligence or build custom partnerships that align with consumer trends, i.e. partnership with UberEats.

Justin Freid, executive VP, managing director, CMI/Compas: While ultimately depending on the patient population’s consumption behaviors, continued shift to advertising on streaming services like Hulu will become a core part of the media mix. With so many people cutting the cord, some never even having the cord attached, reaching key audiences through the devices and channels they are actively using as their primary source of content consumption. This will be accompanied by cable companies continue to improve their technology, allowing addressable TV to continue to take on more and more of the traditional TV budget. The benefit of layering on additional targeting being met by scale will only push more and more dollars to addressable TV.

Eugene Lee, executive VP, managing director, CMI/Compas: A 2019 media mix will look more diverse in channels and tactics than ever, which will be the trend continuing. The media landscape’s expansion has resulted in media dollars being spread to so many more channels than in the past. Clients are always pushing to not be “cookie-cutter” and with solid measurement plans and analytics in place, the exploration or piloting of new channels or tactics is common. This expansion will also not be limited to paid media channels but inclusive of web presence management, community management, owned media assets, etc. This too will result in a mix of communication types in these media where it will not be just promotional messaging. The media mix in healthcare also includes combining the patient/caregiver audience with the healthcare professional audience media efforts in both a unique and synergistic way. Ultimately, what will matter is success from the total mix and the media that makes up that mix.

Liz O’Neil, senior VP, channel strategy and research, Ogilvy Health: As we consider the future of pharma’s marketing media mix and its likelihood to change, our Magic 8-Ball says, “My sources say no.” This response feels right for the following reasons. First, pharma marketing is one of the most complex markets with many stakeholders such as patients, caregivers, prescribers, allied health professionals, and payers. Finding the right mix has been the quest of pharma marketers and their partners, with advanced analytics shaping the understanding of cross-channel attribution. Strategic shifts in priority across stakeholders may shift the mix, but the channels leveraged are tried and true. Second, as an industry, pharma is evidence-based in their approach to marketing, so any changes to the media mix will be slow, due to the natural pace of testing and learning. Brand managers know that securing a media budget for year two is not easy if it does not show success in year one. Setting up learning plans and testing new channels is part of the approach, but they take time to scale.

Siloed structures of companies can compound the complexity of the optimal marketing mix, and thankfully there has been evolution in this area with teams on the agency and client side designed to be more agile and cross-functional. This development should help with optimization across channel and not having teams protecting budgets for the wrong reasons. This mindset shift will not likely change the mix significantly, but allow teams to be ready to react to shifting market conditions.

Pharma is a data-driven and results-driven category but does have a slower-paced learning curve due to the nature of the products sold. The selling cycle is longer, and the purchase decisions are multifaceted. Pharma is excited by the evolving channel landscape and moving to a more digital-first and data-driven approach, but these shifts are not big shifts in mix, but rather nuanced evolutions of the channels and testing the strategy rather than the channel. As brands embrace the promise of data-driven marketing and partnership of sales and marketing, we will see communications aligned to the customer journey and an increase in segments and more targeted messages. The investment in analytics and data should increase to power communication plans. 2019 will continue to build on personalization, especially in the HCP side of the business. Thinking about customer engagement and customer journey is to have the right message at the right time. Electronic health records, hypersegmentation, more data to understand physicians’ behavior is all exciting – you may alter the execution, but the channel mix is fairly tried and true.

Morgan Olek, digital strategist, Butler/Till Health Group: I foresee pharma’s marketing media mix continuing to evolve in 2019. Media consumption is changing, and with that, so must the media mix. As the number of cord cutters continues to increase year-over-year, I expect to see an increase in connected TV/OTT ad spend in 2019. In addition to a surge in connected TV adoption, I’m also anticipating an increase in influencer marketing in 2019. I’ve seen a few pharma companies dip their toes in this “new frontier” in 2018, and I expect this tactic to really take off in the new year. Brands and media partners alike will use prior executions as learning experiences and benchmarks to pave the way for new opportunities in the future. As more and more patients (influencers) are willing to share their stories and become advocates, opportunities to leverage these personal experiences will be abundant. While many brands will see this strategy as too risky, the ones willing to take the plunge will reap the benefits.


Med Ad News: What skills or offerings are brand managers going to expect from marketing agency partners in 2019 that they might not have expected in 2018? Why so? What other changes might be brewing in the agency world?

Intouch CEO Faruk Capan

Faruk Capan, founder and CEO, Intouch Group: Brand managers will demand that their agencies provide more integrated customer experiences for patients and HCPs. Now more than ever, people expect brands to know what they want and need, and creating integrated experiences demonstrates that we are paying attention. Agencies need to be partnering with centers of excellence and IT to develop and provide access to unified customer data in order to implement integrated customer experiences. Clients will demand deeper knowledge from their agencies, not only in terms of modern marketing but also on privacy – GDPR and CCPA are only the beginning of the push toward greater privacy controls. Using data science to optimize campaigns at every stage, from predictive modeling to identifying top-performing messages to measuring engagement, will continue to be a key expectation, as will a thorough understanding of technology platforms and which one is right for a particular brand’s needs.

