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The Top 10 Trends for Pharma Marketers in 2016

Intouch Team

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Another end-of-the-year top-ten list? Another article about trends? Who cares?

Well … you should.

Trendspotting is much more than being trendy or sounding cool. Done right, it’s far more important. It’s about seeing what’s turning from hot topics into long-term movements and what’s influencing the evolution of our industry. It’s not only about finding new ideas, but seeing which ones are truly driving change.

And while there are many trends in marketing, tech, and healthcare, only a select group of key issues will realistically intersect to affect pharma marketers’ work in the year ahead.

We believe these are those issues — the macro-trends that will directly affect pharma in 2016. Here, we describe them, we dissect them, and we break them down into what they mean to you, the pharma marketer.

1. Mobile use drives the need for simplicity
Desktop computer Internet use remains steady, but mobile use continues to skyrocket and has officially surpassed the desktop. Mobile messaging is the killer app for devices, and mobile-messaging commerce may prove to be the killer app’s killer app as consumers pay for more and more using phones. As it moves from a coffee, to a yoga session, to a prescription co-pay, to a specialist visit, we’ll see mobile payments affecting healthcare more and more.

That same mobile activity carries a new paradigm of consumer expectation. We want what we want, whenever we want it, wherever we are — and it has to be easy. This also goes for everything from healthcare answers to, perhaps, healthcare itself.

Effective apps bring simplicity. Users are on the go and overwhelmed by choice and information, so concise function and flawless responsive design are mandatory. We want clever austerity — calm tech that patiently performs in the background.

Pharma isn’t quite there yet when it comes to delivering mobile commerce or even simple, useful apps that customers download and use again and again. Will 2016 be the year?

2. Globalization, localization, personalization
The makeup of the world is changing as urban populations, immigrant populations, single-person and small-family households all grow and change what the “average” life looks like.

Global tech usage and tech innovation are changing, too, and Americans are learning humility: they can’t assume that an understanding of tools and services that are popular in the United States  is enough. Services such as QZone and VKontacte (social networking sites), Sina Weibo (a microblogging site), or Twoo (a dating site) — which are virtually unknown in the United States — have a huge impact globally.

The flip side of increasing globalization is an expectation of increasing localization. Users increasingly expect more accurate and detailed local search results and in-depth local knowledge.

How can we get even better at personalization? Data-driven personalization and customization will get us there. We’ve long believed that every pharma brand requires a carefully woven “tapestry” of campaigns — targeted, efficient and effective. As we enter 2016, we have more tools than ever to help us achieve that.

3. The end of search as we know it
The concept of traditional SEO is experiencing a sea change. Mobile search queries officially exceeded desktop queries this year. And digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Echo and Google are taking over. We use tools like these to ask simple questions hands-free and get in-app responses. In addition, social content is becoming more searchable; and news is becoming more social.

As people get short answers fast from such sources, they need those brief factoids less from other sites. These changes may argue for the need for content providers to focus more on developing in-depth, long-form content, according to some, since quick-answer content is being handled without access to external sites.

In healthcare, this may be particularly relevant. Such sources can serve up a summary of a condition with a definition and a few common symptoms. But the need remains to provide patients with approachable, authoritative, in-depth information about their conditions and connections to useful peer networks and proven care experts.

In addition, as formerly “ephemeral” content shows up in search results, it argues for ever more careful content development and management. Website archives must be kept up to date and social posts must be managed and culled regularly.

4. Efficiency will win the day
At even the highest levels, pharmaceutical companies are looking for efficiency. In marketing, it’s never been more so, and many are looking to technology for solutions. Pharma will finally move away from reinventing the wheel every year — no more creative campaign refreshes that require an overhaul of assets. No more patching onto legacy custom-built tech frameworks. Instead, companies interested in gaining efficiency will establish a standardized set of technology and tools that provide more agility for ongoing enhancements to campaigns. Pharma marketers will be increasing their use of marketing automation and cloud solutions —such as Adobe Cloud — to provide an end-to-end efficiency and impact that pharma has not seen before. Digital factories will churn. More work will be outsourced. And past exploration into the use of big data will reap rewards as marketers learn how to market smarter.

5. Biosimilars and cost controls
The world of “new generics” has been taking shape outside the United States, and the first FDA approval happened this year. How will this change the world of biologics, the business plans of Big Pharma, and the lives of patients?

Certainly, it will be even greater impetus for headlines on drug pricing. And biosimilars are already drawing antitrust scrutiny in the proposed merger of Pfizer and Allergan. In addition, pharma will see reorganizations, as companies determine how best to focus on this new line of business. We may see as big a change to the industry as the introduction of biotech was in the 90s.

6. Digital divide remains dangerous to health
More people are online around the world, but those without access — the poor, disabled and elderly — are still those with the highest health risks. Pharma as a whole, and pharma marketers in particular, must determine how best to address this audience, whether regarding issues of cost, physical limitations or lack of education.

In some cases, the gaps are addressed with multi-channel outreach mixing traditional with digital media. In other cases, the problem — physical access to care and treatment — is larger. How can our work make a real-world difference for these patients?

7. Psychology in healthcare marketing      
Throughout 2015 — particularly at South by Southwest Interactive — we noted, and commented upon, the importance of the human factor in healthcare marketing. As we continue to implement more advanced solutions to assist patients, caregivers, practitioners, payers and all healthcare players, we can’t forget to have an authentic voice and a transparent presence.

Science, as well as technology, helps with this. The growing field of behavioral economics parses “incomprehensible” illogical motivations and makes them predictable as any other science. With that, we can continue to develop customized tools and content that will help patients and HCPs with their most pressing issues.

8. The rise of the importance of the payer
It’s time to stop paying lip service to the payer’s theoretical importance, and realize that that time has come, and our efforts must deliver against it. Outcomes are what matters, and data is what drives them, and digital is what drives data. Are we keeping that in mind, every day, with everything we do?

9. Video stays big — live video gets bigger
Video becomes a bigger deal online every year. User-generated (UGC) video is the hottest sector, with YouTube alone boasting four billion views a day and a staggering average mobile-session time of 40 minutes. And in 2015, live UGC video emerged, with Periscope its loudest herald. While it’s only been around half a year, Periscope has 10 million registered users and two million users per day. In June, Novartis MS patient advocates used Periscope to livestream a patient summit.

The same way marketing executives no longer require a secretary to type, they can now also dispense with film professionals for video. But quality matters. It’s obvious when someone can’t write well, and equally clear if a video creator knows how to create visually appealing, emotionally compelling content.

While video content creation continues to climb for most industries, pharma is just scratching the surface. If you didn’t budget for video in 2016, you might want to take another look at your plan. Learn more about how pharma marketers can leverage social video platforms in the year to come.

10. The need for new kinds of collaboration
A lot has been said recently about pharma-industry changes — ones already afoot, ones being planned, and ones that need to take place. They’re coming from regulation, commerce, technology and culture. We’ve discussed a few of them in the past. But from biosimilars to behavioral science, access issues to instant answers, one solution will help answer them all: increased collaboration.

How can we work together in new ways in 2016? For one brand, it might mean teaming up directly with research scientists. For another, it might mean working with a tech company who’s never set foot in pharma before. And for another, it might mean both. Our approach regularly draws together novel combinations of colleagues in this way for many of our brands and clients. We’re looking forward to many of these sessions, on many of the above issues, in the months ahead.

What about you? Are these the issues keeping you up at night? Have we left out any?  We’d love to hear what you think!

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