Category: Pharmaceutical Marketing

Pharmaceutical Marketing Creativity

Check this out. What you will see is a marketing program, being mounted by RB, in support of their Mucinex brand. They have rolled out a special page for patients to add endorsements for their physicians. They also plan to add other programs to allow patients to show their support for their doctors during these trying times.  

Bottom Line. I am of two minds on this one. First and foremost, I very much like the idea of any program that shows our support for, and partnership with, physicians. The fact that 2020 is a year that makes such expressions of gratitude especially valuable, seems irrefutable.  

BUT. Beyond a generalized feel-good spirit, in what way will this program enhance Mucinex sales? That I am not so sure about!

No Time To Wait

Check this out. What you will see is a story outlining a new campaign, being mounted by Pfizer and BMS, aimed at getting patients experiencing symptoms that might be AFib, DVT or PE to go their doctors. NOW! Both companies are painfully aware of the data showing that patients are staying away from their physicians in droves as a result of the pandemic. They are also painfully aware that this absenting is causing them big bucks. So, they are sending patients to this URL to get them motivated to show up at their practitioners’ offices.   

Bottom Line. Read the story. Check out the URL. As always, I’m thinking a couple of things. First, I’m thinking that the two companies are pursuing a worthy goal. There is little doubt that patients are dying because of pandemic-based avoidance of physicians’ offices.  

But second, I am scratching my head pondering: 

1. How likely patients are to ever get to this URL, and

2. How likely its content is going to be to motivate them to make an appointment with their doctors?

I’m unfortunately going with “not very” as my answer to both of these questions. Which leaves me to ponder. How can this worthy goal be better accomplished?  

Doctors Don’t “Communicate” About Medications

Check this out. What you will see is a simple but important thought. Our old friend, The Country Doctor, suggesting that while businesses spend a disproportionately large percentage of their time and effort focused on how to sell something rather than on how to produce it, physicians take the opposite approach. Especially given the increasingly tight limitations on their time, doctors simply cut to the chase, tersely telling patients what medications they need to take and how, and failing to “sell” the drugs and their benefits with anywhere near the same level of intensity that the drugs had been sold to them.  

Bottom Line. So what? So plenty! Consider the impact of all of this on patient adherence. And, perforce, on the doctor-patient relationship.  

Maybe we, as an industry, need to help doctors to become better salespeople. I am thinking that this could result in a triple win. For the doctor, for the patient, and for us!

Beauty and The (Covid-19) Beast

Check this out. What you will see is that the business of “aesthetics,” including face lifts, Botox injections, fillers, etc. is booming as the pandemic drags on. Why? Hours staring at our own faces in Zoom conferences (Zoom Face???), messages telling us to use the lock down time to improve ourselves, etc., seem to be reasonable answers here.

AND. Pharmaceutical companies with relevant products, plastic surgery practices and others with a pecuniary interest in making us more beautiful are stoking this fire with advertisements and commercials.

Bottom Line. I guess that all makes sense. Sort of???

Stop Hate For Profit

Check this out. What you will learn is that Pfizer, Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies had withdrawn their advertising from Facebook a few months ago as a part of a brand boycott, “Stop Hate for Profit,” designed to get social media to take responsibility for monitoring the content of their sites. Now, persuaded that FB is taking steps to eliminate racism, antisemitism and other hate speech from their site, the drug makers are returning their advertising. BUT. They will continue to monitor the situation, and pull their advertising again if they feel that the hate speech has returned.  

Please note. Hate speech can go way beyond just talking and offending. As the shootings in Kenosha demonstrated, for example, lives are on the line when social media are used to bring agitators from other states into an already explosive situation. 

Bottom Line. As this article makes very clear, it is one thing for Facebook to have a “policy,” and another thing entirely for it to enforce that policy.  

Keep your eyes on this one. It is important stuff!

COVID-19 Vaccine Revenues and Profits

Check this out. What you will see are some early predictions in terms of how much revenue and profit flow will be generated by a COVID-19 vaccine. $20 Billion in revenue in 2021? $100 Million revenue overall? $40 Billion profit? How much will come from developed countries? How much from developing? Which companies will enjoy what share?

More generally, there are a couple of really fundamental questions to be answered here. First, what will the business model be? For example, how does a company go about setting its profit margin here? Too low and the company misses a major profit opportunity. Too high and the company looks like a greedy scalper.  

Second, what does the marketing effort look like? Here, I believe that there is a significant opportunity for all of the manufacturers in the game (estimated at 6) to join forces to sell the concept of vaccination to consumers. There will be a lot of concerns about vaccines developed at “warp speed” that will need to be overcome, and it would be good to have every company’s shoulder pressed against this wheel, especially if there are booster shots involved.  

And how about specific brand? Marketing giants like Johnson and Johnson will likely be pitted against newbies like Moderna. What do the different pitches sound like, and how does that all work out?

Oh! And how does the marketing of vaccines depend upon what treatments are also available?

Bottom Line. Hopefully we will get to watch all of this unfold sooner rather than later. It should be fascinating, and hopefully a great relief to the world at large!

