It’s not all our fault. But we could
be doing a better job of asking the
right questions so we get more
effective answers. I’ll limit this
article just to sales and marketing
problems, which are plentiful.
Let’s start with one of the biggest
problems: our image. A recent
Harris poll showed that just 9%
of the public has confidence in
our industry. Only stink bugs and
Congress are behind us. Why is
this? Headlines about scandals
(some real and some fantasy).
Patient confusion due to a glut of
misinformation. The high cost of
(some) pharmaceuticals. The high
cost of healthcare in general – even
though we have little or nothing
to do with the price of surgery,
hospital beds or insurance plans.
And, despite the fact that the FDA
has actually been tougher on us in
recent years, the perception is still
that we’re treating docs to lavish
vacations and charging hundreds
of times the cost of our products.
What can we do about that? Well,
the answer is related to the next
big problem: data.
For the life of me, I don’t know
why a sector like ours – considered
very high-tech – is so far behind
Crest and Coca-Cola in embracing, analyzing and using the data
available to us. They have put their
entire potential user base under
a microscope to see who wants
what, how and when.
A recent Harris poll
showed that just
9% of the public
in our industry.
Only stink bugs
and Congress are
behind us. Why is
As I’m sure you’re aware, Amazon knows everything about your
buying habits: that’s why you’re
always seeing ads eerily specific to
whatever you recently bought or
searched. If you’re a fortyish Italian mother of three with a collection of bejeweled antique bronze
toothpicks, you can be sure Amazon will lead you to all the Easter
basket, trattoria and toothpick sites
on the web.
And you know what consumer
products companies do with this
kind of information. When the
peanut butter manufacturers
maxed out their regular market,
they crunched the data and saw
the possibilities for expansion into
other consumer preference areas.
Kraft is doing Cinnamon Raisin
Granola, Berry Nut and Banana
Granola line extensions. Jif caught
on to the Nutella craze and now
has their own hazelnut-based
spread. And the smaller companies are venturing into nuttiness
like Java Vanilla Espresso Almond
Butter (I’m not making this up).
In addition to new versions, many
companies are looking at ways of
selling the basic product to new
health-oriented users. Hormel,
owner of Skippy, is promoting pea-
nut butter’s protein punch.
You may be thinking that we do
something similar. Yes, pharma invests heavily in developing new indications, but what we don’t invest
in is the statistical wisdom that
consumer brands use so successfully to really look into the minds
of their customers. And I think the
reason for this is NIH. No, not the
National Institutes of Health, but
the Not Invented Here syndrome.
We don’t pick up analysts from
Microsoft and Google, because
they don’t have “pharma” experience. But why would that matter?
Pharma is like other products
in that we sell to human beings,
whether those human beings are
HCPs or hospital administrators or
pharmacists or patients. Let’s drop
our snobbery and get real. Our
IT departments have to do more
than just make sure we have the
right programs on our iPads. They
have to expand into data analytics.
And they have to get into the same
locker room with the people in the
marketing departments, so we’re
all on the same team with the same
To circle back to the consumer
confidence conundrum, data can
help us there, too. If we examine
the underlying attitudes that are
affecting consumer confidence,
which data analysis can tell us,
we can address them directly.
This involves both messaging and
platforms: refining the story lines
and finding the right places to tell
those stories so they seep into the
public consciousness. That’s using
high-tech the right way – the way
that gets brand names sold and
politicians elected. It’s not a coin-