Is spending on consumer channels an effective marketing method or should pharma companies continue with an HCP centric approach?

Feb 13, 2023 | Marketing Effectiveness Platform
Sayantani Sen
HCP Centric Approach

Is spending on consumer channels an effective marketing method or should pharma companies continue with an HCP centric approach?

Is spending on consumer channels an effective marketing method or should pharma companies continue with an HCP centric approach? 1024 683 deepak

Traditional Marketing Engagement in Pharma: A Background

Excellent customer experiences are a key driver of business value in life sciences companies. However, pharma companies are yet to take advantage of this trend. Most struggle to offer a consistent level of engagement across digital and non-digital channels and face an uphill challenge for relevance. Marketing methods continue to evolve post the Pandemic and in response, traditional pharmaceutical sales and marketing practices must change with a greater flexibility of approach and quality of engagement. According to Insider Intelligence, digital ad spending in the pharmaceutical industry reached $15.84 billion in 2022. Although growth in digital budgets is slowing, marketing spend will reach $20 billion in 2024.

The question is whether the current approach to pharma marketing will continue working in the new world order of patient advocacy, preventative care and strong proof outcome demands. The future of pharma therefore looks beyond the focus on drugs only. Despite the squeeze of cost-control, regulatory restrictions and global competition, marketing in pharma will adapt to focus on the consumer. This is a departure from traditional marketing strategies that have revolved around vigorous product marketing of the prescription drugs to healthcare practitioners and HCPs. Previously, commercial success was attributed to aggressive digital marketing and promotional activity targeted at the physician. Responding to the needs and expectations of the patients, providers and payers has never been the top goal and that is fast changing.

The changing state of pharmaceutical marketing is more complex and takes either the direct to consumer or the direct-to-provider or payer approach. Life sciences companies today, do not normally differentiate between these two approaches. Marketing methods which consider user experience, personalization, and targeted omnichannel marketing of the right drug and at the right time to the right user by using the right media is the need of the hour today.

Shift to Value-based Health Care: Spending on Consumer Channels

Pharma market demands are fast changing. In this case, more value effectively means cost efficiency and proven patient outcomes with greater contribution to the overall health care experience throughout the value chain. Pharma companies are shifting attention to not just healthcare practitioners but also payers and patients and profiting from a growing market on preventative care. An integrated health management model that ties traditional pharmaceutical marketing with mobile communications and other online platforms is key for diagnosis and marketing in the post-pandemic era. Mass-marketing advertising is found less in traditional and more relationship-focused digital marketing channels that better align with the new realities of patient/provider/payer control, value-based outcomes, and chronic disease prevention.

The internet is an information gathering tool that helps in specialized marketing of specialty information to a targeted pool of relevant patients. According to Pharmacy Times, by 2050, around 2 billion people around the world would be over 60 years of age. The number of seniors who are above 65 years in the United States is expected to double to 100 million by 2060. Aging demographics will boost prescription drug treatments to about $1.2 trillion by 2024. Demographics therefore will be a powerful driver of change. These experts suggest will trigger a multi-disciplinary approach to health care. A patient-centric approach with the use of predictive analytic tools, and powered by artificial intelligence, and machine learning that helps determine which patients are at the highest risk of hospital readmission is critical here.

A multi-disciplinary approach also involves accommodating evolving ways to patient research and consuming drug information. Regardless of the technologies used and how they are levered, most pharmaceutical companies will insert themselves into this evolving drug value chain for patients, providers, and payers to build value, trust, and loyalty with their constituents. In doing so, they will be miles ahead of traditional in-person physician visits and sales sampling that were used in the past. Advanced pharma marketers are also moving into precision marketing which is all about targeting on digital platforms with custom messaging for a specialty segment of consumers who need the information most. Other forms of precision marketing are experimenting with programmatic advertising which is a marketing tool that automatically optimizes digital campaigns using machine learning that serves ads to users based on their online visits and behavior. To be successful with specialty marketing to smaller segments with treatment offerings, marketers are investing in technologies to leverage the power of big data.

Disruptive Technologies and their Use in Pharma Marketing Methods

Savvy pharmaceutical marketers have seized the opportunity by leveraging tools that monitor a patient’s health and provide real-time and personalized feedback to help improve outcomes. By tweaking the marketing approach alongside taking advantage of the disruptive technologies such as the cloud and IoT can have a huge impact on the growth and performance marketing endeavors.

Marketers can use a care plan for Parkinson’s patient that could include a “chip on a pill” to monitor drug-taking. This can unlock unlimited possibilities with personalization and enable a smartwatch or a sensor to monitor a patient’s condition setting the stage for more robust engagement with healthcare professionals. There are other technologies that can send reminders about prescribed treatments and appointments and these services can likely improve outcomes beyond the need for expensive specialty drugs. Medication can help improve patient outcomes when combined with greater personalization and targeting. A well-thought-out strategy for data analytics and segmentation with customer journey mapping and omni channel marketing drives customer insights and targeted segment nurturing along with generating actionable insights that form the basis of unforgettable customer experiences.

Pharma Social Marketing: Move Beyond the HCP-centric Approach

Social marketing has been critical in delivering public health behavior changes. It is an effective tool in understanding the methods for delivering information in a way that induces behavioral changes. Social marketing enables pharmaceutical companies to take a holistic view of marketing medicines. They no longer focus on the positive or negative health impact of a drug. Instead, they need to delve into the social and cultural, economic, and ethical impact of the medicine, and use these insights to personalize their approach to consumers. Devising approaches to target consumers is what helps contemporary marketing stay ahead of the race when compared to traditional pharmaceutical marketing. Pharma companies need to expand their offerings and capabilities to beyond drugs with a focus on continuous patient outcomes that uses behavioral insights to drive the marketing of specific drugs and deliver the right information using specific channels. This is enabled by investing in emerging technologies and helps putting the consumer first rather than the other stakeholders in healthcare thereby becoming visible and active partners in consumers’ management of their health.

Focusing too narrowly on clinical value often led companies to neglect a powerful driver of launch success: the customer experience. By addressing pain points along patient and prescriber journeys, companies can increase customer satisfaction, improve adherence, and boost revenues. As complexity increases in the pharma market and competition intensifies in areas such as oncology and immunology, optimizing the customer experience becomes even more important. A “one size fits all” approach to marketing methods will no longer work.


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