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Perspectives on Consumer Marketing

Posted by Matt Breese on Mar 21, 2017

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Pharma manufacturers traditionally focus their marketing strategies on payers and prescribers, but the communication of treatment options directly to consumers has steadily gained importance as well as diversification. Pharma marketers now use promotional methods such as social media platforms, online communities, and community sponsorships to reach patients directly. When advertising directly to consumers, the communication goal is to deliver targeted and specific messages without excluding patient targets with a message that may be too narrow.

Consumer Marketing Growth and Restrictions

Consumer ad spending by drug makers reached $6.09 billion in 2015, according to Kantar. The U.S. and New Zealand are the only countries where direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising from drug manufacturers is legal. In the U.S., there are strict guidelines on what can be shown in pharma ads. Pharmaceutical advertising is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Within the FDA, the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) oversees pharma advertising activities. This offices ensures that prescription drug information provided by drug firms is truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated.

Location Targeting

One marketing method used by pharma companies is location targeting. This tactic involves identifying promising geographic trade areas through IP targeting. In a recent interview, Semcasting CEO, Ray Kingman, explains the potential applications for this method:

“For a pharmaceutical company, there might be a clinical trial for a new insulin for diabetics. To enhance distribution and exposure with the target user/buyer, they want to find the doctors with the highest frequency of diabetics in their care area.”

Location targeting helps pharma deliver relevant services to consumers while maintaining patient privacy.

Consumer Marketing in Rare Disease Areas

Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA) has been incredibly beneficial for pharma companies in certain disease areas. In areas where treatments are therapeutically equivalent, the patient often has a choice in the medical products they use. In these cases, pharma manufacturers value the patient relationship much more than the prescriber or even payer relationship.

For example, in the rare disease area of hemophilia, pharma companies have become active participants in the patient community. In the 2016 medical journal PLOS, researchers describe direct-to-consumer marketing strategies used by pharma manufacturers to reach people with hemophilia.

This report identified the following pharmaceutical marketing methods:

  • Sponsoring children's camps and patient advocacy groups
  • Recruiting hemophilia patients and their families for employment, consulting roles, and advisory boards
  • Offering paid internships, college scholarships, awards, career counseling, psychological support, and insurance counseling to young adult patients
  • Creating mobile apps for patients to track their medical treatments
  • Sponsoring hemophilia nonprofit events

These promotional methods appear to be helping develop loyal customers. In fact, the switch rate among hemophilia therapies is less than 10%, according to the Healthcare Observer.

Pharma Marketing and Communication Strategy

DTCPA is a vital and growing component of a pharma marketer’s communication strategy. In addition to radio and television advertising, pharma teams now leverage social media to target specific consumer groups by disease area, geography, and social community.

MMIT offers formulary data set in the industry, intentionally designed to ensure the utmost integrity. MMIT’s applications make it easy to drill down to drug level information, relevant to a region, plan, or other data aspect.


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Topics: Industry Trends, Branding & Marketing