Xpectives News

Five Things Pharma Can Learn From CPGs

June 25, 2015 by David Barwig

Pharma insiders sometimes dismiss the marketing campaigns of consumer-packaged goods (CPG) as being too far removed from our work to be relevant. “They have such big budgets! They don’t have our restrictions! What can we learn from them?” A lot, we think.

Group Account Director David Barwig, who is new to Intouch Solutions’ New York office, has a background in the CPG industry. From SC Johnson to “Got Milk,” his multichannel experience has developed the digital side of many household brand names, and his expertise is now coming into play for several of our pharmaceutical clients. We talked to David about the biggest things he believes pharma can learn from CPG marketing. Here’s what he had to say:

Stop Creating Hubs

It’s a common strategy in pharma digital marketing to create a hub and drive people to it from all of your other efforts. A lot of brands spend a lot of money doing just this. That model is where CPG was three years ago – but that’s not what they do anymore. Today, they simply put content right where people will see it, without paying a ton to drive traffic or connect with the right partner. They deliver content that people care about, out in the world where people see it naturally.

And it’s saving them money. Sure, you may spend more time and money on approvals for the different versions of content necessary, but when you look at “cost per eyeball,” it’s far more cost-effective. The model is changing, and pharma brands that can catch up will save a great deal on media costs.

Plan to Feel Safe

It pays to learn where on social media your brands are being discussed because it may not be where you expect. For example, one of my Rx brands is often discussed on Pinterest, with infographics and recipes. Based on the patient profile, that wasn’t what we expected, but it turns out that the caregivers and family members are the more active ones on social media in this case, and that’s where they are. It’s a little more effort, but when you do some investigation and planning and map out a workflow, you can feel far more secure that your social efforts will pay dividends. That means even people who are less than familiar with social channels can feel more secure. And it means that you can minimize risk and know where you can afford to be more inventive and creative.

Maximize Tech

Something that I notice more often with my pharma clients than I saw with my CPG clients is that they often have very robust, enterprise-wide solutions for content management and analytics. I find that pharma invests in global tools that can do a great deal, whereas, in my experience, consumers often had outdated technology. However, the downside of this is that there is often inconsistency in the expertise that different brands have in using those tools. Like that common quote about humans only using 10% of our brains, some pharma brands have great tools but just don’t have the specific expertise to get the most out of them and make them work together.

Be More Dynamic With Bigger Data

Pharma works with target demographics, but they miss out on the CPG focus on personas and context. I may know that my brand’s target is a 55-year-old male with a 50-year-old female caregiver. But often I don’t know what their mindset is at each step in their day, at each phase of the disease. In the consumer world, they invest in that, and that’s what they target, with much more complex and precise messaging. It was often a budget issue for pharma in the past, but today, phenomenal data capabilities and dynamic targeting are more accessible and affordable than ever. We can change messaging and creative for different seasons – or even different times of day or locations. We can help caregivers prepare against common problems or help patients stay on track and accountable. Dynamic, responsive, data-driven customization makes sure that what shows up for the customer – patient, caregiver, or healthcare professional – is perfect.

Keeping a Sharper Competitive Edge

I know that pharma sometimes thinks CPG work is an easier playing field, but it’s important to remember that the average consumer product has incredibly narrow margins and extremely high competition. They may have simpler rules and bigger budgets, but they also have a harder fight. That’s why they invest in such planning and detailed research. The smallest edge can be hugely important. They stay on top of developments in market-research technology and marketing breakthroughs because they have no other choice. Necessity can keep you sharp, and I think that’s a lesson we know in pharma as well.


David Barwig