Digital Insights: Pharma's Digital IQ: Is Your Brand Genius?

L2 measures 51 pharma brands on their digital IQs...how does your brand stack-up?

By Michele Vaccarello Wagner, Senior Digital Editor

L2 recently published a “Digital IQ Index” ranking the top 51 global pharmaceutical brands by their online performance—the Index scores brands by how they portray themselves via their websites, digital advertising, social media, search engine optimization, disease education, and mobile and email marketing. Incorporating over 100 quantitative and qualitative data points, the Index measured brands’ digital strengths and weaknesses, and rated them from Genius, to Gifted, to Average, Challenged or Feeble.

So who came out on top and why? Rated with the most Genius Digital IQ (149) was Pfizer’s Viagra, cited for advanced site technology and interactivity and leveraging the iconic brand name buzz in online search. AstraZeneca’s Nexium was second (143) for its strong social media presence, lifestyle support tools and online access to dieticians. The third Digital Genius (140) was awarded to Pfizer’s Chantix for connecting digitally with consumers both on and offsite with email, short messaging services and a dominant presence on health portals.

How did these brands receive the top three Digital IQs? According to the report, the brands with a higher Digital IQ demonstrated greater risk tolerance when approaching digital marketing. Having assessed regulatory compliance on branded sites, the report found brands that erred on the side of caution regarding FDA Web guidelines ranked Average and below, while brands that ranked Genius and Gifted employed broader interpretations despite no clear-cut guidance yet from FDA.

The report also found that brands that market to younger consumers, the generation raised on Google and Facebook, had higher Digital IQs. Brand marketers who understand how to design informative and interactive websites, incorporate community content and technology, attract users to branded sites and tested social media, were able to gain popularity quickly.

Of all the pharma brands evaluated, only 19% were on at least one major social media platform: Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. The report calls special attention to Gardasil’s and Nexium’s rich-media Facebook pages that have attracted thousands of fans but prohibit wall postings to avoid adverse-event reporting. On Twitter, the Purple Pill listens to customers and direct messages an 800 number in response to tweets about the drug.

Patent expiry was also found to correlate with Digital IQ, with brands categorized as Genius and Gifted having an average of 1.7 more years before patent expiry. Other factors contributing to Genius IQ status were mobile activity via SMS reminder alerts, presence and activity on medical portals such as WebMD, email marketing programs offering coupons and calls-to-action and search engine visibility via SEO and paid ads.

While some may think pharma’s digital aptitude is lagging, the industry is making strides in areas such as social media and search engine marketing. However, FDA will have to establish guidance to allow for greater flexibility and innovation in brand web presence.

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