Despite the possible risk, pharmaceutical companies have been shifting their spending to allow for more use of digital marketing, such as websites, e-marketing and social media, in place of more traditional media that has been used in the past. Digital channels can include, owned websites, sponsored websites, ad spots, banner ads, paid searches, mobile and social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
Increasing investment in digital channels is an area still under some exploration. Early studies have shown it’s a clear contender in the marketing world, but with a shorter history than the traditional forms of marketing, such as television, radio and print, the long term results of its success just haven’t happened yet. However, several pharmaceutical companies are making the jump for a variety of reasons.
Five factors that have influenced this growth include:
The Recession: When pharmaceutical companies needed to cut spending, TV and print advertising were under scrutiny. Functional and lower in cost, digital channels became the new way of getting out the message for several companies and in turn, YouTube became the common replacement for television.
Poor ROI for Traditional Media: As the success of television, radio and print advertising dwindled, and the cost remained the same, it was even harder for companies to justify keeping them around. By focusing more on digital channels, companies were able to advertise more frequently, and at a lower overall cost, than they could in the past. Scaling back on the use of traditional media and allocating more of the budget on digital channels brought a higher ROI.
Mobile: Steadily climbing, the use of mobile technology is increasing faster than the use of any other digital channel. Through the use of mobile apps and mobile technology for marketing or medical affairs initiatives, more companies than ever are spending a great deal of their budget on this type of marketing. Of these healthcare mobile apps, majority are directed towards healthcare professionals, including physicians, physician assistants and pharmacists. Pharmaceutical companies are also transiting their internet websites to be available to be viewed on mobile devices, allowing for easier access to commonly prescribed drug brands.
Social Media: With research reports indicating that one third of people discuss medical issues via social media sites, it has become obvious that pharmaceutical companies should have a presence there. Through observation of how consumers talk about brands and speak honestly about their likes and dislikes of particular drugs, companies are able to gain valuable information efficiently. In addition, patient centered sites, such as PatientsLikeMe, tracks information provided by patients and organizes it to include side effects, comments, ratings and recommendations of alternative options, all based on consumer feedback.
Regulatory Concerns: With the increase of digital marketing, the existing regulations won’t match up to today’s concerns. For example, in 2009, a handful of pharmaceutical marketers received a violation over the “one-click rule,” a misunderstanding regarding the placement of risk information one click away from a sponsored online link promoting a drug and its indication. Currently, the lack of influence by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration works in favor of the pharmaceutical companies, but with the increase use of digital channels, that’s bound to change.
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