Category: Pharmaceutical Marketing Research

The Changing “Patient Journey”

“Patient Journey” studies in the pharmaceutical industry used to be rather predictable and formulaic. They were conducted with patients with particular diseases or conditions and typically focused very specifically on clinical events that unfolded from diagnosis through treatment. 

In this very informative piece, you will see that is changing. Many forces are at work that, as the title of the piece says, require us to use data to understand “patients as humans.” The events of the last 18 months have been pivotal here. With the COVID-19 pandemic, people (not just patients!) have become increasingly concerned with health issues, and are decreasingly willing and able to seek out information through personal visits to physicians’ offices. The result? A significant shift to a greater reliance on digital information sources. And the result of that? An increased ability of marketers to collect and utilize data to custom tailor messaging.

AND. Increasingly marketers using patient journeys are expanding their purview beyond disease. Traditionally, a patient journey study of cancer patients would track the steps in medical care from diagnosis forward. Radiation, chemotherapy, role of various specialists, etc. But a cancer patient is a person. A person that has anxiety, that wants to go to weddings, that has interests, priorities, obligations. Key here is the author’s comment that increasingly, marketers are coming to recognize that “the disease does not define the person.”

Bottom Line. Interesting stuff! Complicated stuff. This more holistic approach, empowered by digital data, suggests to me that we may need to develop some new terminology. Conatively, “Patient Journey” focuses us so much on disease that it may be too limiting.

Any ideas for replacement verbiage???

Storytelling in a Zoom Fatigued World

Check this out. What you will see is a piece on how pharma needs to work extra hard in 2021 to capture attention. Much of our population suffers from pandemic-induced Zoom fatigue. Virtually everyone is awash in streaming media from hundreds of sources. The result? The bar for attention-grabbing has been raised significantly. What to do? Get over using simple graphics and move on to emotion-grabbing “visual storytelling.” Sophisticated cinematography. Speed, clarity, accuracy. These are all boxes that must increasingly be checked if we are to grab our increasingly sophisticated customers’ attention. As this piece points out, the elegance with which a spot is shot is now as important as the strategy underlying the message. 

Bottom Line. BUT. This is not just art for art’s sake. Powerful renditions, it is argued here, draw people into the story, raise emotions, let the viewer experience what the people in the story they are watching are experiencing. 

Gone are the days of “Pop Pop Fizz Fizz, oh what a relief it is” being all you needed to sell Alka Seltzer. 

Long gone! 

Healthcare Inequity Will Not Disappear “Automatically”

Check this out. A few days ago, I did a post on the important and growing roles that algorithms play in our lives. Here’s another angle on the same theme. Pay special attention to the paragraph that starts with the blue print. What you will see there is the goofy result that resulted from a model using healthcare expenditures as a proxy for severity of sickness. Turns out that although the researchers were trying to discover ways to reduce racial healthcare disparity, the model that they developed actually perpetuated it. How? Lack of money and access to healthcare resulted in Black patients being much sicker than White patients with the same expenditure score. In the researchers’ own words, “The bias arises because the algorithm predicts health care costs rather than illness, but unequal access to care means that we spend less money caring for Black patients than for White patients.”

Bottom Line. Like we said in our previous post, “Garbage in, garbage out!”  

Does Virtual Become Permanent?

Check this out. You will be taken to the Intellus Worldwide website. Scroll down, and you will find that it is not too late to view the two days of excellent virtual presentations that were offered up at the 2020 Summit. These virtual presentations “live on” until June 30.  

I’ve taken the opportunity to view many of these presentations, and found this virtual approach, while very different from the education and elbow rubbing combination that usually constitutes Intellus sessions, to be extremely worthwhile. While I certainly missed the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and establish new ones that typically make up these meetings, I found the opportunity to pick and choose among myriad presentations from the comfort of my own armchair to be an extremely positive experience. As always, Intellus had assembled a great group of speakers, who provided important new insights on a wide variety of topics. The ability to visit consulting companies’ virtual booths and learn about their competencies was also very informative.  

I heartily recommend that you go there and check it out!

