Pharma digital trends 2014: Real-time marketing

Posted by Ash Rishi on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 @ 03:40 PM

Well we are in Q4 now, so surely its not too early to start talking about 2014. Is it?  Anyhoo, in a new series of posts, we are going to start looking at where pharma may want to go in 2014 with their digital marketing initiatives. 


Pharma Digital Marketing 2014 resized 600


So, first up is real-time marketing.  


The notion of campaigns has been around since the mad men era of communications. Campaigns are a defined series of activities, tactics and channels that often revolve around a common theme. And yes, campaigns have been good to us. But here’s the problem; their structure is often time rigid and can’t keep up with changing customer behaviors and rapidly changing technology. Campaigns are generally short-lived and not triggered based upon real-time actions or data, which can put the marketer at a disadvantage.


In 2014, we hope to see many more pharma marketers take advantage of the power of real-time communications to grow advocacy. Consumers are instantly engaging with brands
 on their websites, talk back via social media like Twitter and Facebook, and follow breaking news in the markets they are interested. The old model of marketing built on a company timeline doesn’t work so well but after decades of “campaigns” planned way in advance, it’s difficult for marketers to change to a mindset based on speed. Clearly the opportunities in 2014 and beyond mean real-time are key. Success comes from engaging consumers when they’re ready not when it’s convenient for you.


What is real-time marketing?


Real-time marketing (RTM) is simply marketing that occurs naturally, it is usually unstaged occurrences – and the message is also unplanned. However, where pharma’s challenges will lay is understanding that there is a balance between impromptu actions and a basic framework that the performance is centered around. You can’t simply wing it and you cannot read a script. Real-time marketing should have a real feel to it, while also being a good representation of the brand’s voice. An example of how real-time marketing should not be done is Boehringer Ingelheim’s thank you for 50,000 likes YouTube video. 

The issue with this video is not so much the content; it is the corporate feel, the stiff delivery and the lack of any form of engagement. The video is the antithesis of real-time marketing; it comes across as very staged.


What does pharma need to do in 2014 to make real-time marketing a feasibility?


For pharma they need to become extremely agile in their use of real-time marketing. Some chances (which I understand is a paradox when it comes to pharma) have to be taken for a brand to stay ahead of the curve, and this is best done through the use of small, nimble teams that are empowered to make decisions for the respective brands.


In addition to agility, effective processes need to be set up and questions need to be asked of every brand team. “What is our brand about, what is relevant to us?”  Pharma need to answer these questions while creating their real-time content, and each member of the marketing team should be on the same page with regard to towing the company line.


A framework for how and when pharma can use RTM?


In 2013, there is no successful example of the use of RTM in pharma. This is probably due to the pharma regulatory issues as the processes are simply not fast enough. However, pharma can plan for RTM if done well.


For example, why not set up a newsroom during major conferences? If you read Symplur’s fantastic article on the true audience of healthcare conferences it was found that Stanford’s Medicine X conference had 500 attendees with 1331 participating socially. With almost 3 times as many participants online, this presents a huge opportunity to engage audiences hungry for information. So if pharma could bring together the newsroom during key events it may enable a marketing team (..and all regulatory stakeholders) to act quickly to drive a conversation that is supportive of the brand.


It really can work and the door is open for RTM engagement for pharma brands in 2014. In 2014, we want to see best-in-class pharma brand teams utilise more real-time events and triggers that are based on pull marketing activity and not push-marketing/campaigns.


Pharma Content Marketing


Ash Rishi CEO CouchAsh Rishi is the CEO of COUCH., a digital marketing and creative healthcare communications agency based in London. Ash has over 9 years experience working on pharma marketing activities across UK, Europe, US and Latin America. His area of expertise include, branding, communications, stakeholder development and digital marketing. Ash is also the founder of a pharmaceutical marketing community on Google+. You can reach Ash at or follow him on Twitter @We_Are_Couch and @Ash_Rishi

Topics: Pharmaceutical Marketing, Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media, Pharma Digital Marketing