Michael Deichmiller: Agencies must be able to make sense of data and tell a clear story of results. We all know there’s a lot of data and throwing that data at our clients to prove our value or our time/effort is a thing of the past. The evolution of data and analytics is making the complex simple. Distilling very complicated, and intricate data sets down to answer the question “what does this mean for the brand”. Most brand manager have an array of responsibilities and are stretched thin – helping them to tell a story through the orchestration of campaign data will go a long way in making their lives easier.

Susan Dorfman: In an agile world where things are changing all the time, insights shape priorities. We’re entering a daring environment and looking at doing things differently. Brand managers need to be much more flexible and much more time-responsive in the way that we design, execute and measure everything we do. We need to be quicker and more agile. And we need to be able to adapt and adjust, while also knowing when to hold and stick. We are no longer in a world where we can create a plan and set it in stone; in our people-first always-on marketplace, we need to embrace and manage change.

Danielle Fox: I’d expect brand managers to expect an integrated marketing plan inclusive of outside of the box opportunities accompanied with a clear measurement plan to understand how the holistic campaigns are tracking towards the goals our brand managers are being held to internally. Now more than ever, we have seen the willingness from brand managers to test the boundaries and begin to push more custom programs through legal review which in turn allows for additional media avenues to build meaningful connections with patients and HCPs. With new programs, it becomes important to prove value and ROI which is where a holistic measurement plan comes into play to prove the validity of these new opportunities. Agencies will work to connect their analytics teams with brand managers & analytics team members at client organizations to align measurement methodologies and be able to partner more closely to understand areas for optimization.

Justin Freid: Specialization has been key for the growth of many marketers when it comes to social media, analytics, search engine marketing and other channels. But what is occurring in agencies today is the lack of someone to pull it all together: being well versed across the board and understanding how the channels work together to reach and influence the end consumer. While specialization is needed to truly make many of these channels effective, we are beginning to lose the overall connection to business strategy and how each channel works together to achieve business results. Being able to truly be a media strategist across all channels is a skill set that is greatly needed within our industry.

Amy Graham, client engagement officer, Ogilvy Health: As an agency partner, our team serves as a steward of the brand entrusted to our care. As such, we sit at the table with our clients as an extension of their teams, partnering in their brand processes and success. We should be expected to have intimate knowledge of the brand and competitive landscape, as well as the business challenges facing the brand and team, but also have the ability to understand and leverage the role that technologies and data have on our brands. Agency marketers need to work with their clients to build brand strategies based on a number of key market dynamics.

When building a brand strategy, to ensure success in 2019 and beyond, it’s an absolute must for today’s marketers to incorporate data, analytics, and technologies into their process. Those who are able to analyze data and quickly develop insights by making intelligent, meaningful connections with their customers will have a strong competitive advantage. Applying data strategies to make better-informed decisions allows marketers to optimize innovation, and affords us the ability to build new tools for physicians, consumers, and insurers. Patients, prescribers, and payers are all more informed and have a variety of information available to them. Therefore, our goal is to deliver a stronger connection to customers and optimize the brand experience.

Healthcare consumerism can be defined as transforming decision-making into the hands of individuals. In pharmaceuticals, success is linked to the pharmaceutical company’s ability to meet consumers’ needs and expectations, often placing them in the position of serving as a primary source for education, information, and for providing the tools that patients need to take ownership of their health.

Consumers have come to expect transparency and choice in their healthcare experience. They no longer want to be told a story, they want to participate in stories. Now more than ever, healthcare users look to their peers, families, friends and extended online networks for validation – which gives consumers significant weight as influencers within our target markets. For years, marketers have known about the power of building our networks and creating brand advocates, delivering experiences that make our customers want to give us personal referrals – but where so many brands fall short is integrating that user-generated content within their brand strategies.

Within the world of oncology, we can draw upon more than two decades of experience launching drugs approved under accelerated or subpart H/subpart E approvals. As such, we’ve learned the importance of aligning brand and regulatory strategy early on to maximize what is often a truncated launch calendar. With an increasing number of such approvals over the last five years alone and no shortage of these approvals still to come, it’s important for brand managers to partner with a marketing team that’s experienced at helping identify potential opportunities and challenges that might help or hinder launch planning and execution. Organizational planning and prioritization are critical to drive readiness and success.


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June 2019 Focus: Payer access, biotech/biopharma, DTC, rare diseases, and more!


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