Bottom Line. I must confess that I was a little skeptical when I heard that the Intellus Summit was “going virtual.” While certainly understanding that it needed to go that route during the pandemic, I just didn’t know if it would “work.” It did!

Here’s my thought. Since Dr. Fauci is honestly telling us that it will be a “year or so” before we get back to “normal,” I think we are going to be using the next twelve months to make increasing use of virtual conferences like this one. AND. I think that over that time period virtual conferences will become increasingly engrained in our business lives. Will they supplant personal conferences? Nah! I think like telemedicine is presently doing in healthcare, they will establish a significant and permanent role in our business lives. They will supplement.

Intellus got off to a great start with this Summit. I would encourage them to continue, maybe with “mini-summits” being run more frequently during 2020 and beyond.  

Well done!

Marketing Research With Physicians During The Covid-19 Pandemic

Check this out. What you will see is an interview with the CEO of INCROWD on the topic of appropriateness, or perhaps lack thereof, of pharmaceutical companies continuing to conduct marketing research with physicians during the pandemic. In this brief video, you will hear the report of a recent round of survey research that revealed that the majority of physician respondents encourage us to continue our marketing research data collection efforts.

Why? Two primary reasons. First, doctors report that they want to make sure that their “voice” is heard, with their opinions being represented in the decision-making processes within pharmaceutical companies. Second, many specialists have either closed their offices or have seen a significant reduction in office visits as the result of the pandemic. Thus, they have lots of spare time to participate in marketing research and are desirous of any additional money that they can garner in honoraria to help to supplement their currently reduced incomes.

Moreover, the continuation of marketing research in the marketplace connotes to many doctors a sense of normalcy, so important in times like this.

HOWEVER. Doctors responding to the survey indicated that they were primarily interested in participating in “quick and dirty” surveys, rather than becoming bogged down with a long series of open-ended questions. 

Bottom Line. Interesting. Every night on the national news, we are barraged with the imagery of Critical Care physicians working 15-hour shifts, concerned with good reason about becoming infected themselves and/or of taking the virus home to their families. BUT. What this survey and ThinkGen’s experience indicate is that these doctors are notrepresentative of most doctors in most specialties in the U.S. today.  

The moral of the story? We can and should keep doing our jobs!

Not Fake News, Faked Data

Check this out.  What you will see is investigative reporting that leads inexorably to the conclusion that some marketing research data from Germany, including studies provided by some of the world’s largest MR suppliers, are just plain made up. I would like to report that there is news value here, but there sort of isn’t. Two elements of this story have been played out over and over again through the years I have been participating in and observing the marketing research scene. First, we see the oh-so-creative data faking technique of actually doing a few interviews and then duplicating the results for other bogus respondents. Oldest trick in the book. Seen it done many times by suppliers who got caught. Nonetheless, some people obviously still believe that they can get away with this form of theft.  Actually, data faking is far worse than theft. If you rob somebody of $100, the victim is only out $100. BUT. If you give a major corporation like Merck fake data, bad decisions worth $ Millions can result. Second, every time such shenanigans are discovered, the comment is made by somebody that real marketing research can’t be conducted for the fees that some clients are willing to pay. Many clients want large sample sizes  and small invoices. Those two notions don’t fit very well together in real life. Bottom Line. So whose fault has this data faking through the ages actually been. The stingy clients? The greedy suppliers? I’m thinking that there is plenty of guilt to go around.  And, I am also thinking that there is something disconnected in the marketing research we conduct if a supplier can get away with this nonsense for even a little while. Maybe we’re not paying enough attention to our marketing research. Are we taking a shower with a rain coat on when we let projects get so far away from us that we don’t even know the resulting data are faked?

