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January 20, 2015

Technological innovation has changed how people react and connect to each other, how consumers engage and communicate both with and about companies, and how companies think about and use data to engage with consumers. These changes are impacting the Life Science and Health industries in much the same way and require a level of thoughtfulness around harnessing this more personalized approach to patients, physicians, and caregivers.

Personalized Experiences

More so today than ever before, the modern consumer is looking for personalized and tailored experiences when they are engaged online, regardless of channel or screen. This desire goes beyond a favorite site remembering a user ID for sign-in, a mailing list asking for frequency preferences, or seeing a personalized welcome message on a home page. Instead, the pharmaceutical marketer can create an experienced-based environment in which the consumer feels at the center, acknowledged and highly valued. It’s within these experiences that the consumer will engage and connect with the pharmaceutical marketer.

The convergence of “digital” is happening at a rapid pace and is pervasive in all forms across television, radio, video, search, and mobile, and a common thread running across that convergence is custom content. The consumer can find what they want, when they want it, wherever they want it, and engage or interact with it as they consider appropriate.

Consumers are actively searching for information and community, and today that means they are also present in social environments that are not controlled or curated. Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are some of the obvious choices. All social media environments are not the same, and consumers don’t interact with them in the same ways either. The pharmaceutical marketer understands this and tailors engagement efforts to match the strengths of one (e.g., Twitter is an effective broadcast medium) and downplay weakness of another (e.g., YouTube is not particularly interactive).

Consumer Concerns

Often, the consumer is faced with requests for information that may enable the tailored experience they are seeking, but it is not necessarily clear to them how the two are connected.

The pharmaceutical marketer understands that it is not just the overt request for information like “tell us your email address,” but also the passive or unseen tracking that cookies can enable. The pharmaceutical marketer makes the effort to connect the request for information with the value received in the return – the personalized experience – and demonstrates the link between the ask and the result. They should communicate that digital tactics like cookies can capture anonymous but individualized information that enables the marketer to find, communicate, and engage the consumer on their own sites and/or when they are on other websites.

Working with the Chief Privacy Officer, the pharmaceutical marketer should map out a framework incorporating those applicable regulatory obligations to the jurisdiction(s) in which they operate and fold them into the overall engagement strategy.

If part of that strategy is to include content created and customized for consumers on the marketer’s own website(s), it will be essential for the marketer, in cooperation with the Chief Privacy Officer, to formulate a comprehensive point of view about the collection, use, and disclosure of both personal and anonymous data collected about and from the consumer. This point of view should be broadly shared and communicated with relevant internal stakeholders.

As we know, innovation and the rapid pace of change has also created a great number of non-traditional platforms on which we can find and communicate with the consumer in order to provide those personalized experiences. Unfortunately, the regulatory framework may be incomplete or silent on critical issues of compliance for the pharmaceutical marketer when engaging with these platforms. As a result, there is a need to develop internal, key principles that can form the basis of a self-regulatory approach based on accuracy, transparency, and accountability. There may be others given specific circumstances or objectives, but these three represent a good foundation.

At first glance, it may seem a daunting task to create meaningful engagement with consumers in this time of change and choice. No longer bound by the old model of one size fits all, the consumer is using the tools on their desktops and in their hands to find, curate, and connect with each other, content, and brands. Marketers recognize this and view opportunity where others see risk and challenges, and are ultimately rewarded with strong, trust-driven customer relationships.

83% of consumers expect marketers to know them as they interact across channels and devices, as reported by the Neustar-MMA Mobile Marketers Insight Study, Oct. 2013. This is a real challenge to marketers in general and to pharmaceutical marketers in particular. Today’s pharmaceutical marketer meets that challenge by spending increased time, thinking, testing, and launching initiatives to form the experiences sought after by the consumer by bringing the content to life.

Bennie Smith