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People-based Marketing: A New Inflection Point in a Long History

The fabled history of people-based marketing (PBM) for pharmaceutical marketers began with direct marketing in the '90s, well before the first consumer broadcast television ad was used in 1998 (remember Claritin DTC!). CMOs since then have challenged marketing teams to weigh two strategies:

  1. Broadcasting loudly to drive awareness and accelerate share growth, and
  2. Building personal and direct relationships to tease out incremental ROI at scale.  

Solving for both scale and profits simultaneously was a challenge for both sides, let alone together.

Fast forward to today, and the advertising universe for physicians, patients, and payers is more addressable than ever, viewership of mass advertising continues downward, and programmatic continues its takeover. So what does “mass-addressable” advertising look like, and how do we get there? Most importantly, how do we solve for CMOs' dichotomy of needs: both profits and massive scale? Faster and cheaper? Greater reach at lower cost? Diversity of message and a unified brand architecture? More, better, faster, cheaper, smarter. Regardless of the question, we know today’s marketing problem – grabbing attention in less than a second and changing behavior in an increasingly fragmented, digital world.

To solve for this, Merkle Health is pioneering people-based marketing for healthcare marketers that are struggling with today's technology and data-driven channels. This approach can transform your potential for the interconnectivity of data, connecting individual customer journeys, and modelling an array of highly fragmented tactics. While personalization is at the forefront of this movement, people-based marketing is about people, not just how many advertising impressions can we push into the target's view (although that meets CMO's objective #1 per above). Thus people-based marketing must also creates value beyond advertising – not only what a brand does versus what it says.

The following approaches can be harnessed to realize ever greater value to align the new say/do dichotomy:

  • Insights. Engage neuroscience and other primary research to activate original, breakthrough customer understanding about underlying personal motivations.
  • Evidence. Develop new clinical evidence, or other big health data, to create new claims and content domains to activate underserved or forgotten segments of physicians and patients.
  • Behavior. Rethink classic behavior change models, backed with more robust data, more tailored for the modern day personalized world.
  • Partnerships. Leverage new data sets, or new data partners, to develop new partnerships across the broader health ecosystem.

The most critical trend driving what health marketers must say and do today is the mass consumerization of healthcare. While incredibly daunting clinical science cannot be minimized, it’s a table stake if the pharma industry wants to stand out. However, business models of all kinds are under attack - early examples like Walmart’s directhealth.com, CVS' Minute Clinic, and new approaches to emergency and primary care, like the emerging Patient First franchise, demonstrate a whole new influence and business models that may fundamentally change the health landscape in the years ahead.

For the "listeners" trained in people-based marketing, no one will be more prepared to take marketing and customer insights and inform not only brand strategy, but also make the overall organization evolution. PBM is not a new set of tactics. It’s about changing the way firms will do business overall at the enterprise level. It is about connecting human relationships, not just about rethinking the tactical plan. It is the most exciting time in marketing, and onboarding the right mindset and marketing PBM capability is key to ensuring the right experience at the right time – PBM is coming of age, and that's great for patients, physicians, and all the hardworking health businesses that are re-aligning to this new inflection point in healthcare.

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