The Sound of Silence

Check this out.  Spend a couple of minutes and watch the video. What you will see is a fascinating story of Pfizer, sort of accidently, discovering that its arthritis drug appeared also to be effective as a preventative against Alzheimer’s. BUT. After several years of internal discussion, they decided not to publish the data or do the clinical trials necessary to pursue the indication. Why? You be the judge. This report offers up two diverse reasons. One, the “science” of the data, obtained by analyzing insurance claims, wasn’t strong enough. OR. Maybe the drug’s upcoming patent expiry didn’t make further investments in further indications a prudent business decision. 

Bottom Line. Frankly, I find this story a little creepy. How many potentially significant clinical discoveries never get to see the light of day for whatever reason. And, more importantly, what should have been done here that should be done in similar cases in the future?

Think about it!

What Does A Pharmaceutical Marketer Do With “Empathy?”

For that matter, what the heck is “empathy” anyhow?  One of our clients got me thinking about this question when their advertising agency told them they would need to develop physician empathy for patients suffering from a condition that one of their products treats. You see, their marketing research had demonstrated that physicians didn’t think the condition was “so bad,” and felt that patients weren’t really “suffering” enough to require treatment. Is “developing empathy” a marketing strategy? A marketing tactic?”

Anytime I start to think about a new area of endeavor, one of the first things that I do is go to the Amazon book section and see what’s available. If a title or two looks interesting, I download them to my Kindle and dig in. My more frequent readers already know about this modus operandi.  

So once again, off I went to explore empathy.  Here is what I found. Quite a collection of very different books, eh? Guess what. I didn’t download any of them. None looked like it was spot on to answer my l questions about applicability to healthcare marketing. (Confession. I picked the one pictured above for a graphic because I liked its clean look!)

My second line of defense in exploring a new topic is Wikipedia. There, I actually found some useful information about empathy. For example, I found out that some psychologists divide empathy into:

  • Cognitive Empathy. Logically understanding how someone else feels.
  • Emotional Empathy. Actually feeling what someone else feels, vicariously.
  • Compassionate Empathy. Feeling compelled to help someone if help is required.  


Bottom Line. Although I am just starting to focus on empathy’s role in pharmaceutical marketing, I think I get it. For pharmaceutical marketers, developing physician empathy for patients does not involve getting them all sobby from empathizing with their patients’ travails. It does involve making sure that they understand the nature of their patients’ sufferings and how bothersome they are to the patients, and most importantly making  them want to help the patients in a “treatment area” that they otherwise might have ignored. 

Sharing statistics on symptoms and their severity, sharing testimonials about negative impact on quality of life, etc. are indeed tactics that could help to enhance physician empathy and raise prescribing to a more appropriate level.

Think about it!  

Moral Marketing

Check this out. What you will see is an important new book that goes to a place that I’m betting most of us, certainly including me, haven’t thought much about before. In this work, my old friend Karen Tibbals explores the issue of whether brands should take a position on social issues. One line from her description of the book will help to clarify the point of this book:

“Take Nike for example. They took Colin Kaepernick’s side, and the brand gained consumers in its chosen market. But taking sides is a potential minefield if you don’t do it correctly.”

Yup. When I saw Nike take a major stand with the guy who spearheaded the take-a-knee-during-the-NFL-National Anthem- movement, I was scratching my head as to how that would all turn out. I also wondered how the heck you would conduct a priori marketing research on this that would help to assess the risk of disaster.  

Karen’s background, which includes years of doing pharmaceutical marketing research and a stint at a seminary, provides her with a virtually unique set of credentials relevant to this and similar questions. And providing research and consulting on this area of endeavor is what she is now doing for a living. Fascinating!  

Bottom Line. True confession. I have been trying to get my pharmaceutical clients to take a stand on such issues as physician burnout and suicide for over a year now. Although these issues are of tremendous import to their customer base, nobody has wanted to touch these issues with a ten foot pole. Are they concerned about the “minefields” to which Karen refers?  

And think about it. For which drug classes would taking a stand on a social issue seem appropriate and relevant? AIDS/HIV medications? Contraceptives? Opioids? Psychotropics? Vaccines?  

Should any of these take a “stand” on a social issue, and if so, what?

What To Do When Bad Press Tanks Your Stock

Check this out. What you will see is an article that describes what JNJ is doing to counter the influence of a recent expose’ that argued that not only did the company’s Baby Powder contain asbestos, but that the company had known that to be the case for years. What are they doing to manage the crisis? They are doing what JNJ has been known for doing since the Tylenol poisoning, when the president of McNeil sat on the edge of his desk, looked into the TV camera and announced a total recall of the product directly to the American public. This time, they are again taking an approach that goes directly to consumers. BUT. This time they have a different message. Arguing for science over sensationalism, they are refuting the science behind the points of the article’s attack one by one. Bottom Line. We should watch closely to see how well this approach works. While I understand the JNJ line of reasoning here, I question whether the average citizen will have the interest to take the time to read JNJ’s scientific argument.  As always, stay tuned!