By Ben Putman, JUICE Pharma Worldwide,
Senior VP, Director of Creative Technology and Innovation

Over the past few years, Digital Pharma West has become a can’t-miss conference for west coast marketers. Stocked with plentiful case studies and solid results, I left excited and filled with illuminated possibilities. From the latest in Virtual Reality to imaginative Social Engagement approaches, here are my Top Five Digital Marketing takeaways for 2017.

VR boosts business… and just got easier

Both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have proven that they are not just the latest fad, and have firmly secured their place in the marketing “tool box.”

Whether used in convention settings for physician education or in hospital settings to reduce patients’ pain, VR has shown that it can have a powerful impact on positive patient outcomes. After all, unlike VR, not many technologies can boast a retention rate of about 80%!

Things are getting very exciting on the development side of things as well. Apple released a new Augmented Reality platform that will make advanced special algorithms accessible to the wider development community. Expect to see new inventive creative solutions at more accessible prices.

Partner with your creative agency and a VR-specialty vendor like Pixacore to create high-quality experiences that truly move the needle.

AI is the new mobile… don’t miss out

Whether communicating with Alexa and chatbots or discovering insights for better patient adherence, Artificial Intelligence is becoming the next transformative movement in marketing.

As more sensors are placed on, in, or near our bodies, AI is how we analyze and provide insights on all those data. Coming soon—”smart virtual coaches” will guide all aspects of life.

AI-powered chatbots are now available for Facebook, and we learned that half of US consumers are interested in using voice assistants for health-related needs. HealthTap’s Facebook Messenger bot is leading the way to make access to healthcare information and resources easier for everyone at scale.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home could become a future primary touchpoint along the patient journey. Merck’s Alexa Diabetes Challenge is showing us the potential for Alexa to become a new partner in diabetes management.

Social media builds business

Social media has been a sore point for marketers in the pharmaceutical world due to worry about risk and regulatory. Fortunately, Jack Barette, CEO of WEGO Health, has solved the problem and is ready to help you overcome the myriad of seemingly unsurmountable hurdles associated with this channel. WEGO Health leverages patient influencers through co-branded Facebook and Twitter posts that have proven to bring real results.

Sunovion used social media to successfully drive advocacy and conversions for three different brands. Gilead and Abbvie used Facebook and Twitter to tangibly demonstrate social commitment to their patients and their conditions—and people noticed.

Here are three social media highlights you should memorize today:

  • Yes, you can measure the effects of social media. Experts can show you how.
  • “Organic social media is dead.” Paid social media is the only way to go.
  • “Quiet” videos are required: 84% of videos on social media are watched with the sound off.

Customer experience is efficacy. Efficacy is customer experience.

As the world around us changes, so do our expectations. Uber picks us right up at our location. Tide will pick up and wash our laundry. We have grown to expect superb service from everyone around us, and it is no different for pharmaceutical companies. HCPs and patients alike expect you to make their lives easier beyond the pill.

Manhattan Research shared these key insights:

  • 59% of people say they expect the healthcare system to offer the same level of customer service as other industries.
  • 46% of physicians expect more than a product from pharma companies.
  • 21% of online consumers agree that the experience they have with a pharma company is just as valuable as having a drug that works well.

It is time for the healthcare system to step it up. Look to One Medical and their concierge approach for inspiration as you plan your next customer-centric promotional plan.

Win big with a test-and-learn approach

HCP access is limited. Marketing channels are moving targets. What works today may not work tomorrow. What can we do?

Actually, quite a lot. Abbott Labs, Mylan, and Orexigen all showed case studies on how effective embracing a test-and-learn approach can be. Data-driven insights can really increase volume while reducing costs.

If you’re not learning from your campaign, you’re losing. Losing time. Losing money. Losing share of voice.

A bright future

Our pharma future is bright. I saw a solid digital foundation across companies large and small. My focus is always on what’s next, and I see some exciting potential to create some amazing work.



About the author

Ben’s focus for the past decade has been innovation in healthcare, particularly in biotech, oncology, and rare disease categories. As SVP, Director of Creative Technology and Innovation at JUICE Pharma Worldwide, Ben has catapulted the agency into the vanguard of multichannel communications and provides thought leadership to the agency and the industry.