shutterstock_1119795722-914967-editedHensley Evans co-wrote this blog post with Sharon Suchotliff. 

In our previous blog post, we shared three key trends that are driving direct-to-consumer marketing into a state of flux. These forces—the exit of big DTC spenders due to loss of exclusivity, specialty brands driving investment in TV only, and shifts in consumer behavior and marketing mix—are behind the 4.7% decline in spending that we saw between 2016 and 2017.

To be successful in this dynamic time, we recommend two actions for brands that are considering investing in DTC:

1. Know your audience. The new era of DTC brings expanded channel and targeting opportunities, and an increased need to understand patients’ behavior and preferences at each stage of their journey. Brands need to fully understand which channels patients trust for health information and the right times to engage. This means going beyond the emotional or experiential journey and understanding how engagement, sources of information and channels play a role.

Marketers need to consider brand goals along with patient needs and goals at each step of the journey. Moreover, they need to know the appropriate channels through which to communicate and connect based on consumer behavior and preferences. We typically recommend developing an engagement journey, which brings together all three elements and, using data and insights, helps to prioritize messages and channels.

The engagement journey brings together the emotional insights and experiences of patients along the treatment journey and layers in sources of information, communications preferences and behaviors, providing marketers a clear view of potential influential channels to leverage for communications around different parts of the journey and different pain points. This can be especially important when considering the annual tactical plan and key decisions about the roles and uses of marketing channels.

Another powerful tool in a marketer’s toolbox is programmatic advertising, but the content has to match the context. Sending the wrong message at the wrong time could be alienating. Brands need to understand the nuances of the journey and where engagement can play a motivating role to activate patients.

2. Understand the impact of your marketing efforts. Traditionally, pharma has used digital engagement reports and surveys to measure awareness, trial and usage to assess the impact of marketing. While useful and insightful, these reports should be just the beginning of integrated marketing measurement. Single-channel reports (TV, media, web) that are provided by one agency (media, digital, agency of record) are no longer meeting the needs of integrated marketers.

Consumers are engaging across multiple screens simultaneously, and reporting needs to accurately portray the full impact of marketing on real-world behavior. Traditional analyses such as marketing mix models are important but are retrospective, and it’s often time-consuming to collect all of the required data. Using closed-loop measurement systems, which link marketing engagement to real health outcomes, ensures that brands are reaching the right patients at the right time with the right mix of media. For example, closed-loop measurement can help brands measure what portion of those exposed to advertising are diagnosed with a condition or are candidates for treatment. Instead of focusing on clicks and website visits driven by a media partner, metrics like incremental doctor visits and new prescriptions offer a more intelligent way to measure the true impact and effectiveness of marketing.

In today’s healthcare landscape, a keen understanding of patient and consumer behavior—combined with a deep assessment of the impact of marketing tactics—can help marketers weather the uncertainty and changing dynamics of DTC.


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Topics: Pharma Industry, digital marketing, DTC, consumer behavior, customer engagement journeys, pharma brands, pharma marketers, direct-to-consumer marketing, marketing mix, TV advertising, DTC marketing