Rethinking The “Professional Respondent”

PMRG This announcement grabbed my attention and grabbed it hard. On March 29, Debbie Kossman will be giving a presentation asking us to rethink the professional respondent, perhaps considering such a respondent to be more of an “ally” and less of a pest. For those of you not tapped into this issue, those of us who did a gazillion focus groups with physicians years ago thought of ourselves as being plagued by “professional respondents.” These were physicians who showed up at every focus group to which they were invited and, if they were a popular specialty in a popular geographic area, like PCP’s in Edison NJ, that could be several a week. Clients hated to see these often-recognizable doctors on the other side of the one-way mirror, since it was believed that their responses might be biased by their participation in previous research. We went through a brief time period during which we were only to recruit “virgin doctors.” That didn’t last long, because they were impossible to find. I have no idea what Dr. Kossman is going to say in her presentation, but I am fascinated by its premise. Despite the aforementioned client concerns, I often felt that the “frequent flyers” could actually provide us with information very efficiently. We didn’t have to teach them the rules of the focus group game, and many of them had actually become quite adept at providing valuable insights based on what they had heard in previous research. While it could be cogently argued that you wouldn’t necessarily want to stick a couple of these guys or ladies in a focus group with research virgins who might be intimidated by their prowess, using a few depth interviews with such doctors to gain their special understanding might not be a bad idea. In that configuration, they wind up being less like naïve subjects and more like consultants. Bottom Line. What really fascinates me here is the concept of reconsidering. Making lemons into lemonade. Maybe even adding vodka.  How many other apparent nuisances in life might offer us something uniquely positive if we simply reconsidered their roles?

Whither Goes Marketing Research???

GfK Read this Investor Relations Communication from GFK. Those of you who “knew me when” know that I used to run the GFK healthcare business in the U.S. Throughout my entire experience with the company, I was proud to be associated with a team that had such high standards, such a great work ethic and so much potential for the future. BUT. Recent days have seen the “departure” of several top executives by mutual agreement, and have seen communications to investors that can best be summarized in the company’s own words: “GfK adjusted its outlook on August 5, 2016 in view of the challenges mentioned and the figures reported for the first half of the year. Depending on the development of the order intake in the Consumer Experiences sector and the progress of the growth initiatives in Consumer Choices sector, sales growth below the market and a lower margin than last year cannot be ruled out for 2016 as a whole.” Several articles in the trade press have voiced a concern that if this is happening at GfK, that has seen a drop in the price of its stock of 25% in the last year, the financial future of the top 5 marketing research companies may be far from a rosy one. Smaller “boutique” firms, with lower overhead and more nimble technological development skills, may be the wave of the future. Bottom Line. We have seen it in other sectors. Fundamental changes can make the biggest leaders go poof. I’m thinking that the new focus on “big data,” which involves the analysis of existing data rather than marketing research “field work,” and other trends in our digital age like do-it-yourself on-line questionnaires might make the large marketing research companies become dinosaurs.  Stay tuned!

The End Of The World As We Know It?

RFL I very much value Bob Lederer’s daily video updates on the world of marketing research. I don’t miss many of them. I have repeatedly suggested that you watch all of them yourselves, but recognizing your time limitations, I try to call out ones that I find especially important, and here is one of those. In this video, Bob reports that several major consumer packaged goods companies have slashed their marketing research staffs in a cost cutting effort prompted by poor financial performance. Whoops! When the likes of General Mills cuts its staff of professionals on whom they have notoriously depended throughout its history, some fairly poignant meanings can be inferred. Has, Bob wonders aloud, marketing research lost its “seat at the table?” Is the ability of marketing research to contribute to the bottom line rather than detract from it being fundamentally questioned? Bottom Line. I’m going with “yes” as an answer to both of these questions. I’ve long believed that in the era of “Present Shock,” marketing research doesn’t have the power that it had when Toffler’s “Future Shock” was a best seller. Things are moving too fast to rely on yesterday’s survey research, and “Big Data” might not be the turbocharger of selling cereal that management might have hoped. Watch the video, and think about whether the days of MR as we have known it are numbered.


Novartis A recent Reuters article reveals that thanks to a lawsuit brought by a whistleblowing former sales representative, Novartis must face a lawsuit concerning the bribing of doctors. Silly stuff. Like a $9,000 dinner for three doctors at Nobu. And my personal favorite, paying a doctor to speak eight times at his own office. Bottom Line. The article notes that Novartis spent over $60 million on speaker programs for three of its products over the course of a decade. Somehow, that doesn’t sound out of line. BUT. In an era when whistleblowers can earn a percentage of any judgment, it is a wise company indeed that avoids individual promotional items with what the politicos would call “bad optics.”