STOP THE BLEED!

Submitted by Vineet Thapar, SVP, Group Creative Director, Digitas Health EU

Ages ago, when digital was considered separate from everything else, marketers looking for a low-cost alternative to other channels quickly extended their patronage to digital constructs. The promise of one-to-one marketing, two-way conversations and dazzling multimedia was hypnotic, with the browser considered an effective (and inexpensive) way to seduce the masses.

But people quickly rejected the numerous windows and banners screaming at them, jostling for their attention. Brands’ sheer hard sell, without the faintest attempt at responding to their customers’ real needs, drove “digital marketing” to become a dirty term, equivalent to wily snake oil salesmen. The vaunted promise of digital lost its way among the hype and hysteria, and was followed by a massive crash.

Fast forward a decade or so. The promise of digital has indeed paid off, but in ways very different than early marketers imagined. We now live in a world where digital experiences enable and infuse everything. The promise of one-to-one marketing, the seduction of two-way conversations, and dazzle of multimedia are again relevant. We are already talking in terms of hyper-digital constructs like “Social Singularity” and the “Quantified Self.” The distance between us and the world around us will soon be reduced to zero.

Pharma has woken up and realized that it must respond to the digitally-amplified expectations of its customers. After all, the digital technologies in every other sphere of their lives set their expectations for pharma, as well. While there have been regulatory and other reasons for the industry’s delay, many pharma company leaders are now mandating that a higher percentage of marketing budgets be spent on digital.

Still, some marketers are unsure how to do that. They struggle to make sense of this digitally-amplified world and connect the dots back to their brands. Instead of recognising digital’s (now historic) centrality to shaping brand and customer behaviour, marketers are again bringing digital to the table skeptically as an executional afterthought. Pharma is bleeding valuable opportunity that other sectors gained long ago.

While the maturity of markets, individual knowledge and experience, leadership willingness and ability, time and budget constraints, and lack of exact and precise data are all responsible for this, the most important factor is that marketers are simply waiting too long to bring digital into the conversation. Because of that, sometimes agencies are forced to put on a tactical hat: Want an app or two? Sure! Let’s go viral! You want Facebook? Got it. How about that iPad? We end up pursuing shiny objects instead of being the strategic partners pharma wants us to be.

As a result, the medium is being left out of formative strategic discussions and kept from effectively informing and delivering on marketing strategies while marketers are building their digital comfort levels. The good news is that we, as agencies, can be the partners our clients always wanted (and needed) us to be.

By bringing digital into the conversation during strategy formation, constructs to can be amplified in ways that help customers meet critical needs, while building brands. Instead of trying to fit digital as an add-on, pharma needs to institute a culture of amplified ideas.

Amplified ideas are flexible creative platforms that are based on modeling of customer value and engagement. They answer a basic set of questions that all customer-centric brands must ask: how can we be meaningful to the customer journey and provide value? What can we expect from them in return? Once these fundamental questions have been answered, amplified ideas help articulate effective campaigns, advertising, CRM, and PR and help stop this opportunity bleed.

Mr. Thapar will be discussing how to Stop The Bleed at the upcoming 5th Digital Pharma Europe conference taking place 25-27, February at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Headquarters in Paris. For more information on this event, please visit www.digitalpharmaseries.com/europe. To learn more about Digitas Health, please visit www.digitashealth.com.

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