An industry collectively looking at itself from a new perspective is a rare and fascinating process to watch. It certainly feels like we’re observing this as most pharma companies pivot to put the patient at the heart of every aspect of their business. But how is your pharma marketing evolving in response to this commitment to patient-centricity?
An ideal world, populated only by patient-centric pharma programmes, could be driven by the need to communicate rather than sell product benefits. Growth and marketing strategies would be shaped around a more holistic assessment of unmet patient needs, as well as medicine optimisation and wastage reduction, rather than models driven by competitive considerations. But we’re not there yet.
In the interim, the brand plan is where brand/business and patient priorities meet. And it’s here that we can understand how well they’re already aligning. The key to pharma becoming more patient-centric is by listening to its patients. So inspecting how far these insights travel across the business through the lens of the marketing programme is a good window into how genuinely patient-centric a business is.
We have created an acid test to do exactly this, isolating four beacons that signal progress towards genuinely patient-centric marketing.
A strong signal is that your brand plan shows that you don’t switch to a brand-centric view during planning mode. For those who have collected valuable patient insights and let them drive their brand strategy, the effect is significant. Teams that have resisted the strong urge to revert to a brand-centric view when entering brand planning mode, and instead retained a patient’s perspective throughout, are able to identify strategic opportunities that also absolutely meet patient needs. With a holistic view of patients’ lives, they can focus on overcoming barriers and forming partnerships and collaborations that create greater value.
A strong signal is that your HCP engagement is defined by patient needs as much as HCP and brand needs. In a patient-centric engagement programme, the patient plays a much more significant part in the interactions between pharma marketing and the HCP audience. This is apparent when teaching, and resources that are the traditional cornerstones for educating HCPs about products become an engagement programme much more geared towards educating HCPs about patient needs. And in most cases, patient needs aren’t necessarily all about the medicine. This is of course not to say that it gets lost. But rather that pharma helps HCPs to find the medicine’s place in the context of patients’ lives and relationships with their conditions.
A strong signal is that you’re being brave in the way you build equity and goodwill in your brand, through understated, non-promotional, altruistic campaigns. Branding at all costs is quite an accurate way to describe the old mind set. But in the new age, patient-centric pharma is much braver in its use of subtler, less promotional or non-promotional campaigns. Working from an understanding of the patient provides an idea of what is actually needed and what a brand can help to bring about, instead of working from commercial insights to give the greatest brand profile.
Another strong signal is that your team is completely comfortable positioning the product as part of the solution, but not necessarily as the singular hero. A more holistic brand proposition doesn’t neglect commercial interest by any means. In fact, it leaves a team well-positioned to help identify valuable opportunities when engaging with patient groups and other important stakeholders. By displaying this kind of understanding, a brand can build genuine and long-lasting credence in the eyes of its audience.
While listening to patients is the catalyst for adopting a patient-centric model and internal leadership drives the pace of change, the extent to which patient insights travel through and shape the business shows how wholeheartedly a company has committed to the model. A marketing team that is distinguishable by the beacons described is well-placed to create a narrative that truly resonates with patients and payers. This team has the capability to find the space for the brand to play a legitimate and rightful part in patients’ lives without providing all the answers. And by doing so, it positions its company as one at the forefront of the industry.