With the release of the most recent edition of the award winning Marketing Imperatives, Merkle has really raised the bar with respect to the way marketers across industries need to approach the road ahead. To quote David Williams, Merkle’s Chairman and CEO, “The foremost opportunity to attain competitive advantage is the ability for marketers to achieve addressability at scale (AAS) through evolving digital audience platforms.”
While this statement may trigger a variety of considerations across industries, we need to ask ourselves, what does it mean for the pharmaceutical industry? To start, there is no denying that this quote is spot on, but the real question is, “How can the pharmaceutical industry achieve this objective?” In many respects, pharmaceutical reps have been achieving addressability for years through their one-to-one relationships and in-office detailing with physicians. One of the greatest assets of top performers has been their access to physicians. Their ability to reach a physician allows them to retain a relationship. Unfortunately, despite the industry’s attempt to flood the market with reps in the late ‘90s, the “at scale” portion was unattainable. Specifically, addressability at “economic scale,” as industry shed reps as fast as they hired them. The “right sizing” to achieve economic scale continues today.
The only way the pharmaceutical industry will be able to achieve AAS will be through engaging the rep’s knowledge in the context of a digital platform, while simultaneously capturing engagement and propensity across channels (platforms). Healthcare providers (HCPs) and patients are digital consumers. They engage across markets, brands and product categories. If we think of the rep as the face of the brand, then digital media effectively paves the way for a reversal of a long-standing industrial trend to depersonalize a product through the development of a brand’s image. Consumers (HCPs and patients) don’t want to connect with a brand by virtue of its persona or image anymore; they want to connect with the people inside the company. So, while the industry may fear legislative wrath resulting from communicating (or “re-communicating”) directly with their customers, eventually the demand side will win. When this happens, we will need to have our infrastructure, communication strategy, experience delivery, financial management and organizational alignment in place. Are you ready and willing to approach the road ahead?