The Data Intelligence Partner Strategy for Pharmaceutical Marketers: Imagination and Agility

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By Linda von Rosenvinge, Cross-Disciplined Strategist for Greater Than One (GTO)

Linda von Rosenvinge

As pharmaceutical marketing benefits from soaring advances in data availability and data analyses techniques, brand marketers are called upon to select data and analytics partners. We’ve applied our over 20 years of experience guiding clients to help you frame and solve for this data intelligence challenge. Our recommended strategy centers on two towering criteria for these decisions: imagination and agility.  


Why “imagination” when we’re talking about data? Because data itself is inert and well on its way to becoming a commodity.   It doesn’t matter if you have the most data, the newest data or even the most unique data-until human ingenuity interrogates and activates the data, no value can be derived.

The path to choosing data partners begins by precisely defining what it is you need to learn to propel your business. What proprietary intelligence would position you to achieve or sustain a competitive advantage? 
The answers to this question create the backbone of your data intelligence vision and point to what data and analytics methodologies are required; you’ll want expansive thinkers here.

An invaluable agency partner will question all assumptions, pursue daring data inquiries, and is willing to imagine something wholly different than the norm. Because they know your business intimately and view data as a strategic asset, they can identify the white space. They’ll create a set of custom, prioritized criteria to apply to the options available in the marketplace to identify candidate data vendors and approaches.  (They act as a master chef who selects the best ingredients and modes of preparation for the season and the meal desired.)

Unimagined Options

The power of your ultimate data solution will be determined much more by the incisive minds formulating the hypotheses and questions applied to the data than by the specific data vendor selected.  

An imaginative partner (agency and/or data provider) will bring you a set of options, projections and recommendations which contain not only what you expected, but what you hadn’t thought of or didn’t think was  possible. This might be a startling new methodology or simply an imaginative new way to apply an existing one.

Although artificial intelligence has revolutionized a great deal of what happens in medicine and marketing, it remains a tool that primarily supports human decision-making and frees up time for humans to think, hypothesize and create. Human imagination is what drives breakthroughs.


In the last couple of years, several large agency holding companies have acquired data providers, and claim to offer proprietary data access and solutions for their clients.  In truth, comparable solutions are often available from others, and these agencies may be leveraging 3rd party data prowess and passing the cost on to clients.

A wholesale commitment to one data provider may be dangerously restrictive. It can create minds hell bent on twisting the data to match the question, rather than honing the question and then finding the data to answer it. Also consider that most agencies still fundamentally own audience “engagement.”  Building standalone data products for clients will never be a core discipline for a digital media agency. Could these agencies really innovate at the rate their data-devoted competition does?

While big agency players attempt to differentiate by keeping data inhouse, we’ve seen data access further democratized and leading data provider skill sets approach a comparable level.   These data and analytics firms all have prowess in artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced computer modeling and data mining.  They have comparable tools.

However, there are some differences of import depending on the analytics application at hand.  To navigate these differences, you’ll want an agency which understands the strategic nuances of using first vs. third party data, crafting opt-in digital propositions that are both compliant and compelling, and managing data in an increasingly privacy-sensitive world.  You may not want to utilize the same data partner to uncover rare disease patients as you would to understand how our media is helping to convert HCP interest to scripts.  

Fierce and healthy competition keeps the advanced players in a continuous cycle of innovation that agile marketers can capitalize on. When one of them pulls ahead with a relevant innovation, you want to be poised to act upon it, with your agency partner providing insight and guidance.

A Data Dream Team

Nancy Harhut, a veteran in the space, said this recently:

“The world has fallen in love with data. I believe that greater collaboration between data scientists and behavioral scientists is coming soon. Data scientists will reveal who should be targeted with what message at what time and place.”

A brilliant agency partner grounded in behavioral science working with multiple potential data providers (data scientists) gives you both on the same dream team. 

An outstanding agency understands the relative strengths of data analytics providers in the space. This applies whether you’re using data to build an audience, develop insights and/or deliver targeted engagement programs. (They deliver- like a talented chef with unparalleled discernment who magically brings the best together for a singularly superb meal.)


Stand up the agency partner and the data provider that:

  • Brings the most imaginative, custom recommendations to the distinct data challenge at hand
  • Can help you craft and execute a winning data intelligence vision
  • Ensures data outputs give you immediately actionable intelligence
  • Has the freedom and the insight to activate the best solution in the moment
  • Doesn’t fall prey to the siren song of “look how much data I own!”

GTO’s approach

We believe the most sophisticated approach is provider and methodology neutral and inherently agile.  GTO can seize the best solutions for every client need when it arises, whether or not the need was foreseen months earlier.

Our data interrogations will identify unforeseen associations and uncover new patterns and relationships which offer opportunity.  We often use multiple data sources to tap into specializations for the best client results and learnings.

GTO’s approach reflects a blue ocean strategy-fueled by imagination, open to unexplored opportunities and focused only on our clients’ business.