Nobody can argue that the way we are reached by marketing campaigns has changed dramatically in the past decade. Sitting alongside print and broadcast advertising, we have remarketing campaigns that chase you round the internet, a constant daily barrage of digital direct mails hitting our inboxes from the brands we love, and bloggers endorsing every product under the sun to turn us into customers. But, despite all this noise, has healthcare marketing moved on that much?
Our research identified that secondary care physicians favour traditional marketing activities, such as direct mail shots by post, congress symposia, articles in the medical press, and sales reps visits when wanting to learn about a new product or update knowledge on an existing one. However, that is not to say that they were totally oblivious to digital communications; many state that they were also more than happy to go online to search for product information. They were comfortable visiting disease sites or pharmaceutical company websites, but traditional marketing activities still had the greatest impact when it came to product promotion.
Fast-forward to 2016 – you would think by now that digital channels had managed to permeate into pharma marketing and are embraced fully by clinicians. A recent survey by EPG Media  once again highlights the fact that traditional marketing channels are still found to be of more value. Many of course do access medical information and education online, but prefer independent sites to those provided by the industry, but as professionals trying to remain unbiased who would not answer in this way.
According to the survey, 15% of pharma marketing spend is allocated to digital channels. For those agencies selling these services this is an outrage, with claims that pharma is notoriously slow to adapt to the digital world and the industry has adopted a ‘watch and wait’ approach.
But rather than being a slow adopter, is the healthcare industry in the UK simply responding to market needs? We all are fully aware that the NHS is struggling to cope financially with increases in patient demand. Rather than spend hundreds and thousands on marketing campaigns that simply try to push more product messages into a market that cannot pay for them, the industry is instead focusing much more on providing digital solutions that integrate well with traditional activities and online tools that support patient care and improved clinical outcomes.
The EPG Media survey did identify that there had been a shift in the value of medical apps, many of which are now endorsed by the NHS to help patients better manage their diseases, which provides a good example of how the industry is using digital technologies. Webinars are also increasing in their value, this may be reflective of the challenges doctors have in trying to get time off work to attend educational events. Instead of spending hours at a congress to hear one or two key note lectures, having an event or symposium streamed so a doctor can view it in their own time can be particularly appealing.
Other tools provided by the industry are designed to help healthcare providers understand how a particular product could support the much needed cost efficiencies, or the ease the budget impact of making a product available. Digital detail aids that help a doctor interact during a sales meeting have been around for a long time now and have certainly become the industry norm, and while doctors are embracing Twitter and other social media platforms they are keeping within their clinical networks.
There is a sea change happening in healthcare marketing, and digital technologies are being used more and more. Healthcare marking will continue to evolve, but instead of the chaotic “24/7 always on” we are experiencing in consumer marketing, healthcare is being done in a much more measured way.